There's ALWAYS a Good Reason to Dance!
By Iris Kulbatski, PhD, WHEEL DANCE
"Dance puts you into another world; a cloudy heavenly world where you're floating. Where you're forgetting the past, present and future and just enjoying the moment."~ Ken Faber, WHEEL DANCE member
"It's freedom. Complete freedom…it's like the chair doesn't exist, it's gone and it's just my partner and I floating around the dance floor." ~ Randy McNeil, WHEEL DANCE member
Wheelchairs Become an Extension of the Body
That's how Ken Faber and Randy McNeil, founding members of WHEEL DANCE, describe their experiences with wheelchair dancing. Many wheel dancers echo these sentiments when they recount the feeling of dancing in a wheelchair, particularly for partner dances like Cha Cha, Rumba and Waltz. It's often difficult to conceive what wheelchair dancing is like, since many people consider their wheelchair to be a transport vehicle, rather than a continuation of their body or an instrument for creative expression.
Partner dancing provides the ideal opportunity to forget about day-to-day accessibility challenges and the logistics of getting from point A to point B. It's in these moments of "forgetting," when you're moving across the dance floor with your partner, that you begin to experience a new relationship with your chair- one of liberation and joy.
The majority of wheelchair users have never felt this type of freedom in their chair. Partner dancing shifts the focus from your chair (and the perceived limitations that it imposes) to those moments on the dance floor when you "let go" by connecting to yourself, your partner and the music. The wheelchair becomes secondary to the movement and music, and as Randy says, "when you take your partner's hand and start to move to the music, you forget about everything else."
Canada's DanceSport Leader Instrumental to Growth of Wheelchair Dancing
WHEEL DANCE is a federally incorporated Canadian non-profit that provides subsidized social and competitive wheelchair ballroom and Latin dance classes to wheelchair users and their friends, family, and community members. As an Associate Member of Canada DanceSport, WHEEL DANCE is the National body for Wheelchair DanceSport in Canada, and recognized by Canada DanceSport and the World DanceSport Federation.
By promoting, stimulating and standardizing the national growth of the sport, and creating communities of wheelchair ballroom and Latin dancers, WHEEL DANCE hopes to enable competitive activity and recognition of the sport by the Canadian Paralympic Committee, with the goal of building a Canadian presence for Wheelchair DanceSport internationally.
Above all, we are committed to bringing the joy of dance to as many people as possible, by providing them with opportunities to dance socially and competitively. Our goal is to see wheelchair ballroom and Latin dance spread across Canada, at a level of popularity similar to that of other regions, such as Europe. By subsidizing our classes, we are removing the financial barriers to dance, which often prevent people from pursuing lessons. We believe that dance is for every *body* and its social, psychological and physical benefits should be universally accessible. WHEEL DANCE is committed to providing opportunities for individuals to push beyond their perceived limitations by learning to relate to themselves, their wheelchairs, and their community in new ways.
WHEEL DANCE Classes Open Possibilities for Self-Expression
Our dance classes are engaging, fun and open to all ages and abilities. Our main goal is to ensure that participants have a great time. Sometimes, new dancers have preconceptions about their limitations and their ability to move. They soon understand that there are myriad possibilities for self-expression and personal achievement through dance, and that their potential for movement and learning is boundless.
Partner dancing improves coordination, strength, endurance, posture, flexibility, balance, range of motion, stress levels, mood, confidence, memory, concentration and overall fitness and well-being. As a social activity, wheelchair partner dancing provides an opportunity to meet new friends and promote understanding and communication between people with and without disabilities. Wheelchair dancers and their standing partners have formed unique connections on and off the dance floor, creating a community of caring individuals and an environment of warmth, encouragement, support, and inclusivity. The friendships and partnerships that have developed through our classes is heartwarming.
WHEEL DANCE runs several weekly classes at various sites across Toronto and surrounding regions. We also run workshops and demos at community centres, rehab facilities, physiotherapy clinics and long-term care facilities. Our weekly classes include private sessions, social group lessons and competitive level group and private classes with our professional instructors. Whether you're interested in learning and performing a specific choreography, understanding how to connect to your partner and to the music in a fun and social atmosphere, improving your social dance skills for parties, clubs, and weddings, or learning the technical framework of ballroom and Latin dance for performance and competition, WHEEL DANCE has a class to suit your goals.
WHEEL DANCE classes are taught by a range of professionals including a championship level Ballroom and Latin dance instructor, a movement therapist, a physiotherapist, a professional choreographer and others. Each instructor brings their own unique skills and experience to ensure that our dancers learn a range of new skills and maximize their potential. From improvisation, range of motion exercises, interactive warm-ups, techniques for improving body awareness and movement vocabulary, freestyle dancing, basic and advanced ballroom and Latin dance techniques, or structured choreographies—the goal is to engage, be active and have fun!
Local Disability Community Effusive About Benefits of Dancing
Here's what some of our participants are saying:
"Class was awesome last night, as usual for us wheelers, we're really happy to have somewhere to be and associating with real cool and happy people while having fun, using our chairs like never before."
"We had such a wonderful time at our first dance class, it was liberating and so much fun! Since my injury in 2004 we weren't comfortable being on the dance floor and missed that part of our lives. We are now excited to continue with our classes and, with the help of our instructor, we look forward to dancing together once again."
"OMG, the best activity ever. If you are looking for fun, exercise and excitement, come try this out. You will be hooked on the first night. I know, I am there until there kick me out!!"
"A very worthwhile program that helps people with physical disabilities improve their quality of life physically, mentally and emotionally."
"I love the dancing. It gives me the opportunity to do something with my husband. He plays sledge hockey and wheelchair basketball, but I can only watch those. WHEEL DANCE is something we can do together!!"
"The entire experience is meaningful. It teaches me so much as a person and it makes me appreciate life."
For more information about ongoing or upcoming classes in your area, or to organize a WHEEL DANCE community in your region, please email firstname.lastname@example.org or call (647) 297-3198. Classes are subsidized and available on a drop-in basis. Bring a friend or come on your own to partner up with one of our friendly volunteers! Additional information about WHEEL DANCE's activities is available by visiting WHEEL DANCE's website and Facebook page at: www.wheeldance.ca and www.facebook.com/wheeldance. You can also see us in action at Abilities Expo Toronto, January 20-22.
Remember the words of James Howe, author of Totally Joe, "Life is short and there will always be dirty dishes, so let's dance."
About the Author:
Dr. Iris Kulbatski is Founder and Executive Director of WHEEL DANCE. She holds a PhD in Medical Science, with a specialization in spinal cord regeneration. She is grateful to be a part of the WHEEL DANCE community and for the opportunity to bring awareness to issues of accessibility and inclusivity.Pre-Register for Abilities Expo Today...It's Free!