HISTORY OF WHEELCHAIR DANCING
Wheelchair dancing was born from the needs of providing and achieving a means towards mobility for those convalescing from the effects of the Second World War. For the war wounded, the use of a wheelchair helped to achieve a degree of independence and mobility. It soon became apparent that movement in wheelchairs could easily be adapted to dance for therapeutic means. The concept of movement to music was eventually adopted by the Spastic Society’s schools and was introduced as a means of improving the children’s technique for achieving full mobility in their wheelchairs. Since those early days it soon became apparent that children thoroughly enjoyed dancing for its own sake.
PRESENT LEVEL OF DEVELOPMENT
The instigation of the first Wheelchair Dance Festival in 1971 led to exhibitions and competitions within the association. Now exhibitions and competitions have become important elements in wheelchair dance.
The festivals provide dance sections for both adult and junior dancers, with each section being divided further into A, B and C ability sections. More recently sections in PHAB (physically handicapped and able bodied) was introduced. The format of the festivals includes dances in, Set Team, Formation Team, Novelty Team, PHAB Format, All Comers Team(mixed ability), Couples, PHAB Couples, Freestyle (disco) and non-competitive section for exhibition.
Wheelchair dancing offers some unique opportunities to physically disables people. Generally speaking the values of dancing falls into three areas:
- The physiological benefits consist ofthe development of the heart, lungs and circulatory system to sustain vigorous activity and the ability to bend, stretch and move through a more normal range of movement. Other areas that are benefited are the perceptual factors, which include the learning of spatial relationships, laterality, auditory discrimination and eye-hand or eye-foot co-ordination.
- There are many psychological benefits in wheelchair dance for disabled individuals. In particular, the opportunity to do something well and experience success which may also influence and enhance an individual’s self image. Dance may also help to release frustrations caused by physical impairments, social stigma and social isolation.
- Some disables individuals may not be able to be self-supportive but still may be able to function and find a place in society in various ways. The provision of activities such as wheelchair dance aids the individual in entering the mainstream of society, providing them with the same experience as non-disabled individuals and perhaps the opportunity for peer-group interaction and further equality.