Wheelchair dance sport is rapidly increasing in popularity and importance. It’s value lies in the fact that it provides both recreational and rehabilitation benefits.
The origins of this form of dance can be traced to Sweden and the year 1968. An early pioneer was Els-Britt Larsson who was employed by the Swedish Handicap Federation. She was herself a wheelchair user.
This category of dance enjoyed great popularity in Sweden. In 1975 the first ever competition was held there. Thirty couples took part. Spectators were both fascinated and inspired by what they saw. Nowadays competitions are held worldwide.
The first international wheelchair dance sport competition took place in Sweden in 1977. The following year the first World Championships were held in Japan.
1984 saw the first Rock n’ Roll European Championship in Munich, Germany. The next year the first unofficial European Championships in Latin and Standard were held in the Netherlands. In 2006 duo-dance was featured for the first time in two Standard and three Latin dances. The forthcoming World Championships will take place in Minsk, Belarus in October, 2008.
Elegance, style and rhythm are as important in this form of dance as in any other. Who can participate is clearly defined. Participants are athletes with a physical disability that affects the lower limbs. Combi-style involves dancing with an able-bodied (standing) partner. Duo dance is for two wheelchair users together.
Included in the Standard dances are the Waltz, Tango, Viennese Waltz, Slow Foxtrot and Quickstep. Latin American dances include the Samba, Cha-cha-cha, Rumba, Paso Doble and Jive.
Formation dances are for four, six or eight couples dancing in formation which requires great precision.
The sport is governed by the International Paralympics Wheelchair Dance Sport Committee (IPWDSC) which follows the modified rules of the International Dance Sport Federation (DSF). More than thirty countries now participate in this sport.
The judging criteria in wheelchair dance sport are clearly set out by the committee:-
“Wheelchair Dance is a part of the Sport for Disabled. Therefore the wheelchair dancer is the most important part of the couple and may not be regarded as a companion of the standing dancer. This requires a big degree of interest for the wheelchair dancer’s performance.
The principal challenge is to reach ‘Couple Unity’ although the individual dancer moves in a different way ( one by striding legs, the other by rolling wheels). Both dancers must dance in harmony and have to contribute equal achievement. The movements of the couple must be co-ordinated with no partner being dominant”.
Under Movement/Technical Rules marks are given for character of the music, hold and position. Technique marks are given for balance, connection, leading, bodywork, bodylines, footwork, wheelwork, and lifts. Choreography is marked on variations of the figures. Presentation is judged on use of space, originality and expression.
Wheelchair Dance Sport allows it’s participants to benefit from the body-mind-spirit integration which comes from any form of dance.
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