The teacher who trained the wheelchair dance duo on last night's semi-finals of Britain's Got Talent (BGT), has spoken of his pride in both the act and art gaining national recognition.
Ray Bulpitt, from Wythenshawe, trained super dance duo 'Strictly Wheels' who first wowed the BGT judges on Saturday 14 April. Last night (Thursday 10 May), the couple were beaten to place in the final, but gained praise in particular from judge David Walliams, who said: "You have given a lot of hope to people out there that there's no such thing as impossible".
The act is Paula Moulton, 41, from Ardwick and best friend and dance partner Gary Lyness, 39, from Hulme. Paula is confined to a wheelchair after picking up MRSA and septicaemia 17 year ago. They started wheelchair dancing just two years ago and train at Ray's Strictly Wheelchair Dancing sessions at the Woodhouse Lifestyle Centre in Wythenshawe.
Ray, who has been teaching for 35 years and is originally from Zimbabwe, says: "I remember my initial talk with Paula, when she was nervously asking me what to wear for the dance sessions. That was almost two years ago, when she originally signed up for a 12-week course.
"And look at Paula and Gary now, dancing on live TV for a huge audience. It just shows you how much progress they have made. They danced superbly last night, despite being very nervous. To dance in a wheelchair takes a great deal of control, co-ordination and determination. But, the results are worth it and the exhilaration from being at one with the music is incredible. There's an unexpected beauty in the art form, which clearly impressed the BGT judges."
Ray also points out that while the dancing is an art form, it has also has major physical and mental benefits.
Ray says: "Health-wise dancing has been therapeutic for Paula on a number of levels. Even though she has to take steroids, which normally make people put weight on, she has managed to lose four stone over just two years.
"Paula's confidence has soared and she knows no fear. She never used to dress glamorously and now she will wear nail varnish and a handbag at the drop of a hat. She's an inspiration."
They may have been beaten to a place in the BGT final, but Paula and Gary will still be in the limelight.
They will be entering the Manchester Grand Prix - Wheelchair Dancesport Championship at Wythenshawe Forum on 1 July. Then, just weeks later, the couple will also be dancing at the opening and closing ceremony of the Wythenshawe Games - which is the town's own version of London 2012. Paula, Gary and Ray have all been involved in planning the wheelchair dance category, which is one of the elements of the sporting spectacular that 4,000 people are expected to attend.
The Wythenshawe Games will run from Friday 20 - Sunday 29 July at venues throughout the town and will culminate in a closing party with an estimated 15,000 - strong crowd.
The itinerary also includes family fun days on 21 and 22 July. There will also be a celebrity cricket match on 22 July; Special Olympics on 23 July, Older People's Garden Party on 25 July and the Youth Games will be held on 27 July.
For more information about Wythenshawe Games, log on to http://www.wythenshawegames.org.uk/