Support through Sport UK spoke to Patrick McGeough from the Wheelchair Dance Sport Association (UK) …
Hi Patrick. What are the aims of the Wheelchair Dance Sport Association (UK)?
The aim of the Wheelchair Dance Sport Association (UK) is to promote and develop wheelchair dancing as a sport and leisure activity across the country, and to raise the standard of instructors and competition in the UK, and internationally, at all levels. We are also looking to make dancing, in whatever form it may be, FUN, exciting and something for which individuals who are part of this association, and who do wheelchair dance, can be proud of, and can say 'I can do that.'
How, and when, did wheelchair dancing come about?
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.
The WDSA (UK) is a national charity and a National Governing Body and we travel around the country giving workshops, demonstrations and fundraising. Additionally, we host instructors' courses and, with partners, we organise county, regional, national and international championships within the UK. Further, we act as a voice for our members to enable change and aid understanding of what wheelchair dance sport and wheelchair dancing can do for individuals, as well as the community, within the UK.
What sort of dances can participants learn?
Wheelchair Dance Sport' dances include standard dances such as the Waltz, Tango, Viennese Waltz, Slow Foxtrot, and Quickstep. Participants can also learn Latin-American dances such as the Samba, Cha-Cha-Cha, Rumba, Paso Doble and Jive. And there are different 'forms' - so the combi dance (where a wheelchair user dances with an able-bodied partner), the duo dance (where two wheelchair users dance together), the group dance (all wheelchair users or wheelchair dancers and their able-bodied partners) and the single dance (where a wheelchair dancer dances alone). 'Wheelchair Dancing,'  however, is a much more open activity and can cover a wide range of dances including Hip Hop, Bollywood, Ballet, Ceroc etc. We like to say that the only dance we can’t do is the Can-Can because we have not figured out how to do the splits in a wheelchair ... YET!
Does the sport embrace a range of disabilities? And can able-bodied dancers compete?
Wheelchair Dance Sport embraces a wide range of disabilities including paraplegics, spina bifida, amputees, brittle bones, deafness, blindness, cerebral palsy and multiple sclerosis. Able bodied dancers are eligible to compete with a wheelchair user partner. We find that individuals often bring a carer, family member or friend to the clubs with them - and these carers / family members / friends get dancing and have a great time!
If anyone is reading this and would like to have a go at wheelchair dancing, where can they find out more?
If you want to have a go, find out out more or become an instructor, please contact us:
Wheelchair Dance Sport Association (UK)
The Lemarie Centre for Charities
524 St Albans Road
WD24 7RX
0300 111 30 45
Why would you encourage people to take up wheelchair dancing?
Wheelchair Dance Sport and Wheelchair Dancing are not just about enabling individuals to have fun, socialise or compete - they enable people who need to be cared for to be seen as equals and, in some cases, as leaders (of groups / clubs etc.). We have seen couples evolve from carers and 'cared fors' into partnerships and equals. If you want to try out something that will enable you to develop skills, build confidence and self-esteem, and will help you to meet new people and have fun, then try coming to a Wheelchair Dance Sport Association (UK) Group / Club near you. And if you want to set up your own group within your community, we would be happy to discuss how we can help you make that happen.
Thanks very much for talking to Support through Sport UK, Patrick.