When his leg was blown off in Afghanistan, Royal Marine Cassidy Little thought his dancing days were over but he couldn’t have been more wrong.
On Wednesday, Cassidy, from Market Deeping, will appear on people’s television screens on one of the biggest shows in the country Strictly Come Dancing.
For the first time in the show’s 11-year-history, six members of the public will take the places of famous faces and Cassidy, 33, was plucked from 11,000 entries to take part in The People’s Strictly.
The four-part series will culminate with a live final on Comic Relief Night, March 13, with money raised from viewers’ votes going towards the good causes Comic Relief supports.
In preparation for the show, Cassidy has not only been following the advice of professional dance partner and Strictly favourite Natalie Lowe, but also his wife.
Cassidy, a Canadian who has lived in the UK for 10 years, said: “She comes to some of the rehearsals, and then in the evening, she’ll give me a few tips, as she’s a dancer herself.”
The former Royal Marine medic lost his right leg below the knee during a tour of Afghanistan in 2011, in an explosion that killed three of his colleagues and seriously injured another four. He is credited with helping other Marines through rehab.
He was an avid dancer before that and his first words after losing his leg were: “Well, there goes my tap-dancing days”.
“The assumption is, recovery happens after injury, and then once recovery’s over, it’s all better.
But I will spend the rest of my life adapting to the world I knew,” he said.
“Since being injured, I’ve done some incredible things, and this is another incredible experience, which just pulls me along that pathway.”
Cassidy has embraced the Strictly transformation, including the fake tan.
He said: “It’s a guilty pleasure now. I’ve also had my eyebrows plucked, and I’m happy with that. I want rhinestones.”
Being bossed about in rehearsals hasn’t been as easy, though.
“I’m a Royal Marine, I’m not supposed to be led!” he teases. “I’m supposed to constantly be thinking three ranks above me, so that’s what I’m doing. I’m thinking at the level of a choreographer.”
Each of the competitors was chosen for the tireless and selfless part they played in helping changing others’ lives for the better.
The series will consist of four programmes presented by Strictly hosts Tess Daly and Claudia Winkleman.
The first two, heart-warming episodes will introduce the contestants as they get the surprise of their lives and discover that they are about to embark on an incredible Strictly journey.
The third episode will continue to follow their training and preparation, including a makeover day, as they get ready for their ballroom debut in front of the nation.
Episode four will see all six contestants compete on the famous Strictly Come Dancing ballroom, as they vie for the judges’ scores and viewers’ votes. Cassidy will dance the paso doble. The judges’ scores will be for guidance only, and the public will have the deciding vote.
Competing against Cassidy is Anna Kennedy, from Uxbridge, who set up a school for autistic boys; Phil Barnett, from Cornwall, who set up a youth theatre company; Heather Parsons, from Southampton,who set up a charity to provide emotional support for people in intensive care, after contracting a flesh eating bug herself; Michael Pattie, from Dumfries, who set up a charity after he lost his son to meningitis and Trishna Bharadia, from Buckinghamshire, who has multiple sclerosis aged 28 and volunteers with several MS charities.
The BBC plans to make the show, which starts at 9pm on Wednesday on BBC One, an annual event.
What are you doing for Comic Relief? Tell us and we will cover your Red Nose Day efforts. Phone the newsdesk on 01780 758951 or e-mail the newsdesk.