News

Highlights of 2018

We’ve had a terrific year at Strictly Wheels both at home and internationally, so we though we’d look back at some of the Highlights of 2018.

February

Our dancers got to showcase Para Dance at the Forever Manchester Birthday Awards and to say thank you to local funders who have supported our group.

April

Debutante couple, Lloyd and Goz take to the floor at the largest open international competition – the Dutch Open in Cuijk, Netherlands.  They danced Debutante both days of the competition and took home Silver medals in a tough field.

May

Mainhatten Cup in Frankfurt saw Gary and Paula take to the floor for the first time this season following time out for injury.  Lloyd and Goz competed in Debutante again taking a Silver medal.

June

Gary and Paula headed to Poland where they danced Freestyle to gain 4th place and 6th place in Latin Combi.

July

Gary leaped off a 300ft crane to do a Bungee Jump helping to raise over £300 for our charity.

Gay Games Gold

August

Gary and Paula took part in the 10th Gay Games in Paris at their first integrated dance competition to feature wheelchair dance.  They wowed the crowd and the judges taking home the Gold Medal.

They were also welcomed as guests on the Radio 4 Saturday Show following their success.

September

We were thrilled to demo Para Dance at Timestep Community Dance Gala Dinner in Yorkshire and the Associated Board of Dance Annual Gala in Walsall.

Paula was shortlisted for Achievement in Disability Sport at the Manchester Sports Awards.

October

The UK National Championships saw every member of Strictly Wheels’ medal in their categories.  A total of 3 Gold, 2 Silver and 2 Bronze were brought home to the club.  Highlights were the Freestyles by Lloyd, Goz and Kay – the first time our dancers have done Freestyle in UK Competition.

November

Tower Ballroom Blackpool

Gary and Paula headed back to Poland to the European Championships, debuting their new “LaLaLand” freestyle they just missed out on Bronze medal placing 4th.  They had a good result at this level in Latin placing 5th.   

Final World Rankings saw them 7th in Freestyle and 8th in Latin – their first ever top 10 World Ranking.

They competed at the Malta Open Championships taking double Gold in Latin and Freestyle.

Lloyd and Goz also brought home a Silver Medal in Debutante Latin and Bronze in Debutante Ballroom.

December

A wonderful treat to end the year with all our members  heading to Blackpool to dance at the renowned and beautiful Tower Ballroom.

  

Winter Class Times 2018-19

We’ve had a great year again here at Strictly Wheels with many medals from all our dancers both Nationally and Internationally!

It’s time for a well earned break and rest so here’s the details of our Winter Class Times 2018-2019.

Our classes will run as normal up to 19th December as the last class before Christmas.

19th Dec – 7.00pm

26th Dec – No class

2nd Jan – No class

9th Jan – No class

16th Jan – 7.00pm

23rd Jan – No Class

30th Jan – 7.00pm

6th Feb – No Class

13th Feb – ongoing weekly at 7.00pm

We’ll see you all in the New Year for another great year of Wheelchair Dance!

We have the following highlights to look forward to in 2019:

  • UK National
  • Dutch Open Championships
  • Denmark Open Championships
  • WPDS World Championships

If you want to come along and try a class, just pop in, everyone is welcome – wheelchair users and standing dancers alike.  You don’t need to have any experience, everyone is a beginner at some point!

 

Strictly Wheels shine at the UK National Para Dance Sport Championship 2018

Last Saturday 27th October, saw dancers from across the country attend the UK National Para Dance Sport Championships 2018 in Harrow.

Strictly Wheels club team featured 5 debutante dancers, with some returning to retain their titles competing alongside over 50 competitors.

The day kicked off with a Latin 5-dance showcase performance from our own GB competitors, Paula Moulton and Gary Lyness.  The couple are currently 8th in Europe in Latin Combi in the official World Para Dance Sport rankings.

Conventional Events

Duo Waltz

First to take the floor was the Conventional Singles, with Goz taking to the floor in Class 1 to defend her double title from the last 2 years.  Goz says “The worst part of competing for me is waiting in the line-up for the results.  That’s when my nerves kick in, because it’s out of your control.  You’ve done all you can in the performance and now it’s up to the judges to see if you’re good enough”.

Needless to say, there was nothing to worry about. She shone through with her varied choreography and a winning smile to make her 3rd consecutive Gold in Single Women Class 1.

Up next was Duo couple Kay dancing with Paula, who samba’d their way to Gold again for Strictly Wheels club.

Lloyd and Goz in Combi Class 1 hoped to win back their title from 2016 but were just pipped to the post by last year’s winners to take Silver Medal for the 2nd year running.  Their energetic samba stole the show though.

Last to dance in the conventional events was new paring Kay and Melvyn.  They only paired up 3 months ago and were nervous taking to the floor, however, neat footwork and top line in the Waltz and Quickstep sailed them through to take another Gold for Strictly Wheels.  Melvyn said, “It was a very friendly and enjoyable competition”.

Freestyle Events

The afternoon session featured the Freestyle events in Singles, Combi and Group dances.

Gary and Paula opened the afternoon with a sneak preview of their new Freestyle routine.  The routine gets its competition premiere at the WPDS European Championships on 9th November in Poland.

For the first time ever our dancers took part in the Freestyle events with Kay dancing in Single Women Class 2 and Lloyd and Goz in Combi Class 1.

We’ll be honest, they were a little under rehearsed due to time limits before the event, however, we were incredibly proud of their achievements.

Kay’s emotional routine to “This Is Me” from Greatest Showman stole the round with the audience reaction but failed to wow the judges as much taking the bronze medal.  Kay commented “I especially enjoyed my freestyle dance and the reaction I got, the support and appreciation from the audience was really special and I shall remember that for a long time. I’d do it all over again tomorrow if I could!”.

Combi FreestyleAn atmospheric “He lives in me” from the Lion King from Lloyd and Goz was confidently performed and again saw them pick up the bronze medal.  They’ll be brushing up their routine more in the next 4 weeks before they compete again at the Malta Open Dance Spectacular.  Lloyd said “performing freestyle for the first time was a highlight for me. Despite it not being perfect on the day, one judge scored us first.  So, I know with more polish and practice the routine has potential to do better”.

Lloyd was also quick to congratulate his dance partner; “I realised how much I appreciate Goz as a partner and competitor. Everyone heard how pleased I was when she won gold in Single Women again!! I am proud and lucky to have her as my partner”.

Other memorable performances from other competitors came from Birmingham Freewheelin’s Group routine to Tina Turner’s Rolling.  Not to mention the huge group number by WOWD to Greatest Showman.

Paula said “We’re super proud of our dancers some of whom were thrown freestyle choreography a few weeks ago.  Having the courage to trust us as coaches.  For them to get on the floor and perform the way they did was amazing.  What makes it worthwhile is to see the emotion on their faces when their results are called!  It just goes to show what wheelchair dance can do for people and we hope more people can come and join us to learn.”

 

In total Strictly Wheels club came away with medal placings in every event.  Total medal tally is 3 Gold, 1 Silver and 2 Bronze.

If you are interested in learning to wheelchair dance our classes take place in Manchester each week.  Everyone is welcome no matter what your background or experience.

 

Fundraiser – 300ft bungee jump!

Our co-founder Gary is taking a leap of faith, literally, as he plunges from a crane to do a 300ft bungee jump to raise funds for Strictly Wheels.

The 300ft bungee jump, the equivalent of leaping off a 20-storey building, is the highest in the UK!

Gary is looking for sponsors and you can donate to us online here – make sure you Gift Aid if you are a UK Tax Payer – this adds a whopping 25% to your donation!

The bungee jump is taking place over the lake at Tatton Park, Cheshire on Saturday 14th July.  Anyone is welcome to come along and watch.  (There are parking charges at Tatton Park.)

Keep an eye on our social media channels for updates on the fundraising and from the jump on the day!  We’ll even “Go live” to watch!

All the funds raised will go to support our charity which aims to promote wheelchair and Para Dance in the UK and our local class in Manchester.  Our core aim is to keep our classes FREE so those on limited income can still enjoy free classes.  We also support dancers aiming to compete in the UK and internationally to achieve their goals.

 

Donate online

 

Meet Goz – Wheelchair Dancer

We meet Goz, a regular at our wheelchair dance classes to find out what she enjoys about being a wheelchair dancer.

How did you find out about Strictly Wheels? – At first, I was taking part in a ‘Get Inspired’ challenge which I had pitched to BBC Sport, where I would take part in a series of different sport challenges.

A friend found Strictly Wheels wheelchair dance but initially I wasn’t keen. I didn’t want to do it, I thought it was cheesy and at school I hated dance I thought it was just horrible.  However, after just one class I was hooked!

How long have you been a wheelchair user? – I’ve been a wheelchair user since I was 18 months old. I had an illness which left me with paralysis diagonally across my body, with my right arm and left leg greatly affected.

Why did you decide to take part? – After those first couple of classes I was hooked, I loved it and wanted to do more.  I’m a very competitive person and took part in national competitions at school in shotput, discus and javelin.  Dance is something I can do despite my disability and I enjoy that it challenges me, making me use my brain to remember the steps and get it right.

What do you like about the classes? – “It’s fun!” it keeps me fit. I would like to raise the profile and encourage more people to get involved.  I like that the dances aim to replicate the same steps for wheelchair users as standing partners, and dances are adapted based on ability not disability.

