Will Bayley and his partner Janette Manrara produced a sensational salsa on Saturday night’s Strictly Come Dancing and are through to next Saturday’s Movie Night after the first public vote which saw Olympic rower James Cracknell leave the show.
Their table tennis themed salsa received a mark of six from all four judges with Craig Revel Horwood remarking: “How you were doing those lifts is beyond me. They are absolutely amazing.”
Bruno Tonioli said: “The energy, the enthusiasm, but above all the love for dancing and the love for being here. You are inspiring me to be honest,” while head judge Shirley Ballas said: “Everything about you is unique. You have 150% commitment. It comes from your soul and you can’t teach that. You are what Strictly is all about.”
It was another brilliant performance from #TeamPocketRacket as their combined scores from weeks one and two placed them sixth of the 15 couples according to the judges. For Bayley, it was another night to remember.
“I was really nervous before we went on,” he said, “especially as we were last to dance which meant that the nerves just built and built. I had to do breathing exercises backstage before we went on because I was really nervous about the lifts as I knew it could go wrong. As soon as we stepped on to the dance floor the audience went mad; they were really up for it as they knew it was the last dance and it was going to be a high tempo dance so I felt the energy in the room and that helped us and I just really enjoyed it.
“The first couple of days when you are learning a new dance are really hard because you are just trying to learn the steps and you can’t really put the performance in. Then when you get to Thursday/Friday you can start to enjoy it a bit more and then Saturday is amazing and you can give your best performance.
“Learning the routine is really hard and it is slow progress with me. We went over the first 15 seconds of the last dance for about an hour last week because it is taking me a lot longer than some people. But when it all comes together, when we have put in all the hard work and I am confident with it we can have fun and enjoy it. It is a slow process and we have to keep going over and over it but once it sinks in with me it sinks in and I can do it.
“It is probably frustrating for Janette but she understands that is the way my brain works and she has to sit there watching me do it wrong for about an hour. We have to learn a dance in a week and it can’t just be the steps – we have to do something unique with it – so we are putting a lot of hours in.
“The lifts were really challenging last week but also the steps. Balance is a problem for me with every single dance. Even when Janette says ‘you don’t need to move, just stand still’ I’m moving around on the spot. Every single movement means something and if you are supposed to stand still you have to stand still. I struggle just to stand still or take one step forward slowly. I find it hard to control my body but we are doing a lot of exercises to make my core stronger so I can be better at holding myself up.”
With one couple leaving the show on Saturday it was Bayley’s first experience of standing under the spotlight and waiting to hear if they had survived the public vote.
“I was so nervous,” he admitted. “I said to Janette ‘how do you think we will do’ and she said ‘I think we will be ok but you never know and be prepared to dance again’. I was so relieved when they said we were through as we had worked so hard. I was just happy for Janette as well because we’ve got another week now and we’ve got to put everything in to this week.
“I’m enjoying the challenge of Strictly and overcoming challenges I never thought I could. When Janette said ‘you are going to be lifting me over your shoulder and spinning me around’ I said ‘that’s not going to happen’ and we ended up doing it in front of 10 million people. So overcoming those challenges is great and I’m really enjoying that.”