Rhys Stephenson says he took being in the Strictly dance-off personally

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Rhys Stephenson has said he took landing in the dance-off in week five of Strictly Come Dancing quite personally, and had to do “a lot of soul searching” to adjust his mentality.

The CBBC presenter found himself close to elimination earlier in the competition after the public vote, but the judges voted unanimously to save him instead of former rugby player Ugo Monye after he repeated his American smooth.

Stephenson, 28, has since made a strong comeback to the dancefloor with his partner Nancy Xu, and on Saturday he received a perfect score of 40 for his Charleston to the song The Charleston by Bob Wilson and his Varsity Rhythm Boys.

Strictly Come Dancing 2021
The CBBC presenter said his partner Nancy Xu helped him get out of his head (Guy Levy/BBC)

Stephenson said: “The dance-off was a real shock to the system and I think it really forced me to appreciate it more that I’m on it (Strictly), and so to think every week ‘don’t take this for granted’.

“I think at the beginning I put more pressure on myself because sometimes you think, if I’m in the bottom two it’s almost like that’s it, your time is limited on the show.

“And I had to get rid of that thought or think, if that is the case, then enjoy it because what’s the point of looking back on it and thinking you’re miserable for those last moments.

“So it was a lot of soul searching to get through that.”

The TV presenter said his dance partner had been “really great” at pulling him out of those moments when he would get caught up in his head with negative thoughts.

He added: “Nancy said to me ‘Why are you doing this?’, she had to remind me that a couple of times as well.

“And I think we all go through that because you take it personally and you really shouldn’t because most of the time it’s not really a personal thing, because if we all act as if they’re voting for us to leave, but actually all the votes are for us to stay.

“So it’s all love, it’s just that you didn’t get as much positivity as the other person, but you still got positivity. And so those are things that I need to focus on.

“But I think for me now it’s just helped me to focus more on week by week rather than just thinking of the final or in the future. It’s just allowed me to be more present in the moment.”

The couple have since received many positive remarks from the judges, with head judge Shirley Ballas raving about their performance on Saturday, saying: “I’ve never ever seen a Charleston like that, and the choreography was astounding.”

Motsi Mabuse felt it was the “best Charleston of the season” while notoriously strict Craig Revel Horwood also praised the presenter, simply commenting: “A-maz-ing”.

Co-host Claudia Winkleman also told the couple they had made Strictly history with the performance as she said it was the earliest that anyone had received a perfect 40 for the Charleston.

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