Wheelchair Dance ClassWhat benefits has wheelchair dancing brought to your life? – Dance gives me a sense of achievement and builds my confidence. It has proven to me that you can do anything if you put your mind to it.  I’m still on a journey to see where dance will take me.

What has been a highlight of learning to dance so far? – There are 2 highlights – taking part in my first competition in October 2017 – the UK National Championship for Wheelchair Dance Sport when I won Gold in Debutante Combi Class 1 and Debutante Duo Class 1.

More recently we’ve just returned from Cuijk, Holland from one of the largest international competitions and we won Silver against 8 other couples in Debutante Combi 1 – that was an amazing feeling to place that high in our first big international.

How far would you like to take wheelchair dancing? I’m extremely competitive with an all or nothing attitude and feel anything less is a waste of time. “If you’re going to do it, DO IT!” In the short term, I’m aiming to move out of ‘Debutante’ to the next level and become an “Amateur” level dancer, with the long-term goal of competing for Team GB at top level.  Since I was a little girl I’ve dreamed of competing in the Paralympics and fingers crossed that’s on track for Paris 2024!

 

Our FREE wheelchair dance classes take place every Wednesday evening at Trinity Sports Centre, Manchester.

 

 

Cuijk 2018

Returning World Champions stole the show at the first World Para Dance Sport competition of the year, which concluded on Sunday 1st April in Cuijk, Netherlands.

The Cuijk 2018 Para Dance Sport international competition saw 14 medal events, with Ukrainian dancers topping the medals table with nine golds.

Lloyd and Goz WaltzOur own Paula and Gary unfortunately couldn’t compete due to illness; however, Gary accompanied our members Lloyd and Goz who represented Great Britain on both Saturday and Sunday in the Debutante competitions.

They surprised themselves by taking Silver Medal on Saturday in the Debutante Combi Class 1 against 7 other couples from 3 countries.  This was their first major outing onto the international circuit following the smaller Mainhattan Cup in Frankfurt in 2017.

They kept up their footwork and wheel work on the Sunday by repeating their success with a 2nd Silver Medal again in Debutante Combi Class 1, this time against 8 couples.

Gary said, “We’re really proud of the hard work they have put in and all the extra practice they do each week has paid off.”

They are looking forward to a return to the Mainhattan Cup in May to repeat their success as GB Debutante Athletes.”

The main World Para Dance Sport competition was dominated by Ukraine with Olena Chynka taking Golds in the women’s single and single freestyle class 2.  She added a further 2 Golds with dance partner Oleksandr Onischenko in the duo Latin and standard, both that combined 1 and 2 classes.

Belgium fared well with Sofie Cox taking Bronze in Single Freestyle Class 2 and Duo Standard 2 with partner Sander Deckx, they also took home Silver in the Duo Latin 2.

Julius and RheaDouble-reigning World Champions, Philippines’ Rhea Marquez and Julius Obero won the combi Latin 1 and 2 combined and the Combi Freestyle 2.

Belarusian World Champions Hanna Harchakova and Roman Usmanov were the strongest couple in the Combi Standard 2.  Dutch duo Sharon Schleepen and Alex Glijn, and Japan’s Ito Katsushi and Shuto Tomomi took Silver and Bronze respectively.

This was the 30th year of the Holland Dans Spetakel with over 23 countries in attendance either as competitors or officials – the most countries ever at a Para Dance Sport event.

Photos

You can view photos from the competition on our Facebook Page.

 

 

Round up of the UK National Para Dance Sport Championship 2017

Last Saturday 11th November saw dancers from across the country attend the UK National Para Dance Sport Championship 2017 in Ware, Herts.

The day kicked off with a showcase performance from our own GB competitors, Paula Moulton and Gary Lyness dancing their international Freestyle routine to Empire State of Mind.  The couple are currently 7th in Europe in Freestyle Combi in the official World Para Dance Sport rankings.

Strictly Wheels club team featured 6 debutante dancers and for most of them, it was their first UK National Championship.

First to take the floor was the Conventional Singles, with Kay and Rachel competing against each other in the Ladies Class 2 and Goz in Class 1.  Goz and Rachel shone through to take Gold with Kay taking Silver in the Class 2.  Single Men Class 2 Gold was clinched by Joe.

Taking to the floor for their 2nd National were Lloyd and Goz, the largest category – Combi Class 1, the pair danced well, with great timing and footwork, but just fell short of retaining their title, to take the silver medal.

The afternoon session featured the Freestyle events in Singles, Combi and Group dances.

Joe and Holly FreestyleJoe from Strictly Wheels wowed the crowd with a confident performance of his self-choreographed Singles routine to take the Gold Medal.  He took to the floor again with sister, Holly to also take his 3rd Gold of the day in the Combi Class 2 Freestyle.

The judges praised the all dancers for showing their enthusiasm on the floor together with good technique and demonstrating the character of each dance.

Other memorable performances from other competitors came from WOWD’s Katie in the Single Ladies Class 1 Freestyle and the team from SportsAble’s Group Freestyle.

Paula said “We’re super proud of our dancers some who have only been learning for 6-7 weeks to have had the courage to get on the floor and take part in their first competition.  To see the emotion on their faces when their results were called was amazing!  It just goes to show what wheelchair dance can do for people and we hope more people can come and join us to learn.”

Full photos from the competition are on our Facebook page.

If you are interested in learning to wheelchair dance our classes take place in Manchester each week.  Everyone is welcome no matter what your background or experience.

 

Strictly Wheels prepare for the UK Wheelchair Dance Championship 2017

This Saturday 11th November 2017 sees the UK Wheelchair Dance Championship in Ware.

We took time out to speak to Strictly Wheels club members, Lloyd and Goz, about their preparation for the competition.

You’re about to compete in the UK Wheelchair Dance Sport Championship; how do you feel about it?

Goz – I was a little worried as we were still working on a new routine only last week, but in the last few days it’s come together.  Now I am excited about competing in the UK National Championships and also I don’t want to mess up because I have a few friends coming from all over the country to watch us dance!

Lloyd – It’s our 2nd time competing in the UK Wheelchair Dance Championships, so on some level we kind of know what to expect event wise. We’re going back as reigning UK National Champions in Debutante Combi and whilst still not perfect our dancing is definitely stronger than last year.  My heel leads are all in the right place and I am even starting to master the “toe lower” in ballroom dances.  As with every competition, we don’t know who’s going to be there competing against us, but hopefully we are technically stronger.

 

 

In the UK Championships where would you like to be placed, what would make you happy?

Goz – I know it’s about taking part and I am the quieter one in the partnership with Lloyd but deep down, I do want to win and retain the title. So, we have to come first place. We have to win!!

It’s also my first time doing Debutante Single Ladies so I will be happy with any result as long as I perform well.

Lloyd – As the returning champions I am going into the competition wanting to win again and retain that title! Winning would make me happy as I feel we would have shown development and hopefully show we are ready to progress from Debutante level. But equally taking my competitive hat off, I would be happy knowing we danced our socks off with 3 solid routines to be proud of!

 

Debutante Medal WinnersWhat kind of preparation goes into a competition?

Goz – We practice every week for two hours at the club.  Outside of our lessons Lloyd and I practice whenever we can mostly at lunchtime at work.  We’ve even been known to practice in corridors!

Lloyd – I would literally describe preparation for a competition as blood, sweat and tears.  We have weekly classes, but leading up to a competition Goz and I practice daily during our lunch hour working on things such as posture and our hold. This also helps stamina and gets us used to dancing to different music and recognising the beat in the music. There’s also the glam side of things coordinating our outfits and going shopping for those all-important accessories. We literally think of everything from footwork to appearance.

 

How important is Wheelchair dance to you?

Goz – To be honest I never thought dance would be part of my life. And when I first tried it some years ago, I absolutely hated it.  It wasn’t until I found a partner that really understood dance, and enjoyed dancing that I started to appreciate and enjoy it a lot more. Even if my partner decided to give up, I would still continue to dance. I enjoy meeting new people and learning new skills even though I might complain about it sometimes! Most of all I love competing and hope one day to compete in the IPC World Championships and represent Team GB at that level.

Lloyd – Over the past year it’s grown to be an important part of my life, and I am so pleased Goz asked me to be her partner.  When I was younger I tried ballroom and Latin and used to compete in Disco dance. I am also an avid fan of “Strictly”, so dance is a big passion of mine.  Never in a million years did I think I would be competing for my country in sport both Nationally and Internationally. It’s so rewarding – I have met lots of new friends, learnt a lot about myself but most importantly my friendship with Goz has become stronger.  We hope to progress and dance at Amateur level and top level in the future.

 

Would you recommend taking part in Wheelchair Dance?

Goz – Yes! I am constantly trying to persuade people to join the club, and experience the benefits of wheelchair dance! So, yes!

Lloyd –  I love dancing and would encourage anyone to just do it, but if you want to push yourself and do something different, then definitely try wheelchair dance!  You can do it socially and it’s a great way to meet new friends and help understand disability issues. You can also push and challenge yourself and compete both nationally and internationally. It’s opened doors for me that I never thought were possible. It’s definitely a hobby that can turn into a passion and that’s the great thing about wheelchair dance

 

Follow us on Social Media for updates live from the competition on Saturday.

If you want to try Wheelchair Dancing, then why not pop along to one of our FREE classes!

