Reigning Strictly Come Dancing champion Joanne Clifton is leaving the BBC show.

The professional dancer, who won the Glitterball trophy in 2016 with her celebrity partner Ore Oduba, said it had been a “tough decision”.

[Read more: Strictly Come Dancing 2017: Lineup and rumours]

“Being part of the Strictly experience has been one of the best things that has ever happened to me and I will miss the show so much,” she said.

“It’s been a tough decision, but I am looking forward to facing new challenges and focusing on my musical theatre career.”

Joanne Clifton and Ore Oduba with theiir Strictly trophy
Joanne Clifton and Ore Oduba (Guy Levy/BBC)

Clifton, 33, will return to the Strictly ballroom one last time to perform the winners’ routine at the start of the new series.

Strictly professional Oksana Platero is also leaving, and Natalie Lowe previously announced her departure.

Platero, who was new to Strictly in 2016 when she was partnered with Judge Robert Rinder, said: “Last year was my first season and I had an unforgettable time working alongside such amazing dancers and an even better time with Judge Rinder.

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“It was an opportunity of a lifetime and I will never forget it. Thank you so much for the memories.”

The trio will be replaced Australian dancer Dianne Buswell, Nadiya Bychkova from Ukraine and Amy Dowden from Wales when Strictly returns in September.

Judge Robert Rinder and Oksana Platero rehearse on Strictly
Judge Robert Rinder and Oksana Platero (Peter Byrne/PA)

Buswell, an Australian Open Champion and four-time Amateur Australian Open Finalist, joins Strictly after appearing on Dancing With The Stars Australia.

She has also been part of the Burn The Floor production on Broadway since 2011.

The dancer said it was “an honour” to join the series, adding: “Words can’t describe how excited I am to take on this amazing challenge and give it my everything!”

Bychkova is a two-time World Champion and European Champion in Ballroom and Latin ’10’ Dance.

She is a multiple-time Slovenian Ballroom and Latin Champion and has taken part in the Bosnian version of Strictly.

She said: “I’m extremely happy to be joining the Strictly Come Dancing family this year. One of my biggest dreams is to be part of this great show and I can’t wait to get started!”

Dowden, from Caerphilly in South Wales, began dancing at the age of eight and is the current British National Champion and one of the highest-ranking Ballroom and Latin American professional dancers in the UK.

She is also a four-time British National Finalist, and in 2015 reached the semi-final of the World Championship.

She said: “Becoming a professional dancer on Strictly Come Dancing has made my wildest dreams come true, it does not feel real!

“I have always been proud of my Welsh roots and feel so honoured to be the first Welsh professional dancer on the most loved show on TV!”

Watch Joanne Clifton's How to Dance series - exclusive to BT.com

The three new dancers will join returning professionals Anton Du Beke, Brendan Cole, Kevin Clifton, Neil Jones, Pasha Kovalev, Gorka Marquez, Giovanni Pernice, AJ Pritchard and Aljaz Skorjanec as well as Karen Clifton, Chloe Hewitt, Katya Jones, Oti Mabuse and Janette Manrara.

Strictly executive producer Louise Rainbow said: “We’re delighted with our line-up of pros for this year’s series.

“They are all brilliant dancers and wonderful teachers and Strictly is so lucky to have them.

“I would like to thank Natalie, Joanne and Oksana for their hard work and the amazing contribution they have made to the show and wish them all well for the future.”

[Read more: Exclusive Joanne Clifton and Ore Oduba interview]