Strictly Wheels make it to the live semi finals

FORMER Lurgan man Gary Lyness and his dance partner Paula Moulton are through to the live semi-finals of Britain’s Got Talent.

In a ‘blink or you’d miss it’ moment the BGT judging panel selected unusual dance partnership ‘Strictly Wheels’ for the semi-final stage.

Gary and his wheelchair bound dance partner Paula were delighted to have been put through - and have already achieved all they had set out to do, namely bringing wheelchair dance to the public eye.

A delighted Gary told the ‘MAIL’: “We were brought into a room with the judges and some of the other acts, they gave their usual spiel about the quality of the acts. Then they told us we were through.

“I’d thought we were out, that we were just going home. It was an absolute shock, Paula couldn’t speak for five minutes. I honestly thought we had had our day and that was it.”

As for their reasons for going on the show, Gary said: “We wanted to get wheelchair dance sport some exposure in the UK, we just wanted a wee bit of exposure and never thought of getting through to the live semi-finals.”

They’ve certainly achieved their aim with TV appearances, newspaper and magazine articles on the pair in the week after their first appearance, although interest from the national media had died down somewhat. But with their selection for the live show that should pick up again.

Now the couple are trying to drum up support for the next stage of the competition and, of course, will know Gary’s home town will be giving them strong support.

Their Facebook page has already generated a large number of fans and after their first appearance have been contacted to stage displays and demonstrations - although they can’t commit to anything until Britain’s Got Talent is over.

Gary said: “We’re taking each day as it comes.”

As for spirits back stage Gary said: “We’ve met a few of the other contestants during rehearsals and we all interact over Facebook and Twitter. Everyone is very friendly and supportive.”

During their first appearance on the show Gary and Paula Moulton had the BGT audience on their feet.

39-year-old Gary grew up in Lurgan and lived on the Avenue Road with his mum Edith and dad Ernie.

He left Lurgan in 1992 and moved to England. He’s been in Manchester for 12 years.

He told the ‘MAIL’: “I’m a regular visitor to Lurgan. I may have lost my accent but I haven’t forgotten my roots.

“My parents aren’t alive anymore but most of my family still live in the Lurgan area.”

Gary, a former pupil of Lurgan Junior High School and Portadown College, explained how he got together with Paula and formed ‘Strictly Wheels’.

He said: “Paula and I have been friends for about 10 years. We met when I moved to Manchester.

“We saw a programme called ‘Dancing On Wheels’ which showed wheelchair ballroom dancing.

“When we’re out for the night we’d always have attempted to get on the dancefloor.

“We found Ray Bulpitt who is a dance tutor for wheelchair dancing and we signed up for a 12-week introduction. Early on Ray spotted that we had a talent. He’s been training us and we’ve won a few competitions.

“We’ve competed for Great Britain and are the current UK Amateur Latin and Ballroom champions. We won the Dutch Open Amateur Latin in Holland in Easter.”

Paula has been in a wheelchair for the past 17 years after complications when she contracted pneumonia.

With Paula in her wheelchair and Gary on his feet, the friends make for an inspirational dance act, performing on Britain’s Got Talent to ‘Empire State Of Mind’ by Alicia Keys at the Manchester auditions.

He said: “The reaction from the judges was really good and we got a standing ovation. The response from the public has been so encouraging. It’s great to know people enjoyed our performance.

“The support seems really good.”