 

Team GB prepare for the Para Dance Sport World Championship 2017

It’s just 3 weeks to the Para Dance Sport World Championship 2017 which takes place in Malle, Belgium on 21st-22nd October.

We took time out to speak to Team GB competitors, Paula Moulton and Gary Lyness about their preparation for a major competition.

You’re about to compete in a Para Dance Sport World Championship for the first time; how do you feel about it?

Paula: I’m really looking forward to the opportunity to compete at the World Championships. It will be fantastic to meet all the other competitors from round the world and get to compete with them. Yes, I’m nervous, but I equally excited.

Gary: It’s a fantastic feeling and very proud moment to represent your country at this level in a World Championship.  We compete mostly against European couples throughout the year, so it will be great to see the rest of the world in action too.

 

Who do you say are your main competitors in the upcoming competition?

Paula: I would say our main competition is Germany and some of the competitors from Asia. We will meet competitors who we have never even seen dance before so there is a big unknown element to the event.

Gary: I would agree, we have been placing consistently behind Germany for the last year, also Finland we’ve placed ahead and behind in 2017.

 

In the Para Dance Sport World Championship 2017, where would you like to be placed, what would make you happy?

4th place in Freestyle for Gary and PaulaPaula: Of course, we would love to win, however, we are also realistic.  There is the unknown as to who you will be competing against. For me, in Latin it

would be great to finish in the top ten and in Freestyle the top 6.

Gary: We’re dancing in Combi Latin and Freestyle.  This will be our first major competition doing Freestyle, so we’ve worked with our trainer to revamp our current routine which placed 4th in the Mainhatten Cup in June, so it would be great to equal or better that.  It would be amazing to make the final in Latin, but realistically, I’d be happy with semi-final places as we’re just starting to up our game in this with our new trainer.

 

What kind of preparation goes into a competition?

Paula: We have been preparing for the last few months working on choreography, now we are stamina training and ensuring that our lines are correct and that moves are tight, sharp and defined.  Oh, and don’t forget all that tanning and hair and nails that must be done the week of the competition!  You have to look the part as well as dance it.

Gary: It’s been a transitional year for us, with a new classification and then changing classification again part way through the year.  We’ve also not had a trainer for 3 years, so we’ve missed a lot of development while we’ve been competing at top level.  We’ve now begun working with Accursio Romeo, travelling to Milton Keynes for sessions at least once a month.  Having spent the first part of the year working on choreography, we’ve only just begun to work on improving technique.  For now, the focus is on stamina over the next 2 weeks to ensure we can perform our routines multiple times in a short space of time.

 

How different if any is it competing at the Para Dance Sport World Championship 2017 than any other international competition?

Paula:  A World Championship is a much more formal and prestigious event.  Things like the opening ceremony that happen at other competitions is much more formal with the raising of official IPC flag and athlete and trainer declarations, just like at the Paralympics.

At an event like the Worlds it’s also the knowing you truly are competing against the best of the best

Gary: It gives you an enormous pride to be representing your country at World Level.  As the official World Championships, there is the prestige in the placings and rankings.  We’d like to thank the UK Governing Body, WDSA (UK) for supporting us to enable us to compete and make sure GB is on the world stage for Para Dance Sport.

 

The event will be streamed live on the World Para Dance Sport website.

 

Strictly Launch Show 2017

The Strictly Launch Show 2017 was a resounding success if the ratings were anything to go by.

Not just for the heartfelt and sincere tribute to the late Sir Bruce Forsythe, but for the excitement and build-up of which professionals the celebs will be partnered with.

We were watching eagle eyed though at the first group dance to get a glimpse of the celebs in action and make some early predictions on who to watch out for.

There are some great pairings, good matches we think with Charlotte Hawkins and Brendan Cole – he’s always had a good thing with the slightly more mature ladies! along with Ruth Langsford and Anton du Beke – she’ll hopefully do well in the ballroom in his safe arms.

It will be interesting to see how the more characterful celebs get on with the likes of Rev Richard Coles, Brian Conley, Chizzy Akudulo and Susan Calman.

We’ll be looking forward to the paring of Paralympian Jonnie Peacock with the fabulous Oti Mabuse – some of Oti’s routines last year with Danny Mac were the highlight of the season, notably that raunchy animalistic samba!  Jonnie did seem a bit stiff in his upper body in the opener, but we’ve seen sports people before who suddenly lose that stiffness which has been drilled into them once they give in and let their inhibitions go.  Fingers crossed his fast legs will be a positive for him.  We’ll be keen to see what prosthetic Jonnie chooses to use depending on whether he’s doing ballroom or latin – we’ve seen how People’s Strictly winner Cassidy Little used a blade to dance Paso to give him more flexibility of movement.

So who are the ones to watch?

It usually falls to the more younger celebs, but we think there might be some dark horses in there.

Watching the opening group dance, certainly the likes of Aston Merrygold, Gemma Atkinson and Mollie King will likely be up there.

Dark horses for us could be the likes of Alexandra Burke, Joe McFadden – he was certainly giving it his all, and Simon Rimmer could turn out to be a good player on the ballroom front along with Davood Ghadami who was enthusiastic but very flat footed in the group dance.  Debbie McGee with her dance background could surface as well – she’s certainly got the performance and sparkle about her.

We’ll just have to wait a few weeks to get the full picture as they tackle their first dances!

 

Strictly line up 2017

It’s that time of year when the Strictly line up 2017 has been announced!

We’ve been getting drip fed celebs for the last few weeks, but we’re finally there with the full line up of 15 celebrities who are ready to step on to the dancefloor.

The range of celebs this year is again wide, from soap starts to sports stars, though there’s less emphasis on the sporting greats this year, who’ve usually been hot contenders.

One to watch for us is certainly going to be Jonnie Peacock – Paralympian T44 100m gold medallist legend.  It’s great to see a Paralympian make the main show, but he’s not the first on the Strictly dance floor.

Jonnie PeacockWe’ve seen Paralympians grace the floor in a one-off Sports Relief episode in 2014 with blind footballer David Clark, wheelchair racer Hannah Cockcroft, former World Champion javelin thrower Nathan Stephens and sitting volleyball player Martine Wright.  It was great then to see wheelchair dancers and indeed Hannah Cockcroft took the glitterball on that occasion.

We also had People’s Champion Strictly when Cassidy Little, took the crown – a below the knee amputee just like Jonnie, so does this bode well?  We’ll have to wait and see.

It will be interesting to see if Jonnie learns from Cassidy’s story and uses a blade rather than a prosthetic leg for dancing, or a mix depending on the discipline – ballroom or latin.  We’d suspect a prosthetic leg might work better in ballroom while a blade would allow more bounce and action in latin.

We’ll be following closely after the reveal show, but for now, here are a few of our favourites to watch out for.

Alexandra Burke – no stranger to dancing given her pop and musical stage career.

Debbie McGee – a child ballet dancer before starring alongside her late husband, magician Paul Daniels.

Aston Merrygold – pop idol used to popping his moves on the concert stage.

We’ll also be watching to see how ballroom legend Shirley Ballas falls into place in her new role as head judge, replacing Len Goodman.

 

 

Team GB success at the Mainhatten Cup 2017

Last weekend 17th-18th June 2017 saw a team from Great Britain travel to Frankfurt for the Mainhatten Cup 2017, Wheelchair Dance Sport Competition.

The team was made up of Para Dance Sport Team GB competitors, Gary Lyness and Paula Moulton along with 4 members of Strictly Wheels club who competed in the Debutante section.

This was the first international competition for the Strictly Wheels debutantes so it was a nervous outing for the pairs, even with UK National titles under their belts.

The weekend kicked off with WPDS Freestyle Singles and Combi events.

Following re-classification back into Class 2, Paula and Gary took to the floor in the Combi Freestyle 2 event against 8 couples.  They danced an extended version of their popular routine from their Britain’s Got Talent audition.

The judges this time were not as fearsome as Simon Cowell, but still as appreciative of the routine with the couple placing 4th overall.  The event was clinched by the current European Champions from Poland, Marek Zaborowski and Kasia Bloch who have dominated freestyle combi for the last year with their compelling contemporary routine.

Debutante Couples at Mainhatten Cup 2017All the Debutante couples danced on Saturday afternoon.  Competing both for Great Britain and against each other, Lloyd and Goz, Oscar and Patricia took to the floor for the Debutante Combi 1 event.  After a nervous first round, then soon settled down and danced a great final with beaming smiles that warmed the audience watching.

Current UK Champions, Lloyd and Goz were pipped to the post by Germany and Austria taking Bronze for GB with Oscar and Patricia closely behind in 4th place.

A quick partner swap and Oscar and Goz were in the Debutante Duo 1 final, dancing so well they were in a tie for 1st place against the strong Austrian team who just clinched the Gold on points leaving GB with Silver Medal.

Paula said “We’re so proud of our dancers in their first major competition, they danced well and most importantly enjoyed themselves on the dance floor.  They’re now feeling inspired to push on and keep dancing and compete more for Great Britain”.

Sunday was the day for Conventional Singles and Latin.  Poland’s Kasia Bloch continued her flurry of Golds taking the Single Ladies 2 title against a strong field of over 10 dancers.

Finals for Gary and Paula

Gary and Paula danced for Team GB in the Latin Combi 2 event with 8 couples on the floor.  They danced confidently through the first round and heat and were extremely pleased to make the final placing 6th.  Top spots went again to the polish couple of Marek and Kasia with a bronze to one of the home couples from Germany, Stefan and Vanessa.

