Around the world, dance centres and organizations have finally begun to cater for people with physical disabilities. Being confined to a wheelchair no longer means that you can't dance and every style is on offer, whether you just enjoy taking to the floor socially or fancy strutting your stuff in competition. In more than 40 nations, disabled people of all ages are participating in dance activities using both manual and powered wheelchairs. Styles of dance vary from traditional ballroom and Latin to ballet, line dance and square dance. Although it has recently been making headlines, wheelchair dancing is not new and has in fact been around for decades under the name of, "integrated dance".
Wheelchair dance is now recognized as an IPC Championships Sport and it is only a matter of time before it is included in the Paralympic Games program. Competition rules are modified by the International Paralympic Committee. These rules specify floor size, styles of dance, music duration and tempo as well as the number of couples allowed to compete and the dress code. Five to seven expert judges officiate over a number of rounds.
There are four types of wheelchair dance:
Duo-dance features two wheelchair dancers together.
Single-dance features one dancer performing alone.
Group-dance involves both able-bodied and wheelchair dancers performing together in a synchronised routine and also includes free-style movements.
Combi-dance features a disabled dancer in partnership with an able-bodied one. Couples perform ballroom and Latin dances including; tango, waltz, quickstep, cha-cha, rumba and jive.
As well as being brilliant fun, dancing provides those taking part with physical and mental benefits too. Regular participants have stated that their confidence has improved; they feel inspired and require less physical therapy since taking up wheelchair dancing. The focus of dance is in the artistic characteristics of the movement, the skill involved and the beauty of the energy created by the dancer. Disability is viewed only as a secondary presence; an irrelevance. Dancers are swept away by the music and caught up in the freedom of expression it brings; their disability is forgotten for the duration of the performance.
Wheelchair Dance embraces a wide range of disabilities: paraplegics, spina bifida, amputees, deaf, visually impaired, MS, cerebral palsy are just a small number of the groups involved. Everybody who wants to take part in some way is welcome, and indeed encouraged, to do so. Those who would like to support wheelchair dancing but who don't want to actually take to the floor themselves are welcomed as supporters and
non-dancing members of the various clubs which exist.
So, what are you waiting for? Get Googling. You don't know what you could be missing!
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