'Strictly Come Dancing' fans gasped as it was announced at the opening of tonight's show that favourite-to-win Natalie Gumede would not be performing.

The audience were told: "As you may have seen, we are missing a couple tonight. Sadly Natalie was taken ill during a dress rehearsal and won't be taking part in tonight's show."

The former 'Coronation Street' actress had been due to perform a jive with professional partner Artem Chigvintsev to 'Proud Mary' by Tina Turner but was ruled out after fainting twice during rehearsals.

A spokesman for the BBC show said: "Natalie Gumede fainted during first band call, then again during dress run, both times at the end of her routine. She has been checked by the medical team on site, and will be going to A&E as a precaution.

"As per the rules of 'Strictly', she will have a bye through to next week and the show will continue tonight with a public vote. Someone will still exit the competition this weekend."

Fans were later given more details about Gumede's dramatic collapse.

A medic said: "I was radioed to come to the dancefloor where Natalie had collapsed. It became apparent that she had fainted."

Chigvintsev said of his partner: "She was shaking a lot and crying. I am just gutted for her. She is doing such a great job and I just want to say 'Please get better'."

Gumede said in her video diary, which was broadcast this evening: "You have to treat every dance as if it's your last and enjoy it as if it's your last."

Presenter Claudia Winkleman said: "She is unable to dance tonight. If she is passed as being medically fit next week, she will be able to dance in Blackpool.

"We send all our love and we hope to see you next week."