Gary said “We weren’t sure if we would make the final given the strong competition, especially from the Asian region.  Winning over couples from Hong Kong and Japan to make the final is a great result for us.  We have a new trainer this year, Accursio Romeo, so we have new choreography which is always a challenge, so we’re really pleased to get this result early on. We now start the hard work with Accursio to hone technique and presentation in preparation for the World Championships in Belgium in October”.

Full results and round up are on the World Para Dance Sport website.

Photos from the weekend are on our Facebook page!

 

 

Cuijk 2017

More than 150 dancers from over 10 countries gathered in The Netherlands for the Dutch Open and Cuijk Para Dance Sport Championship 2017 last weekend.

Cuijk, now in its 29th year, is the largest wheelchair dance competition in the world.  Competitors at all levels from Debutante to Amateur and Para Dance Sport athletes come together to enjoy 2 full days of dancing.

This year, given the popularity of the new Singles and Freestyle events saw the competition stretch to a 3rd afternoon, with these new events taking place on Friday.

Singles and Freestyle

Great Britain’s Paula Moulton took to the floor in the Single Ladies 1 event, dancing 5 dances with grace, elegance and power to take 4th place behind Ukraine and Poland’s best.

Friday afternoon also saw the Single Men battling it out on the floor with a welcome return from Ukraine’s Ivan Sivak stealing the Gold from Poland’s Pawel Karpinski with some spectacular moves.

The Freestyle event gave equally great performances from the reigning European Champions in both Ladies Single Freestyle 2 and Combi Freestyle 2 with Olena Chynka’s performance to Bjork “It’s oh so quiet” taking gold.  The Combi Freestyle 2 Gold was taken by the powerful contemporary dance by Poland’s Marek Zaborowski and Kasia Bloch.

Latin and Standard

Team GB Silver MedalThe main Latin and Ballroom events took place over Saturday and Sunday.  Large numbers of Debutantes and Amateur level dancers danced their way through heats and finals to make their mark on the adjudicators.

Great Britain’s Latin Combi couple made their appearance on Sunday afternoon in the World Para Dance Sport Finals.  Gary and Paula from Strictly Wheels club, having been reclassified danced in Latin Combi 1 for the first time.  They danced confidently, but were beaten to Gold by Finland’s Timo Pyykkonen and Tuuli Harju, taking the Silver Medal for Great Britain.

Photos from the competition are on our Facebook page.

 

Next Competition

Gary and Paula are now looking forward to their next competition in Denmark at the start of June followed by the World Para Dance Sport Mainhatten Cup in Germany 2 weeks later.

 

 

Roma Sport launches dance wheelchairs with Strictly Wheels

We’re pleased to announce Roma Sport, the UKs leading sports wheelchair manufacturer, have partnered with Strictly Wheels to bring a new range of dance wheelchairs to the UK.

Roma already supply sports wheelchairs to Rugby and Basketball at all levels.

Range of Dance Wheelchairs

The range will include a basic club dance wheelchair for beginners and amateur level through to custom and top of the range Elite wheelchairs.

Roma said “It is with great enthusiasm that we announce our entry into wheelchair dance thanks to Paula Moulton and Gary Lyness of Strictly Wheels! As the UK’s top wheelchair dance couple, their expertise is vital in developing a chair fit for taking centre stage.

Working with Britain’s best is an incredible opportunity for us to expand our product range to include wheelchair dance, a sport that everyone can enjoy. Their expertise and direction during the process of designing a chair for Paula have resulted in a great partnership and, we look forward to making a success of the sport with them in the future!”

Roma have sponsored Gary and Paula with a brand new, fully custom built chair for top level competitive Para Dance Sport.

Paula says, “Working with Roma Sport has opened up a new realm of possibilities for me. The fitting process and knowledge of the staff have made it a collaborative experience. From the first fit, they have listened to, rather than told me what I need.”

“The technology of the measuring system is revolutionary, finding the optimal fit catered specifically to my needs. I’m already able to do turns that I was told would not be possible due to the nature of my disability. Having a bespoke chair has given me the freedom of movement and the ability to take dance further. I cannot wait to compete in it!”

Paula’s bespoke chair will be making it’s first appearance at MoveIt!

Club Dance Wheelchair

Club dance wheelchair
Illustrative Club Dance Wheelchair

Gary added “It’s fantastic now to be able to have an entry level wheelchair suitable for dancing that will be affordable.  Currently the only real option has been a bespoke chair which is very expensive for anyone starting out or just dancing socially.  This will hopefully make wheelchair dance more accessible to more people in the UK.”

The new range of entry level club chairs will be available in 3 sizes and will be available directly from Roma very soon.

Roma manufacture everything on site here in the UK, so it’s a truly Made in the UK wheelchair which makes it faster to produce both club chairs and custom and elite bespoke chairs.

They have a pioneering Contour Body Mapping measuring system for the ultimate fit.

Christmas Classes 2016

We’ve had a great year for our first full year as a charity with many highlights!

It’s time for a well earned break and rest.

Here’s the times of our classes over the Christmas and New Year Period.

14th Dec – 7.30pm

21st Dec – No class

28th Dec – No class

4th Jan – No class

11th Jan – 7.30pm

We’ll see you all in the New Year for another great year of Wheelchair Dance!

 

 

Para Dance Sport Rebrand

The IPC has announced that Wheelchair Dance Sport will be renamed World Para Dance Sport.

As part of the rebrand the IPC will have new names and new identities using the World Para prefix for 10 sports.

The decision to change the sport committee names of each sport has been taken to make it clearer to the public which sport the IPC is responsible for.  It will also make each Para sport more distinctive from their Olympic or able-bodied equivalents. The rebranding also ensures that the “Agitos”, the Paralympic symbol, and the word Paralympic are only used in connection with the actual Paralympic Games.

The new identities for each Para sport clearly depict the sport as well as impairments in the logos and competition emblems.

The change to World Para Dance Sport is with the aim to expand the sport beyond wheelchair users so that new classifications for standing dancers with disabilities or prosthesis can take part.

Para Dance Sport Rebrand

Alexis Schaefer, the IPC’s Commercial and Marketing Director, said: “Our aim with the rebranding of the 10 IPC Sports is three-fold.  Firstly, we hope using ‘Para’ will make the sports more distinctive from the equivalent Olympic or able-bodied sports.  Secondly, the new look for each sport allows for a more consistent and uniform promotion of Para sport.  Finally, this move ensures that the Agitos and the word Paralympic is only used in association with the Paralympic Games.

“Although the new sport names and identities have been launched on 30 November, we expect the rebrand process, which will cover a number of assets in each sport, will take a full 12 months to complete.”

The new logo for Para Dance Sport shown above features a pod design and various elements that can be incorporated into competition emblems.

We look forward to a new exciting season and wait to see how the sport will grow in the coming years.

 

Team GB scoop Gold

Team GB end the year on a high scooping joint Gold in the Showdance at the Malta Open last weekend.

Gary Lyness and Paula Moulton, co-founders of Strictly Wheels, are celebrating the end of their competitive season for 2016.

The pair compete internationally for Great Britain both in IPC (International Paralympic Committee) and non-IPC competitions.

2016 Season

Competitions this year have featured the Suomi Open in Helsinki and the Mainhatten Cup in Frankfurt.  The IPC European Championships ended their IPC season at the end of October in Kosice, Slovakia.

The final competition of the year took place in Malta last weekend with the pair taking part in Showdance and Latin Combi events.

They took the Bronze medal in the Latin Combi event on Sunday, however, they were ecstatic to take the Gold position in Showdance.  They performed an extended version of their iconic routine “Empire State of Mind”.

The podium was shared with Slovakia whom the judges could not separate in their performances.  Teams from Netherlands, Belgium and Germany took part.

It was a great competition and always one of the highlights of the season.  Full credit to Pippa Roberts and her team for the organisation.

Paula said “I’m thrilled to finish with a win, we don’t usually compete in Showdance, so this will spur us on to also concentrate on freestyle along with our Latin in the coming season”.

They finish the year with their official IPC European ranking in Latin Combi 2 at 9th place with Paula also finishing the year in Single Ladies 2 at 8th position in the rankings.

2017 Season

“We’re looking forward to a new season in 2017 which will be a new challenge as many athletes, including Paula, will be reclassified using a new system.  We are more likely to compete on a more level playing field as regards disability.  Showdance will certainly feature too”, Gary added.

The biggest hurdle for Team GB is sponsorship and funding to get to competitions.  “Mostly we have to fundraise and personally support ourselves to get to competitions to represent our country”, Paula says “and it’s very difficult to get funding for international travel.  We can have sponsors on costume in competition so we can offer brands something in return”.

If any companies or individuals would like more information on how they can support Team GB in Wheelchair Dance Sport then please get in touch.

Thanks to our current sponsors – International Dance Shoes and Fish Insurance.

 

Roundup of the UK National Championship 2016

Last Saturday 22nd October saw dancers from across the country attend the UK National Championship in Ware, Herts.

The day kicked off with an Inclusive Dance Festival featuring dancers with many disabilities both physical and learning.  There were lots of great performances throughout the morning from individuals and groups alike culminating with everyone present taking part in a group dance led by Grass Roots Manager- Emma Millward.

UK National Championship

UK National Championship Debutante Medal WinnersThe afternoon saw the UK National Championship for Wheelchair Dance Sport with dancers in all sections from Debutante to Amateur and Select.

