Public support for Will Bayley and his partner Janette Manrara ensured that #TeamPocketRacket remains in Strictly Come Dancing for another week. Their foxtrot to ‘Senorita’ by Shawn Mendes and Camila Cabello received a total score of 24 from the judges and placed them 12th of the 13 couples left in the competition. However, after the public vote it was Radio 1 DJ Dev Griffin and his partner Dianne Buswell and Viscountess Emma Weymouth and her partner Aljaz Skorjanec who had to compete in the dance off with Griffin and Buswell becoming the third couple to leave the show.
It has been a tough week for Bayley who found the foxtrot the most challenging dance he has had to master in the competition so far.
“The most difficult thing about the foxtrot for me was the rise and fall and the flow of the dance,” he said. “I can’t get on my toes so I tried to do it through my knees and obviously it is not quite the same but I tried to do it as well as I could. What was also difficult for me was the slowness because it emphasises my lack of balance at times. I couldn’t steady myself by moving quickly, I had to move really slowly and that is when my balance is at its worst; when you are having to put yourself in certain positions and lean over your bodyweight – I found that really difficult.
“Only Janette and I know how challenging it was and I’m so proud that we managed to overcome it. I was really proud of the performance on Saturday. I’ve watched it back and I was really happy as it was as good as we could have done it. At the beginning of the week and even on Thursday I was thinking it was going to be really difficult to do the dance without falling over so we did really well; we worked hard and managed to come up with a good performance.”
Although their dance earned only a six from all four judges Bayley received some very positive comments.
Head judge Shirley Ballas said: “Foxtrot is not an easy dance at the best of times and we know you have some issues with your feet and your ankles but you had soft knees and you kept one of the best postural lines I’ve seen. You kept your frame and you didn’t make any mistakes; repetition is the mother of skill and I can see you have repeated that over and over again so rest easy today that you did a great job.”
“You can be so proud of yourself,” said Motsi Mabuse. “Foxtrot is such a difficult dance and you gave such great partnering skills; we wanted more expression from your body and I think this week you gave more expression from your upper body – so don’t be so hard on yourself.”
Bayley admits that the more negative comments from the judges can be hard to hear.
“It is really hard after you come off such a high at the end of the dance,” he said. “Janette said to me straight afterwards ‘that was amazing, you smashed it’ and then the judges didn’t quite have the same thoughts and didn’t think it was amazing. It is disappointing because we’d put in a lot of work and overcome all those hurdles and in the back of my mind I was thinking that maybe they don’t understand where I’ve come from to make that dance the way it was and how Janette has had to be so creative just to make it work; subtle things she has done to keep me on my feet the whole way through. But we have to be positive and I’m looking forward to another dance now. It is a massive honour just to get through as it is so hard this year; everyone is so good so just to get through another week is brilliant.
“It was so nerve-wracking waiting to hear the results. I was practicing back stage as I was ready to do the dance again. Janette said ‘stop practising because we’re not going to dance again’. She was so confident but I wasn’t, so when my name was called out I was shocked as I wasn’t expecting it. I’m still in shock now to be honest. I’m really happy that we will get the chance to do another dance because I’m loving every minute of it and can’t wait to dance again. Next week’s dance is hopefully going to be our best yet.
“The support I have had from the public has been overwhelming and I would never have expected so much, so it is really motivating me to carry on training hard and to inspire people if I can. I have had some really nice messages from parents with children who have got the same disability as me and it has given them hope and that is a nice feeling. This week’s dance is our ‘couple’s choice’ and it is going to be about my childhood and overcoming those hurdles so I hope it can inspire more people.”