A Brief History of Wheelchair Dancing

June 27, 2013 1 min read

Blue Streak WheelchairThough you may not have heard of it, wheelchair dancing is a popular dancesport now practiced in over 40 countries with frequent international competitions.

The sport was pioneered in 1968 by Els-Britt Larsson, a Swedish wheelchair user. She intended wheelchair dancing to be simply a rehabilitative and recreational activity, but it soon became a competitive dancesport throughout Sweden.

The first wheelchair dancing competition took place in Vasteras, Sweden in 1975. Only 30 couples participated. But just two years later in 1977, Sweden hosted the first international wheelchair dancing competition, which featured dancers from across Europe. Then in 1998, the first World Championship was hosted in Japan. Nowadays, there’s a European Championship every odd number year and a World Championship every even number year, where dancers from over 40 countries participate.

Wheelchair dancesport comes in four forms—Combi, Duo, Group, and Single. Combi Dance features a wheelchair dancer and an able-bodied partner. Duo Dance features two wheelchair dancers together. Group Dance can feature just wheelchair dancers or wheelchair dancers with able-bodied partners. And Single Dance features a wheelchair dancer on his or her own.

Popular forms of wheelchair dancing include the waltz, tango, samba, and rumba. But to really get a sense of the sport you have to see it. Here’s some footage from one of the European dance competitions.

And congrats to the Ukrainian dance team who just won five of the seven titles at this year’s European Championship in Germany!