Thameside Wheelchair Dancing


History of Wheelchair Dancing

Like so many other things, Wheelchair Dancing, commenced in the UK. It started in the late 1960’s at a rehabilitation centre in Scotland, where people committed to wheelchairs would attend to learn how to operate and manoeuvre their new appliances. It soon became evident that the movements such as rolling backwards and forwards, rocking, twisting from side to side and rotating, could be done to music. Because it was in Scotland the movements were easily related to Scottish dancing, including Reels, Sets and Fours. Because it was a more pleasant way to introduce people to using wheelchairs, it spread rapidly south into England. The Wheelchair Dance Association (WDA) was set up in the early 1970’s and soon, because of its initial and anticipated growth the Association was reorganised to include a National Committee and Regional Committees. It was intended that there would be a Regional Committee for England, Scotland, Wales and Ireland. The expansion did not materialise and Scotland and England were the only Regions to develop. The Scottish, formation and team dancing still exists under the WDA, but the association was not interested in developing the skills of Ballroom, Latin American and general Social Dancing which was developing around the world.


In early 1980 a Corrie van Hugten, committed to a wheelchair, came to England to check out the WDA. She took the ideas back to Holland and being a teacher of dance, adapted the techniques to include standard Ballroom, Latin American and Social Dancing. The activity quickly developed in Holland and with the help of her close friend Ondine de Hullu, it spread to many counties throughout the world. Holland has now in excess of 140 clubs, providing social and therapeutic activities to hundreds of disabled people. Each country formed a Wheelchair Dance Sport Association under the umbrella of the International Paralympic Committee (IPC).


The WDA in the UK would not affiliate or accept the rules of the International Dance Sport under the IPC and a new association, the Wheelchair Dance Sport Association. UK (WDSA.UK) was formed, to allow people in the UK to take part in world wide events. With support of the Dutch and Malta Associations and IPC, the new association has Charity Status. In (2007) under the guidance of Corrie Van Hugten and Ondine de Hullu, both members of the IPC Wheelchair Dance Sport Committie, 14 people qualified as instructors in the UK.


Since then, two other instructor courses have helped to promote wheelchair dance sport in the UK. At the moment only three clubs, The Beacons in Devon, Thameside in Essex and a team from Southampton have represented the UK abroad, but things are looking much brighter for the future. Last year (2010) marked the first UK National Open Championship and this year(2011) we staged the first Open International, with representatives from, Netherlands, Germany, Slovakia and Malta.


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