There was music with a difference this weekend at the Hardtberghalle. From Golden Oldies like ‘Has Anybody Seen My Girl’ to more recent Pop Hits like ‘Don’t Wanna Miss A Thing’. Whatever the tune, there was a suitable dance routine. The World Para Dance Sport Championships were in town – After only a few moments I realised – forget the wheelchairs – just keep the shutter speed of my camera high. These Ladies and Gentlemen are graceful and fast out on the dancefloor. Take your partners please for an introduction to the increasingly popular sport of Para Dance.
So what exactly is Para Dance Sport? and when did it all start?
WHAT? Para dance is an elegant, courageous and stylish sport for athletes with lower-body disabilities. There are classes for single athletes of course, but also for two athletes – this as a duo (both performers in wheelchairs) and Combi (One performer in a wheelchair and one not). There are also three disciplines that the competitors have to face: Standard (dances from Walz, Tango, Quickstep etc), Latin (Samba, Cha-Cha-Cha…) Freestyle (anything goes – right down to Bellydance!)
WHEN? The pioneer was a Swede, Els-Britt Larson, who introduced Para Dance as a form of rehabilitation in 1968. The first World Competitions started in 1975. The first World Championships were held in Japan in 1998. The previous two World Championships were held in Belgium (2017 and Rome (2015).
My review and photos come from the second day early afternoon, and feature the Men’s Single Class 1 and the Duo Freestyle classes 1& 2. As with all Para disciplines, there are strict rules regarding disability levels. Class 1 involves stronger disability levels.
So how do you go about putting on a graceful dance display from a wheelchair? Courage, strength, gesture and the Talent to project seemed to me to be key. Facial expression is very important. Eye contact with your partner – and this must be a challenge at times with the speeds that these couples accelerate to at times, is also a must.
But are these athletes or dancers? Just take a look at the guy with chair tilted back to support himself on one hand above, or the wheelchair on the lap of the athlete in my picture below. Grace, beauty yes – but athletic strength for sure.
Anyway, I’ve spoken too much. A picture paints a thousand words, so take a look at the gallery below and bear in mind that this is only from two disciplines. Dancing magic from the heart of Bonn.