Strictly Wheels team consisted of Lloyd and Goz dancing alongside Oscar and Patricia in the Debutante Combi Class 1 and Oscar and Goz taking to the floor in Debutante Duo Class 1.

The two Combi couples danced well in their heat and final dancing Waltz, Quickstep and a lively Samba.  Lloyd and Goz spurred their way to win the class and take the Gold, closely followed by Oscar and Patricia who scooped the Silver Medal ahead of the other dancers.

The team didn’t disappoint either in the Duo section demonstrating great flair in each dance.  Oscar and Goz beat off the competition dancing their way to the final to also take Gold for Strictly Wheels club.

The adjudicators praised the dancers for showing their enthusiasm on the floor together with good technique and demonstrating the character of each dance.

 

UK National Championship Gold Medals for Strictly WheelsGary and Paula, our founders, and teachers of the beginners danced Amateur Combi Standard Class 2 and Select Combi Latin Class 2.  They demonstrated why they are the top Wheelchair Dance Sport couple in the UK retaining their titles in both disciplines.

Gary and Paula also wowed the crowd with an extended version of their Freestyle routine “Empire State of Mind” which won them a place in the Britain’s Got Talent semi-final back in 2012.

Paula said “We’re immensely proud of our dancers who have only been learning for 3-4 months now to have taken part in their first competition.  To watch the sheer joy on their faces when their results were called was amazing!  It just goes to show what wheelchair dance can do for people and we hope more people can come and join us to learn.”

If you are interested in learning to wheelchair dance our classes take place in Manchester each week.  Everyone is welcome no matter what your background or experience.

 

Strictly Week 1

Strictly Week 1 either sees dancers explode through and show us all that they have the flair, discipline and control to learn the many dances thrown at them over the coming weeks, and for others to demonstrate glimmers of technique that will grow and take over from the personalities to win through or simply those that aren’t natural dancers and no amount of training will get them there!

We definitely saw many dancers this year explode onto the floor for their first time with exceptional performances.

Latin was the star of the first week.  Gregg, an athlete; who sometimes struggle to let their highly trained bodies and muscles go and allow dance to take over, nailed his first dance with personality and the starting signs of gaining technique.  Others to shine were Danny who certainly fired up the floor with the snap needed in cha-cha – just loosen up the ankles and he’ll go even further.  Louise unsurprisingly pulled off a great jive with personality and flair with good kicks and flicks; it will be interesting to see her in other dances.

Judge Rinder Week 1Middle of the pack was that very memorable performance from Judge Rinder!  Who knew what lay beneath those robes!?  There is rhythm there and bags of personality, it just all needs taming and reining in and he’ll survive for several more weeks.  Melvin’s loco fell flat unfortunately but he has character to keep him in.

There’s always high expectation on gymnasts even though the skills are very different, however, take away Claudia’s back flips and split leaps and she needs to let go and let the rhythm take control, similarly Anastacia showed some promise but lacked the attack she shows in her own stage performances.

Tameka showed promise with a first Paso carried through with her acting skills but not sure how she will excel in other dances.  Laura failed to deliver other than in personality with very loose legs and control for her cha-cha.

Ballroom didn’t fair too badly either, particularly with the waltzes where you can’t rely on energy and persona to carry it off.  It was nice to give the more senior celebs the waltz in week 1 to ease them in with Ed giving a sure and steady performance but Lesley certainly needed Anton to lead and guide her around the floor.

Daisy showed great promise with her emotional waltz full of control and nice extensions.  Will Young (apart from showing off his strange wardrobe of shorts in his VT), gave a great tango with good character, the steps are all there and if he learns to add more control to every inch of his limbs he’ll go far.

Naga gave a solid performance and shows promise with good lines and extension, there is a glimmer there that she might shine, particularly in ballroom, there’s a reminiscence of Susannah Reid there.  Ore unfortunately lacked the drive and attack needed for tango but might fare better in some of the freer Latin dances.

So we’ve a very mixed bag again this year!  There are those who obviously have the talent and ability to dance and the few who won’t make it.  We prefer though to see those middle of the road dancers get to grips with steps over the coming weeks and start to excel and they are usually the dark horses to keep your eye on.

Predictions after week one?  We’ll keep those under our hats just now until we’ve seen the celebs tackle another dance in the other discipline of ballroom or Latin!

Strictly Celebs 2016

 

 

All photo credits BBC1 Strictly Come Dancing/Facebook.

 

 

Health and Fitness on the go

It always seems difficult to be healthy and active while on the go.

This week has been really hectic, it’s seemed like there are not enough hours in the day! I’ve been working, doing some home improvements and looking after a friend’s horse.

As I was dashing from one thing to another, listening to my stomach rumble, I was left wondering what on earth I was going to conjure up for dinner. I had not had time to do my weekly shop and I had a few eggs, some left over chicken, an onion, a bit of cheese and some tomatoes!

It’s times like this that it’s so tempting to call in at the take away on the way home, so what can you throw together with just a few ingredients in the fridge?

I decided to go with an old favourite…the omelette!  I love eggs, they are so versatile you can fry them, poach them, scramble them, boil them and with a few extra ingredients the list goes on and on!! Omelettes are really easy to make and all you really need is a frying pan and a spatula. The best thing is that you can put almost anything in them and they are great for using up leftovers.

 

What to eat

If you want a super simple and quick meal eggs are the answer! Here’s some links to some super simple, yummy egg recipes that you can use for lunch or dinner.

Pizza Omelette

Anytime Eggs

Spicy Tiffin Eggs

Muffin Frittatas

Tomato, Avocado and Egg Salad

 

Fitness

Oh my goodness as with my fitting in time to cook it has been a challenge to find time to go to the gym and it can be so easy to let good habits like exercising or eating well slip, but there are only so many hours in the day, what should we do?

Exercise Tip 1: Plan

If you know you have a busy week ahead plan ahead, are there times when you can fit in the exercise that you like to do?  This might mean getting up a bit earlier one day or changing the day that you normally exercise or doing the activity for a shorter time, if you are meeting friends can you join them slightly later etc.

Exercise tip 2: Do what you can

Something is (almost) always better than nothing, depending on your level on mobility/fitness are things that you can do in your own home…bicep curls are an example, you can do them with no weight or with a tin of beans, wrist weights or dumbbells (hand weight).

Exercise tip 3: Do something you enjoy

It’s much easier to find the time to do ‘exercise’ if it doesn’t feel like exercise….do something you enjoy!  Wheelchair dance is a great way to meet new people and get some exercise at the same time!

 

Healthy eating and wheelchair exercise

Wheelchair exercise and healthy eating

For lots of people wheelchair exercise and healthy eating can be daunting or they don’t know what they ‘should’ eat to be healthy.  In this blog series I’ll give you some simple hints and tips.

Tip 1: What to eat.

  • Eat breakfast, it’s an easy meal to skip, but we can all take 5 minutes to eat! For a super simple breakfast try having some natural yoghurt with some fresh fruit.

Tip 2: How to cook.

  • Use a slow cooker, so long as you can chop some veggies/meat you can make some great tasting food. Check out the recipe idea below.

Exercising

 Wheelchair users with manual chairs will do a lot of pushing motions which work the chest and shoulder muscles, this can mean that back muscles can become weaker.  Paralyzed Living shows some gym based wheelchair exercise that can help.

Many of the exercises in the video you could practice at home either using no weight or using a tin of tomatoes (or similar) instead of a dumbbell.  Make sure you listen to your body when performing any kind of exercise – it should not be painful.

Warning: Remember before you start or change your exercise program speak to your doctor.

If you’re thinking of trying something new, wheelchair dance is a great way to meet new people and get some wheelchair exercise at the same time!

 

Recipe

Slow cookers can be used to make some super simple and super tasty meals!!  Here is one of my favourites!

Slow Cooked Chicken

What you’ll need

  • A slow cooker
  • A tin opener
  • A knife
  • A tablespoon
  • A plate
  • 2 forks
  • Measuring jug

Ingredients

(tbs=Tablespoon)

  • 600g chicken (breast is easiest)
  • 1 tin tomatoes
  • 1 tin Kidney beans
  • 1 red onion chopped
  • 1-2 cloves of garlic
  • 1-2 tbs of smoked paprika
  • 1-2 tbs mixed herbs
  • 1tbs ground cumin
  • 300ml water
  • 1 chicken stock cube
  • Salt and pepper

How to make it

Step 1: Turn on the slow cooker, on High.

Step 2: Chop the onion (use a grater if you struggle to chop an onion) and garlic.  Measure out the water.

Step 3: Put all the ingredients (add the chicken breasts whole) in to the slow cooker and put the lid on – when adding the herbs and paprika start with 1 tbs and add more half way through cooking if desired.

Step 4: Cook for 2 hours (adjust seasoning and paprika/herbs after an hour)

Step 5: Take chicken breasts out and place on a large chopping board or plate and shred the chicken with two forks (should look a bit like pulled pork)

Step 6: Put the chicken back in the casserole dish and stir well – you can continue to cook on low heat to further develop flavour or serve it up.

Step 7: If you are preparing ahead divide into portions, allow to cool and place in containers for fridge or freezer.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Exercise and Healthy Eating

Healthy Eating

For lots of people cooking is daunting and in this mini series I’m going to give you some super simple recipes for healthy eating and some top tips to make cooking easier.

