The next Paralympic Games in Japan are now just under a year away – but there’s one official Paralympic Sport that you won’t find amongst the summer program. Paradance is a graceful and stylish competitive dance sport which involves athletes with a physical impairment that affects the lower limbs.
As reported by SBS, Australian dancers are beginning to making a mark on the world Para dance stage as Sydney couple Emily Prevketes-Ashley and Paul Ashley competed in the World Latin Dance Cup in Florida last year. The first Australian wheelchair dancers to compete, the couple were already athletes and found a passion for the sport after learning some moves for their wedding. Their goal is “to have other couples in wheelchairs join us and make this a big thing in Australia.”
What is Para dance?
International Para dance competition can involve participants dancing in combi style, with an able-bodied (standing) partner, or duo dance for two wheelchair users together. There’s also group and single dance competitions where wheelchair users dance alone.
Originating in the 1960’s in Sweden, the sport’s popularity grew, with the first international competition taking place in 1977 and the World Championships in 1998 – the same year the sport came under the governance of the International Paralympic Committee.
Athletes can compete in traditional dance styles like the waltz, tango and foxtrot, Latin American dances like the samba and jive, or can freestyle a range of styles including hip hop, ballet and contemporary. Formation dances feature four, six or eight couples dancing together.
Any wheelchair can be used for wheelchair dancing, although lighter more agile wheelchairs make turning easier. If you’d like to get really serious, there are specialised dancing wheelchairs available.
Interested in giving Para dance a go?
There are a host of psychological and physical benefits to the sport including the maintenance of physical balance, flexibility, range of motion, coordination and improved respiratory control. If you’re interested in getting serious and would like to find out more about competing, Disability Sports Australia is the peak body for coordination of competitive sports.
Want to see what you would be up against? Take a look at competitors in action here.
Para sports around the country
Feeling inspired to get moving? Get in touch with the below organisations to find out about para sports and recreation activities in your neck of the woods.
Wheelchair Sports NSW lists a range of para sports available for you to try and supports athletes from beginners to competitive level.
Sporting Wheelies & Disabled Association is Queensland’s peak body for sport, recreation and fitness for people with a physical disability or vision impairment. They run a range of recreation activities around the state.
Although Disability Recreation & Sports SA has recently closed shop, The Australian Disability Sport website features a listing of organisations that can link you with sporting opportunities in South Australia.
Physical disABILITY Sports Tasmania provides people with physical disability the opportunity to participate in sport and recreation activities at a social, local, national or international level.
Ballroom Fit is a Perth-based organisation that offers Para dance classes to everyone from beginners to experienced dancers. If you’d like to look for something a little different, Rebound WA and WA Disabled Sports Association are both great places to start.
Disability Sport and recreation helps Victorians with disability live happier, more active lives and can connect you with a range of sports clubs.
The NT Disabled Sports Association provides opportunities in athletics, cycling, swimming, pistol shooting, basketball, archery and lawn bowls for people with disabilities.
Mable’s community of independent support workers offer transport and assistance with community participation to help you achieve your fitness goals. Click here to search for workers in your area.