Wheelchair Dancing: Information and Dance Types
Published: 2013-04-29 - Updated: 2021-05-01
Author: Thomas C. Weiss | Contact: Disabled World (Disabled-World.com)
Peer-Reviewed Publication: N/A
Additional References: Disability Sports Information Publications
Synopsis: Wheelchair Dancing is defined as a partner dance competition and Dance-sport where at least one of the dancers is in a wheelchair. In more than 40 nations, people of all physical abilities and from every age group are participating in dance activities with their manual or power wheelchairs. Along with the enjoyment participants receive from dance lessons, participation itself, and competition - wheelchair dancing, as with other forms of dancing, may provide physical and mental benefits.
Wheelchair dancing is a sport that continues to grow in popularity around the world. Wheelchair dance is considered an IPC Championships Sport, but it is not currently a part of the Paralympic Games program.
Wheelchair Dancing is defined as a partner dance competition and Dance-sport where at least one of the dancers is in a wheelchair. The physical benefits of wheelchair dancing include the maintenance of physical balance, flexibility, range of motion, coordination and improved respiratory control. The psychological effects of ballroom dancing are social interaction and the development of relationships.
With an increasing number of dance organizations and centers that cater to people who experience physical disabilities, wheelchair users have the ability to learn to dance either socially or competitively and are actively participating in their favorite dance styles such as line dancing, square dancing, jazz, ballet, Latin American, and traditional ballroom dancing. In more than 40 nations, people of all physical abilities and from every age group are participating in dance activities with their manual or power wheelchairs.
There are four basic ways in which to dance.
Duo-dance features two wheelchair dancers together.
Single-dance involves solo performances involving a lone wheelchair dancer.
Group-dance involves wheelchair dancers and dancers who are able-bodied dancing in synchronized formation, as well as participating with free-style movements to the music.
Combi-dance integrates an person who is able-bodied with a dancer with disabilities and allows couples to participate in dances such as tango, waltz, slowfox, Viennese waltz, and quickstep. Other dances performed include Latin American dances such as cha-cha, samba, paso doble, rumba, and jive.
Along with the enjoyment participants receive from dance lessons, participation itself, and competition - wheelchair dancing, as with other forms of dancing, may provide physical and mental benefits. Wheelchair users have stated they feel more confident and inspired from consistent dance involvement. Some have suggested that dancing has enabled them to require less physical therapy because of the exercise they receive during practice sessions and performances. The sport itself is governed by International Dance Sport Federation rules as modified by the International Paralympic Committee.
The rules outline the size of the floor, dance forms, music duration and temp, as well as the number of couples who can compete and the costumes they wear. A number of rounds of competition are conducted based upon the particular event. 5 to 7 judges who are experts evaluate dance performances.
Participating in Wheelchair Dancing
Wheelchair dancing can include Combi-style dancing, which involves partners made up of one wheelchair user and one standing member. If you use a wheelchair, you might consider switching to using a power chair for the evening. It is also possible for two wheelchair users to dance together, something that is officially referred to as, 'Duo-dance.' Style includes everything from Rumba to Waltz to the Jive. You can also participate in group formation dances where 4 to 8 people dance in choreographed arrangements.
If you are a fan of wheelchair dancing, but are not as much into the actual activity, you might consider supporting your local wheelchair dance club. There are organizations dedicated to making dance accessible to everyone you can support. Dance is a sport that continues to grow and involve people with disabilities all over the world today. There are wheelchair dance troops that travel everywhere and compete in a number of dance events, not only recreational, but also competitive. Wheelchair dancing is not only entertaining, it is also a wonderful way to promote change in the ways society views people with disabilities; people who use wheelchairs in particular.
Wheelchair dancing has actually been around for decades. It started under the name of, 'integrated dance,' and organizations continue to appear all over the world. On an international level, the first competition happened in the year 1997 in Sweden and the first World Championships were held in Japan. There are a couple of companies in America that have achieved international recognition and success for their exceptional performances, as well as a number of community outreach initiatives. The focus is on the artistic characteristics of dance and skill; disability is viewed as a secondary presence to the beauty of movement in energy. It is always possible to become involved with the performing arts and to learn more about your artistic potential through dance. While it might sound deep, dance is one of the most physically beneficial and accessible activities for people who use wheelchairs.
Organizations such as Full Radius Dance and Axis Dance Company have helped to bring together the dance community and the disability community through promotion of change in the ways people perceive disability. Wheelchair users can pursue line dance, square dance, jazz and ballet. In addition, Combi-dance style permits people with disabilities to participate in standard dances such as:
- Paso doble
- Viennese waltz
Duo-dance is a style where two wheelchair dancers dance together.
Group-dance commonly involves both wheelchair dancers and dancers without disabilities in formations or free performances.
In America one organization of note is, 'Dancing Wheels,' a pioneer wheelchair dance company from Cleveland. Each year the company presents 120 performances, as well as activating comprehensive educational outreach programs comprised of lectures, performances, workshops for educators and healthcare professionals, and residencies. Full Radius Dance, another company located in Atlanta, has a Positive Motion dance program that caters to both children and adults with disabilities. The program concentrates on the artistic and creative qualities of dance.
In addition to wheelchair users, visually impaired people may also participate in dance classes that assist students with directionality, following directions, balancing, as well as purposeful movement. Full Radius Dance is first and foremost a creative performing arts company that perceives disability as being only a secondary characteristic to graceful dancers.
Besides assisting with the integration of disability and dancing, wheelchair dance is a sport that provides those who participate with inspiration as well as health benefits. Wheelchair users have reported feeling more confident and stronger. Some have even reported needing less physical therapy as a result of the workout they receive during practices and performances.
Thomas C. Weiss is a researcher and editor for Disabled World. Thomas attended college and university courses earning a Masters, Bachelors and two Associate degrees, as well as pursing Disability Studies. As a Nursing Assistant Thomas has assisted people from a variety of racial, religious, gender, class, and age groups by providing care for people with all forms of disabilities from Multiple Sclerosis to Parkinson's; para and quadriplegia to Spina Bifida.
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