Tip 1: What to eat.

  • Include protein in every meal for healthy eating. Protein isn’t just for body builders, we all need it and a lot of us don’t get enough.  Optimal sources of protein are meat, fish and dairy as they are what’s know as complete proteins, which means they have all the essential amino acids your body needs. For vegetarians there are few complete protein sources (quinoa, buckwheat and Quorn are a few examples), so eat a wide variety of foods to make sure you get in all the amino acids.
  • Protein is great not only because it’s the building blocks of our bodies, it also helps us to feel full for longer.

Tip 2: How to cook.

  • Chopping up onions can be difficult, use a grater instead and in you have difficulty using a grater you can use the grater attachment in a food processor.

Exercising

Exercise doesn’t mean that you have to go to the gym, the important thing is to start moving and to find something that you enjoy.

If you are just starting out then keep things simple and start with some exercises you can do at home, YouTube can be a good source of exercise ideas, this video from Physical Therapists, Bob Schrupp and Brad Heineck is just one example.

If you’re thinking of trying something new, wheelchair dance is a great way to meet new people and get some exercise at the same time!

Warning: Remember before you start or change your exercise program speak to your doctor.

Recipe

I said eat protein with every meal so instead of reaching for the cereal box in a morning here’s a super simple of alternative that takes a couple of minutes to make.

Scrambled egg on toast

What you’ll need:

  • A toaster (or use a grill)
  • A bowl
  • A frying pan
  • A wooden spoon
  • A fork

Ingredients

  • Some butter
  • 2 slices of bread
  • 3 eggs
  • Salt and pepper
  • A dash of water (or milk)

How to make it

Step 1: toast the bread.

Step 2: while the toast is in the toaster crack the eggs into the bowl.

Step 3: using the fork whisk the eggs up so that the white and yolk are well mixed together. Add a little salt, pepper and a dash of water (or milk) and mix.

Step 4: when the toast is done, butter it – try to avoid using margarine – or leave dry.

Step 5: put the frying pan on the hob on a medium heat, melt a nob of butter (about a teaspoon) and use the wooden spoon to spread it around the pan.

Step 6: pour the egg mix into the frying pan and stir …make sure that you hold the handle of the pan while you do this. The eggs will cook very quickly, when the get to a consistency you like then off the heat and use the wooden spoon to put the eggs top of the toast.

Tip: To make this even better add some smoked salmon on top of your cooked eggs.

Smoked salmon is a great addition because not only will it increase the protein content, which will help you feel full for longer, it also a great source of omega (check which ones) which is essential nutrient.

 

Disabled Daredevils

Disabled Daredevils airs on Channel 4 on Tuesday 30th August 2016 at 11.05pm and features one of our founders, Paula Moulton.  Here’s her story of how she got involved.

 

“If you’re told often enough you can’t do something you will start to believe it.  It’s time though we start to focus on ability and normalise disability”

Roll back to December 2014 when I had a random request to speak to someone about an upcoming documentary on extreme sports. This seemed a bit odd as I’ve never considered wheelchair dance sport “extreme”, other than the odd time you might fall out of your wheelchair from time to time or Gary has slipped and accidentally kicked me on the head – but you can hardly call that extreme!

I was then asked “if you were allowed to do any extreme sport what would you like to do?”.  My response was downhill mountain biking that was all, although there’s things that I know I wouldn’t be able to do like bungee jumping and skydiving as I’ve been told “you can’t” in the past.

Roll forward to August 2015 and suddenly I was meeting up with a group of strangers, all with various physical disabilities, for a week-long adventure doing extreme sports – but the scariest thing was, none of us had any idea what sports were going to be thrown at us!

The challenges

It was a challenge in itself getting 8 people all with different needs to the same location for the same time, complete with multiple wheelchairs, hoists, walkers, spare limbs and of course our Pas, never mind a film crew with all their kit!

The gang assembled were; a mouth painter called Bazza, actors Jenna and Kain, wheelchair fitness instructor Kris, model and campaigner Gemma, Motocross fanatic Billy, football and travel mad Caroline and me – a wheelchair dancer and campaigner.

So what did they have planned for us, how would we do these things, had our GPs and consultants signed our permissions?  So often there’s so much red tape and health and safety issues it’s not worth the pain of even attempting extreme sports.

Harnessed up for bungee jumpThe first day found us being swung on a giant swing over a quarry then zip wired over the flooded quarry to finish jumping (or being thrown) in for a swim!

Quickly we all realised that some things were becoming common…lots of body harnesses, wetsuits and the prospect of a week of early starts!

More sports followed throughout the week with water skiing, bungee jumping and the final big challenge – a freefall skydive!

Personally, for me, the challenge that terrified me the most was the bungee jump.  I didn’t in a million years expect that I’d be allowed or able to do it.  How wrong could I be!  My consultant signed me off with the message “Don’t worry if you break yourself we can mend you!”  Whilst giving me confidence that it wasn’t going to kill me I was still terrified being hoisted up in a cradle over Bristol Quayside to be dropped on a big rubber band!

But, I did it!  With lots of encouragement from the gang below I was bouncing around on the end of the bungee rope.  It was an awesome experience, and so happy I did it, but it’s one that I wouldn’t repeat, unlike the sky dive which I can’t wait to do again!

Despite the extreme sports and the efforts the teams went to so we could take part, we came down to earth with a bump when ironically we could not get in to a restaurant one night (even though it was booked as a party with several wheelchair users) – their idea of a ramp was a flimsy piece of wood with a step on the other side of the doorway!

Being Normal

Actually the whole week was pretty ’normal’.  We took part in adrenaline sports, made new friends, had a few drinks, danced, played silly games, shared stories and swapped tips dreams and desires.  All pretty normal things for time away on any break, the only difference was our bodies.  However, we all had something else in common, that we were beginning to feel we could conquer anything!

Sometimes the world can be unforgiving and you can get bogged down in the day to day things, whether it be issues with care or getting around and facing access needs.  This trip reinforced that we can do it.

It’s always a bit of a downer when people say you can’t do that or call you “inspirational” because you’ve got on a bus on your own – sorry, but I’ve been doing that for years, just like you.  I think you get blinkered by society treating you as an inspiration for the slightest little thing and you forget sometimes that you truly do do things that are inspirational.

Now being called inspirational because you’ve skydived or bungee jumped; I think we could all accept that.

What the week did make several of us realise, was not to let other people’s perceptions of what you can and can’t do define you.  And a simple thing that it is okay to need more support and that accepting that support does not make you less able, it helps you focus your energy on the things that matter.

The Future

SkydivingWould I be one of the “Disabled Daredevils” again?  Yes, in an instant!

Words cannot explain what this trip meant to me. I think we all went home and slept for a week and had bruises on bruises, but it was so worth it.

There are extreme activities I still want to do – including winter sports, even though I hate the cold!  I also like the idea of bigger zip wires and downhill adaptive mountain biking.  In honesty, I want to push my limits while I can!

Most importantly I want to do this for me.  I no longer feel the need to qualify to anyone else whether I’m an “inspiration” or not.

 

 

Main photo credit: Richard Ansett/C4

Train travel as a wheelchair user

Whether local or national, rail is a simple way to get from A to B without the stress of driving or flying and like all other travel it’s best if you do some preparation before your journey (but much less than flying!).  Here’s our tips on Wheelchair train travel.

Cost

Rail travel in the UK can be relatively inexpensive by combing offers and the use of rail cards. For example, the Disabled Adult Railcard firstly gives you a discount, and then allows for a second person to travel at the same rate.    This discount is currently 1/3 off. Booking online is easiest to get the best available fares and pick up tickets at the station.

 

If you are a wheelchair user and stay in your own chair for the journey you automatically qualify for a discount without having a railcard, but this is only on Anytime fares (these are the highest fares) and only available in person at the station.  So it is worth buying a Railcard if you travel more than 3-4 times a year.

Non Railcard Discounts available on adult Anytime fares*

First Class / Standard Single or Day Single or Return         34%

First Class / Standard Day Return                                             50%

*Sometimes it may be cheaper to buy an undiscounted Off-peak or Advance ticket.

*Correct at August 2016

Booking Assistance

Assistance can be arranged from the taxi rank to the train in one phone call, and at your destination they will make sure you are taken to the appropriate pickup point in the station.  Assistance, in theory, can be arranged for nearly every manned station and some unmanned stations within the UK, but in some rural stations the support can be more hit and miss.

If you are buying your tickets with Virgin Trains you can simply phone the Assistance Team direct and purchase your ticket and book assistance in one step.  With other companies, buy your ticket online and then phone and book assistance from the relevant train company’s Assistance Team.

What you need to know

They will ask you a series of questions such as how you plan to arrive and leave the station?  If you need assistance from the taxi rank/drop off point?  Will you need the ramp to board the train?  Will you be travelling in your wheelchair?  That’s really it.

When you arrive at the station you either meet the staff at the designated spot of make yourself known to a member of staff and they will make sure you get on the train.

On the train

Accessible train toiletIt’s always useful to get the train manger to phone ahead to your destination station to make sure that they know you are coming.  Mistakes do happen so it’s also useful to have a mobile phone on you. The accessible wheelchair spaces on the trains are usually by the accessible bathrooms.  These bathrooms are usually snug, not as tight as on a plane but certainly not big enough for a hoist or someone to be easily able to assist you, so plan ahead.  You can however easily get an average manual or power chair in.

