Video: Wheelchair dancing arrives at the Copper Box Arena

Reporter Mark Shales learning wheelchair dancing with partner Patricia Reilly and work expeirence ca

Reporter Mark Shales learning wheelchair dancing with partner Patricia Reilly and work expeirence camerwoman Victoria Okunevic learning from Wheelchair Dance Sport Association Uk worker Patrick McGeough. - Credit: Archant

Wheelchairs might not have made it on to Strictly Come Dancing yet, but waltzing on two wheels is becoming increasingly popular.

Reporter Mark Shales learning wheelchair dancing with partner Patricia Reilly and work expeirence ca

Reporter Mark Shales learning wheelchair dancing with partner Patricia Reilly and work expeirence camerwoman Victoria Okunevic learning from Wheelchair Dance Sport Association Uk worker Patrick McGeough. - Credit: Archant

Initially starting out with four groups and annual participation levels scraping 100 in 2006, the Wheelchair Dance Association now boasts 27 clusters across the country with more than 1,600 a year taking part in some sort of wheelchair dance activity, following the success of the London 2012 Paralympics and the national growth of disability sport.

Anyone aged 50-and-over will be able to experience the craze for themselves next month with a unique tea dance set for the Copper Box Arena.

Open to wheelchair-users and able-bodied people alike, the session will take place on Thursday, February 19, between 12.30 and 2.30pm, complete with lunch and a ballroom DJ and spare wheelchairs will be provided.

The all-inclusive afternoon is designed for people of all abilities, from professional toe-tappers to beginners who, like me, wouldn’t know a pagode from a paso doble.

Reporter Mark Shales learning wheelchair dancing with partner Patricia Reilly and work expeirence ca

Reporter Mark Shales learning wheelchair dancing with partner Patricia Reilly and work expeirence camerwoman Victoria Okunevic learning from Wheelchair Dance Sport Association Uk worker Patrick McGeough. - Credit: Archant


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So in preparation for this I was invited to give it a go for myself this week, an opportunity I jumped, or rather sat down, on straight away.

Half-imagining a scene akin to the BBC hip-hop Ident featuring Ade Adepitan, the reality was much more relaxing, although there was still plenty to think about.

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“Forwards, two, three, four. Turn, two, no, no, this way. Let’s try that again.”

But once I’d just about mastered the art of turning and stopping, I was fianlly able to perform a cha-cha-cha with my partner for the afternoon, Patricia Reilly – an Into Sport project worker for Lambeth.

Although the moves were very simple and easy to remember, it was really satisfying to have completed a routine on wheels, without crashing or running over anybody’s toes.

Helping me through the steps was my instructor on the wheels Patrick McGeough, Wheelchair Dance Association business development director.

Confined to a chair after suffering two strokes – the first occurring at the age of 16 – Patrick, now 34, became involved with dancing as a romantic surprise for his wedding night.

“If you were to say that I would be involved in dance five years ago I would have laughed at you,” he explained. “No way on Earth.

“But my wife and I were looking for a wedding dance and everyone we spoke to just told her to sit on lap and spin around a bit which wasn’t an option – she would have killed me if I damaged her dress.

“We then contacted a charity who suggested we I got involved myself and just a few lessons later, we were able to surprise our families by performing a professional rhumba.

“If I can get fit and healthy and get something out of it, then why can’t everyone else?”

Co-leading the session from the standing side of things was professional latin and ballroom dancer Hyacinthos Christou.

Although originally from Athens, he came to the UK in 2007 and has represented his adopted country in the World Dance Championships and open competitions as a professional Latin competitor.

A trained teacher and published dance psychology researcher Hyacinthos explained that dancing can have many benefits.

“The tea dance will be a unique event but it’s definitely a great idea because dancing is more than just a form of exercise,” he said.

“It’s something that everyone, disabled or able-bodied should have access to.”

A small number of tickets are available on the day but advance booking is advised.

For more information or to reserve a space call 0800 0722 110 or email dance@queenelizabetholympicpark.co.uk.

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