Cassidy Little, a former Royal Marine Medic, lost his right leg below the knee during a tour of Afghanistan in the Summer of 2011. An improvised explosive device exploded, resulting in three fatalities. Despite being badly injured himself he attended to his colleagues on the ground after the attack. I caught up with him to find out more about his recent appearance on the People’s Strictly for Comic Relief with professional dancer Natalie Lowe.
What do you like about Strictly Come Dancing?
As a viewer, I like the good nature of the programme. At the end of the day, Strictly Come Dancing has no negative motives. It’s an all-round positive TV show.
As a contestant, I liked the people involved. Everyone backstage and on camera was kind and interested in you as a person. Nothing fake, nothing plastic. Just nice people helping you reach your potential on the show.
How did you feel when you found out that you were going to be on the People’s Strictly for Comic Relief?
Anxious. As a Royal Marine, I am always going to finish the race. It is part of my programming. But there is a very strong human instinct that won’t let you set yourself up for failure. I didn’t even know if I could dance, let alone do a Paso in front of the nation. Despite all that, I was excited to be getting involved, and looking forward to meeting new people… but anxiety was always there in the background as I made my way towards the judges.
What did your training involve?
I know it is an old saying, and a bit clichéd… but blood, sweat and tears. As I got closer to Nat, and trusted her more and more, I worked harder for her. She noticed that, and pushed me harder and harder. Training was tough. But we danced as often as possible.
Putting a dance routine together must have been a challenge for you and your dance partner, but what steps did she take to incorporate your individual needs and abilities?
Nat is a very patient woman. Every step of the way she asked what was good for me and what wasn’t. Everything down to the direction I turned, and what side took the weight bearing load was analysed. So at every moment, the dance was being tailored to me and my capabilities.
Were any parts of your dance routine adapted to make it easier, your routine was pretty fast?
Speed was never something we adapted for. Balance was always taken into consideration, but as long as I was on balance then speed would come with practise. So nothing was adapted because of pace, only for improved balance.
How did you feel dancing with your prosthetic leg?
Uneasy at first. Then we switched to the blade, and it became easier. The thing about dancing, you need to be able to utilise both sets of toes. If you are missing those toes, then the challenge becomes greater, the blade gave me the chance to have those toes back. The blade made the entire process possible.
What was it like to perform in front of so many people?
I am not sure that anyone would be comfortable doing anything in front of that many people. I am sure that even the best public speakers must shake a little. So doing something like dancing in front of that many is even further out of one’s comfort zone. Needless to say, I think that all involved were very, very nervous about performing in front of that many people
Though, with that said, there are very few things in this world that feel as good as doing a good job in front of millions of viewers. It was nerve racking, but worth every drop of sweat.
Did you find any part of your dance routine challenging?
I found the entire process challenging. From beginning to end. No part was harder or easier, it was a great challenge, and I am grateful for the support everyone gave throughout the entire evolution.
Can you describe the moment when you heard your name was announced as the winner of the People’s Strictly?
I was convinced that one of the other contestants had won it. It was a split second before I realised I’d won that I noticed something didn’t feel right. In fact, if you watch the playback, you can see that moment. I literally said to myself ‘wait a sec, I’ve missed something.. I think I might have won this’. So I was shocked. It is a great honour to win the competition, but as great as it felt, I have to remind myself that it is all for charity and that we, as the competitors, although all wanted to win, were really there for the journey and to raise money for Comic Relief.
What advice would you give disabled people who want to dance, but lack confidence in themselves?
Dancing, like acting, singing, music, and all the performing arts, is about investment. You MUST invest in it and that means leaving your previous investments on the back burner. For some people, their injuries, whether they like to admit it or not, are their investments. In order to fully enjoy performing, you have to leave it at the door. So that when you dance, you are nowhere else but in that moment. It takes a lot to do that. We are naturally guarded creatures. But for that brief moment, I was on that dance floor with Natalie Lowe, I was nowhere else. There was no competition, no judges, no consequences. Just me and Nat, and the intensity of the dance.. I don’t think that it was the dance steps that allowed us to win, I think it was our investment that sucked everyone in. So that would be my advice… Invest.
Have you kept up dancing since being on the show?
Yes, I found myself on stage with a Spanish Flamenco company doing a very small bit in a show called Explosion. I absolutely loved the experience and made some great friends.
How has life changed for you since being on the show?
Life hasn’t really changed, to be fair. I’m enjoying having a bit more free time to spend at home with my daughter and wife. I work for Forces TV and British Forces Broadcasting Service anyway, so I have gone back to making media for them. As I am leaving the military, they are my new Battle Company, they allow me to feel like I am still apart of the military fraternity.
My life is kinda crazy anyway, actor to ballet dancer, dancer to comedian. Comedian to Royal marine medic. Medic to actor to Dancer. Dancer to presenter and broadcaster. It’s kind of a crazy ride. So no matter how crazy life was during the rehearsal phase of the People’s Strictly, my life is that chaotic anyway. So nothing changes..
What was your most memorable moment of being the show?
Madrid. When I got on the flight to Spain, I didn’t really understand why I was going. I was going to Spain because I was told to, and hopefully learn a thing or two about the dance, and that was it. But while I was there, I figured out what I needed to do to compete in this competition. Maybe not win it, but at least compete. Spain was a game changer for me because Spain changed me, and the way I understood the dance.
If you got the opportunity to do it again in the future, what other type of dance would you consider trying out?
I can confidently say that I would consider doing all the dances that are involved with Strictly Come Daning. I would love to do them all. And I would love Nat to teach most of them to me.
What are your goals/aspirations for the future?
My passion lies in presenting and broadcasting. We shall see where that road takes me.