Refreshments – bring your own unless you know there is a trolley service or you are travelling with a companion.  The buffet car can be far away and the aisles are not wheelchair accessible for you to get down the train.  Some train managers will be helpful enough and go for you.

 

 

Equipment

You can travel in manual, or most power wheelchairs or with most walking aids/frames.  It’s best to check with individual train companies about Scooters as they vary in size and don’t always fit in the wheelchair space or can be too big/heavy for the ramps.

Who you going to call?

Booking Assistance – Book online with Virgin or for all companies

Phone numbers for the train companies can be found here.

 

 

 

 

We are moving

This week Strictly Wheels move our weekly Wheelchair Dance Classes to the more modern facilities at Trinity Sports Centre.

The new facilities based at Trinity High School, just outside the city centre are larger to give our dancers the chance spread out and use a big floor area to improve their skills for dancing.

We’ll be using the “Gym”, a large purpose built sports hall but there are also dance studio facilities with mirrors at the venue for those important competition routines!

We are very excited to make Trinity Sports Centre the home for Wheelchair Dance Sport in Manchester and the training centre for our top Team GB athletes, Paula and Gary.

Paula said “It’s great to have a modern facility that is fully accessible and a great floor to dance on!”

Our Wheelchair Dance Classes run every Wednesday from 7.30pm – 9pm and are open to all abilities – most of our dancers are beginners who are learning to dance for fun and some are working towards their first competition – the UK National Championship in October.

Make sure you check our Events pages to see when the next class is on.

The address for classes is: Trinity Sports Centre, Cambridge Street, Manchester M15 6HP

Flying as a wheelchair user

Is flying as a wheelchair user really the horror that people say?

We’ve all heard the bad stories about flying when you use a wheelchair, however is it really that bad?  Can the horror of flying be avoided and how do you do your best to make sure you, and your wheelchair, arrive in one piece at your destination?

Preparation is the key and starts before you book your flight – make sure you know the following:

  1. Dimensions of your wheelchair – height, width (and the same if it folds)
  2. Weight of your wheelchair
  3. If you use a power chair the type of batteries and how to disconnect them

 

Why do you need to know this before you fly – simply – if your wheelchair doesn’t fit in the luggage hold or allocated space in the cargo hold of the type of aircraft on that route, your chair cannot travel.  Be aware though that sometimes aircraft do get changed but the airline will be responsible here as that is out of your control.  The airline website should tell you the aircraft type generally used for that route and you can use websites such as FlightAware to check this too for all airlines.

Booking the flight is the easy part –  simply book your flight online or with travel agent as anyone else would.

Book Assistance

Some airlines ask during the booking process if you require Special Assistance and complete the details during your booking, others will prompt you to call a dedicated number to book assistance and it’s advisable to do this as soon as you book.  They will ask for the information about your chair that you have prepared and what type of assistance you need.

This is based on how much you can walk and ability to transfer.  All airlines use the same three codes and it’s worth knowing these and which you fit in to, if you are not sure, ask the airline.  There are also many other codes for other types of disability assistance.

WCHR – Passengers who can ascend and descend steps and move in the aircraft cabin but who require a wheelchair for distance to/from the aircraft.

WCHS – Passengers who cannot ascend and descend steps, where the wheelchair is required to/from the aircraft and the passenger must be carried up/down the steps but is able to make their own way to/from cabin seat.

WCHC – Passengers who are completely immobile and require a wheelchair to/from the aircraft and must be carried up/down the steps and to/from their cabin seat.

When you book assistance, this is also the time to tell the airline if you are taking an additional piece of mobility equipment, which you are entitled to in the EU, free of charge.  Again you will need to give them the dimensions and weight of the equipment to make sure if fits in the hold.

What if you need to take bulky medical equipment, feeds or lots of medication?

Advise the airline – they may ask for a letter from your GP or consultant.   They will need to know what you are taking, its dimensions, weight and how it needs to be transported (in the cabin or hold) and should give you a free baggage allowance to transport this.

If you are travelling for a longer period of time, speak to your supplier as they may be able to deliver direct to your destination but give them plenty of notice.

Top Tip: Always keep enough medication your hand luggage to cover you for at least a couple of days with a copy of your prescription just in case luggage goes missing.  Always keep medication in its original packaging.

Prepping your wheelchair for its journey

  • Top Tip: Photograph your chair – take a few snaps from different angles so that you can compare if the worst happens and your chair gets damaged. This includes taking photos of it in its “packaged” state.
  • Insure your chair – make sure your wheelchair is fully covered for flying and for worldwide travel. Specialist insurer Fish Insurance who sponsor all our insurances can help with this.
  • Pack it up – there are many travel bags out there that will hold your chair and wheels together and pad it, but otherwise simple things like pipe lagging taped onto frame to give some padding is just as effective.
  • Bits and bobs – make sure anything that comes off, comes off or is secured. Don’t risk the chance of losing a bit of your chair if it’s loose/removable – it could come off in the hold never to be seen again.  Top Tip: Take your cushion into the cabin too so it doesn’t get lost.
  • Some long haul flights on larger aircraft will accommodate your wheelchair in the cabin.

Cross Check

A week before your flight, give the airline assistance a call to confirm they have your correct assistance booked and ask for confirmation by email if possible (or note the exact date/time of the call as the airlines normally record calls).  Why? We’ve had a few times when assistance has been booked but on arrival at the airport there has been no record of it.  It will also help to speed up check in.

At the Airport

Airport securityCheck the airport website about assistance from the car park to check in – some airports offer this or have an assistance button at the drop off area.

At the airport head to check in as usual.  Confirm the assistance booked and always ask the airline for your wheelchair to be “Delivered to Aircraft” and if they have a tag for that to attach it to your wheelchair as well as the usual baggage tag.  This means your wheelchair should be waiting for you at the door of the aircraft when you arrive to transfer back in to.

Remember, you still have the same security checks and liquid rules to deal with.  Top Tip: Pack all your medication in a separate bag and have plenty of clear bags to put any liquid medication in to be scanned.  Don’t forget to check those under chair pouches for any random things you carry around that they aren’t left in there.

You will likely be “patted down” where possible as you can’t be x-rayed in your wheelchair!  Don’t be alarmed if they also take swabs around your wheelchair or even from around a leg bag just to check there is nothing untoward in there.

AmbuliftYou should be boarded first so be at the gate in plenty of time, if assistance are taking you there they will make sure you are on time.  You may be boarded using an Ambulift if the aircraft is not at an actual air bridge at the gate – simply a big lift that can drive around the airport and take you to the airplane.  You will have to transfer to an aisle chair – a narrow wheelchair with strapping that fits down the aisle of an airplane.  When you are in our seat, keep an eye out down below as you may be able to see you chair being loaded in to the hold.  This will reassure you that your wheelchair is on the plane and will be with you at the other end.  Always a good feeling.

On arrival hopefully your chair will arrive at the plane door undamaged and you will be able to remove the packaging and get on and enjoy your holiday.

If the worst happens and your chair arrives looking like a clown car with wonky wheels inform the airline immediately – take photos of the damage too.  It will be reported through the baggage handlers.  Unfortunately, it does happen from time to time but rarely is a chair damaged that badly that it cannot be used on a temporary basis.  If the worst happens try and hire a chair, or for minor damage often a local bike shop can help!  Try not to panic. I once survived ten days, having broken my frame on the first day of the holiday by bumping down a curb, by the use of two spanners as splints and lots of duct tape!

The airline should cover any damage through its insurers and would usually pay the repair company/manufacturer direct.  If the worst happens and your chair is beyond repair, the airline should replace it like for like.  There is a loophole with a cap on compensation, however, you should fight against this as it’s not just a piece of baggage, it is your means of mobility.  I’ve never had an issue in getting expensive custom chairs replaced.

Remember, problems can happen but deal with them calmly, there is no point getting angry and the more you travel the more routine it will become.  Hopefully, these simple tips will help you be prepared and most of all – Enjoy your trip!

 

 

Hotels as a wheelchair user

We continue our travel blog season with information about staying in hotels as a wheelchair user.

You fancy a break away, a countryside hotel a city break or maybe a trip to the sun but you need accessible accommodation, what questions should you ask to make sure what they are saying is true.

Firstly, check the location – do you really want to have to navigate a steep hill in order to access the hotel we all know it’s not too bad going one way but the other can be anything from exhausting to downright impossible!  If the whole area is hilly is that going to be an issue, could you or your chair cope and how are your fitness levels?  You are going on a break after all, not boot camp!

So, you’ve found the area, now the hotel.  What is it that you absolutely need and what is that you would like. Make a list – for example, if an accessible bathroom and step free access is a must there are several ways you can check this.  Do they provide a shower chair and what sort is it? It pays to check as it removes some of the stress when you get there. Googling or searching TripAdvisor for images for the outside and inside of the hotel can be useful.

Do you require a hoist, if so, check that it can go under the bed and check the height of the bed is suitable for your needs too.

As a rule of thumb always contact the hotel direct to ask questions. If using a travel agent that doesn’t specialist in accessible holidays, ask them to check the gazetteer but still phone or email the hotel direct yourself.

Once you have checked that the essential things are okay then you can go for the ‘likes!’ – the infinity pool, spa treatments or the best in-house dining experience.

