BBC Strictly Come Dancing to feature wheelchair user
It hit the news last weekend that BBC Strictly Come Dancing are on the hunt for a celebrity wheelchair user to pair with a celebrity for this year’s series.
Anyone who knows us, knows that we’ve been dancing wheelchair Ballroom and Latin for over 12 years now and have been wondering when Strictly might get around to including a wheelchair user for the main series.
We all remember back in 2014 there was a Paralympics Sport Relief Special where Paralympian Hannah Cockcroft paired with pro Pasha Kovalev took the crown. Also appearing was Martine Wright with pro Ian Waite. We had the pleasure on that occasion to be invited to the studios to help out with tips and technique. Yet, this was never followed up.
We also saw a brilliant collaboration in 2018 with professional dance company Candoco featuring dancers with various disabilities.
In the past few years we’ve seen several celebrities with differing disabilities competing and they have broken through the barriers to show that our own motto “Ability not Disability” shines through. But not a wheelchair user.
We certainly hope the rumour mill will ring true this year, it’s been a long time coming. Wheelchair users have successfully competed in international versions of the show. In “Dancing with the Stars” Holland, Bibian Mentel danced all the way to the final in 2019. This was followed by Norway in 2020 with Birgit Skarstein who lasted 8 weeks on the show and more recently Aron Anderson in Sweden’s “Lets Dance” who came fourth.
These other shows prove it can be done!
We’ve been shouting about this for a long time having competed internationally in Ballroom and Latin for Team GB at World Para Dance Sport competitions for the last 10 years. There have been National Competitions in the UK since 2009 with many clubs springing up around the country.
One thing we do hope is that the media reporting on it get “with it” in the language they use when talking about disability. Using phrases like “wheelchair bound” isn’t helpful. We are people with disabilities who are also wheelchair users. For this reason we have always requested final approval on press articles to make sure that correct terminology is used.
Wheelchair Ballroom and Latin dance (now Para Dance) has been around for over 50 years particularly in Europe but has never really taken off to a grand scale in the UK. The biggest IPC World Championships had 225 athletes from 26 countries competing in Bonn 2019. We were proud to represent Team GB.
In our early days of dancing we took our sport to the TV screens in Britain’s Got Talent in 2012 to show the UK that wheelchair Ballroom and Latin does exist and to promote the sport.
We’ll be watching with a keen eye to find out if a wheelchair user makes to the hallowed ballroom and no doubt will be sharing some tips and technique along the way!