History of Wheelchair Dance Sport
What is Wheelchair Dance and Wheelchair Dance Sport?
Wheelchair Dance Sport has been defined as “involves athletes with a physical disability which affects the lower limbs.” However, this definition has since been expanded to incorporate upper limb disabilities, dual disability and multiple disabilities. In 1998, Wheelchair Dance Sport became an International Paralympic Committee (IPC) Championship Sport and the International Dance Sport Federation (IDSF) has entered into formal cooperation agreements with the IPC.
The format of wheelchair dance sport competitions is very similar to those for non-wheelchair dancers, with Beginners competitions, Intermediate and Championship level and the same five dances for Ballroom and Latin contested. There are two categories for disabilities: Class 1 for severe disabilities and Class 2 for the not so severe. There are also two types of competitions: Duo-dance where the two dancers are both in wheelchairs and Combi where one is in a wheelchair and one is a non-disabled partner, which currently seems to be more popular. Age categories are not currently well established, but some Junior and Senior events are developing as popularity of the sport has grown. The IDSF rules for wheelchair dance sport are as much the same as those for non-wheelchair dance sport.
International History of Wheelchair dancing and Wheelchair Dance Sport
Wheelchair dancing started according to the IPC when it was practiced for recreational and rehabilitation purposes, Wheelchair Dancing originated in Sweden in 1968. Els-Britt Larsson, a wheelchair user herself who worked for the Swedish Handicap-Federation, was one of the pioneers of this fascinating sport.
Very soon news of dancing in a wheelchair was spread and it became a very popular activity, especially in Sweden. In 1975, the very first competition was organized in Västeras, Sweden, with a total of 30 couples taking part. Spectators were fascinated and inspired by the sport and very soon competitions started to be organized all over the world.
In 1977, the first international competition in Wheelchair Dance Sport took place in Sweden. After several regional and international competitions, the first World Championships were organized in Japan in 1998. The same year, Wheelchair Dance Sport became a Sport under the Governance and Management Authority of the International Paralympic Committee (IPC), but is not part of the Paralympic Program today.
Munich, Germany, organized the first Rock’n Roll European Championship in 1984, for wheelchair dancers. In 1985, the first unofficial European Championships in Latin and Standard were organized in the Netherlands. The first World Championships was held in Japan in 1998. At the 2006 IPC Wheelchair Dance Sport World Championships, which took place in Papendal, the Netherlands, duo-dance was presented for the first time in two Standard and three Latin dances.
The 2008 IPC Wheelchair Dance Sport World Championships was organised in Minsk, Belarus in October 2008.
Wheelchair Dance and Wheelchair Dance Sport in the UK
The roots of wheelchair dancing in the UK can be traced back to the late 60s when a rehabilitation centre in Scotland was teaching people how to manoeuvre their wheelchairs and realised this could be done to music. A Wheelchair Dance Association was set up in the seventies and although team dancing developed, the international competitive style did not catch on.
In 2006 Sue Cummings and Ruth Boyne established the Wheelchair Dance Sport Association (UK), the WDSA (UK). It evolved when a group of wheelchair dancers from Devon wanted to compete and Sue felt the international style was very different and went along to an Instructor’s course in Malta in 2004 to learn more about it. On her return to the UK they started trying this new style of wheelchair dance sport and began advertising it, with the aim of showing that everyone can dance regardless of their disability.
Sue and Ruth travel around the country giving workshops and demonstrations; they host instructors courses and are organising the first ever UK and Ireland Wheelchair Dance Sport Championship. Sue and Ruth are National Coaches, Classifiers and Instructor of Wheelchair Dance Sport. They are Paralympic representatives for Great Britain in wheelchair dance sport and the Wheelchair Dance Sport Association (UK), WDSA (UK) is the National Governing Body for the sport in the UK, as recognised by IPC, WDSF, WWDC and IDSF among others.