Remember you can take two pieces of mobility equipment with you if you are flying with European airlines, but it is worthwhile knowing that in many places you can hire equipment such as hoists and just taking your own slings with you.  Similarly, if you use feeds and catheter supplies these can sometimes be delivered to a hotel abroad for you by your supply company depending on location. Speak to you delivery company for further information,

It can be daunting choosing a hotel for the first time but it does get easier. Mistakes can be made however there are always little hacks that can help such as:

  • if your wheelchair won’t fit through bathroom door – ask hotel to take the door off!
  • a plastic garden chair is a great substitute shower chair
  • always ask for extra towels and pillows on arrival so it’s not last thing at night when you realise you need more -let’s face it – we go through more towels than average!
  • don’t be afraid to ask the hotel move furniture take it out of the room completely so you can manoeuvre around the room.
  • Ask the local hotel staff for advice about local accessibility

Remember the more homework you do the more informed you will be. As you become more experienced in travel planning you will do things automatically. For example, while travelling solo there are certain hotel chains we would not stay in as the fire doors are too heavy to open. On the other hand, there are others that we would stay in worldwide that we wouldn’t feel the need to even ask questions as we know they have a universal room plan. This knowledge comes with time and it’s different for each person due to individual access needs.

The most important thing though is when you get there to be able to finally enjoy yourself and relax.

Holidays as a wheelchair user

Holiday season is upon us, so here is our quick guide to holidays as a wheelchair user.

Travel as a wheelchair user can be interesting and fun but being prepared is the key. Do your homework on where, how to get to and stay at your chosen destination. Your first trip abroad can be daunting but is totally doable!

We have travelled all over the world and extensively in the UK. Here are some of our top tips.

Choosing your destination…okay it’s not just the beaches and nightlife; is it hilly, proximity to airport, hospitals, restaurants etc. – you don’t need to know everything however its best to know if the town is on a steep slope. Do you want to get on the beach or swim in the sea – many European and Worldwide coastal resorts now have beach and aquatic wheelchairs available to hire or use free of charge.

 

When looking for accommodation, many people ask what questions do you need to ask.

  • If travelling by plane or train book assistance as far in advance as you can and always confirm again a week before travel. If you are flying, you can take two pieces of mobility equipment with you free of charge (Some non EU airlines may differ).
  • The same goes for resort transfers – wheelchair accessible transfers are now quite common but you need to check this early on if this is essential for you and if there are additional charges.
  • Location of the hotel – is it at the top/bottom of a slope. Remember what some people class as a slight slope you might think is really steep. Google (and Google Maps) is good for more information. There are lots of online forums so ask other wheelchair users for their recommendations.
  • Are there any steps in the hotel, public/garden areas or are there ramps (and how steep are they – you’d be amazed at some country’s ideas of ramps!).
  • Are there wheelchair accessible rooms. Always ask the width of doors to the bathroom and balcony. Is it a level access shower or a bath? Is a shower chair provided? Don’t be afraid to email the hotel and ask for photos – don’t always rely on what your travel agent tells you (unless you are using a specialist travel agent for accessible holidays).

Whether you are travelling near or far it’s also a good idea to take some basic repair equipment with you – puncture repair kit, duct tape, allen keys and a spanner – it’s amazing what you can repair with these key items.

If possible, download the manual for your equipment to your smart phone just in case. This could be as important as having copies of prescriptions stored on your phone. If you use more bulky medical equipment such as catheters or feeds speak to your delivery company – they can sometimes arrange delivery to destinations for you.  Suitcases that have 4 wheels will make moving them easier.  Just be aware and keep your money and valuables safe and in front of you.

Always have Travel Insurance. You never know when you might need it. Insurance is not just about falling ill, it also covers things like missing flights and damage and loss of personal belongings. Our Travel Insurance Sponsor Fish Insurance is a specialist disabled insurance provider and will ensure existing conditions are covered.

We’ve had many fantastic trips abroad and visited great places but the key is to relax and be prepared to do things a different way. We have always found local people happy to help and have often learnt so much from these encounters.

So, don’t be afraid of travelling abroad embrace it and have fun.

 

IPC Mainhatten Cup 2016

Paula Moulton and Gary Lyness travelled to Frankfurt, Germany last weekend to represent Great Britain at the IPC Mainhatten Cup Wheelchair Dance Competition.

The competition organised by the German Wheelchair Dance Association comprised of the German National Championship and the IPC Approved Mainhatten Cup.

The competition was large with dancers from over 15 countries in attendance!

The first day saw the beginners and amateur level dancers taking to the floor followed by the IPC Competition with the Freestyle Events kicking off the event.  Austria’s Sanja Vukasinovic, proved why she is the current World Number 1 with a stunning Black Swan routine.  The World Championship couple Peter Vidasic and Helena Kasicka remained on form taking the Freestyle Combi 1 and Combi 1 Standard titles.  Hosts, Germany fared better in the Combi 2 Standard with Jean-Marc and Andrea Clement taking 4th place.

Day 2 of the competition saw Great Britain take to the floor with Paula dancing in the Single Ladies, in a field of 14 dancers, reaching the semi-final to place 10th.  Austria’s Sanja, just missed out on her second Gold to Ukraine’s Olena Chynka.  Combined with her performance in Finland Paula is now ranked 14th in the World in Singles Ladies 2 and 11th in Europe.

The Latin Combi 2 competition had 7 nations competing against each other with Paula and Gary placing a respectable 8th, a good follow up to their recent success in Finland.  Gary said “we thoroughly enjoyed the competition in Frankfurt and thanks to our great hosts for another good competition”.

Gary and Paula are now ranked 7th in Europe and 9th in the World in Latin Combi 2, a great success for Great Britain half way through the competition season.

They are now starting early preparations for the European Championships to be held in Slovakia in October.

 

IPC Suomi Open Championship

Paula Moulton and Gary Lyness travelled to Lohja, just outside Helsinki in Finland last weekend to represent Great Britain at the IPC Suomi Open Championship.

The competition organised by the Finnish Wheelchair Dance Association was the first international competition to be organised in Finland and comprised of the Suomi Open Championship, the Finnish National Championship and the IPC Approved Suomi Open.

Dancers from over 10 countries were in attendance in the fantastic venue of the Susi Training Centre at Kisakallio.  The floor was a joy to dance on!

The first day saw the beginners and amateur level dancers take to the floor followed by the IPC Competition with the Single Men which was dominated by Russia’s Maksim Sedakov and Germany’s Erik Machens.  Combi Standard couples took to the floor also led by Russia and Ukraine and finally the Duo Latin couples danced perfectly by the winners – Ukraine’s Ivan and Nadiia Sivak, the current World and European Champions.

Day 2 of the competition saw Great Britain take to the floor with Paula dancing in the Single Ladies, just missing out on the final, which was deservedly won by Russia’s Galina Ryzhkova, by one point, placing 7th.

The duo standard event was again won by Ukraine’s Nadiia and Ivan Sivak giving them double gold in the Duo events.

The Latin Combi 2 competition was fiercely fought at the top by the Russian couples with Paula and Gary placing 5th in the final, a great result for them after getting back on to the competition floor after almost a year following injury and illness.  Paula said “we danced well for our first competition of the year and were very pleased with our performance.  The competition was well organised and all credit goes to Finland for hosting such a major event for the first time”.

You can see photos from the event on our Facebook page.

Gary and Paula’s next outing will be at the end of May in Frankfurt at the IPC Mainhatten Cup.

You can see one of our competition routines below!

 

What is healthy food?

Wheelchair Dancing involves keeping fit and healthy, so we asked one of our Trustees, Caroline, a qualified nutritionist, What is healthy food?

I was in my canteen at work the other day and looked at the healthy options, looking back at me was jelly…wow wow wow, since when is jelly a healthy option?!?  Would you pick up the jelly thinking it’s a healthy option?  What is healthy food?

Aren’t we all trying to be a bit more “healthy”? But have you ever asked yourself what does that really mean?? So many things sell themselves as “low fat” so is fat bad? Low carb diets are all the all the rage, so carbohydrates (carbs) bad, aren’t they? Someone told me too much protein bad for you, should I avoid protein? It is so confusing to know what to eat!  So let me try and help…

  1. Fat is not evil
  2. Carbs are not evil
  3. Protein is not evil

I know, given all we’ve heard over the years its hard to believe that fat is not in its spare time hanging out with Lucifer hatching plans to send us all to an early grave.  The truth is that we need fat in our diets, in fact it is critical for the health of our cells.  I’m not suggesting you go eat a bar of lard, or even half a bar, just that fat is not generically bad and there are some fats that are even known as “good fats”.

So without boring the life out of you with a lecture on what fats are ‘good’ let me give you a couple of super simple recipe ideas that might even be worthy of a healthy label!

Avocado and Prawns

This could not be simpler, all you are going to need is:

  • 1 ripe avocado
  • 100g cooked prawns (drain off any juice)
  • 1 tablespoon of salad dressing (Newmans is a good choice)

How to make

Cut the avocado in half length ways and remove the stone.

Scoop out the avocado with a spoon and roughly chop up in to chunks

Put the avocado in a bowl, add the prawns and mix

Eat out of the bowl or serve on a plate

…add some lettuce, tomatoes or other salad if you want!

If you’re not a shell fish fan swap out the prawns for chicken, either get some cooked chicken or chop some chicken breast in to bite sized chunks and fry in a pan with a little oil over a medium heat until the chicken is white all the way through.

 

Baked Salmon

You’ll need:

  • 1 piece of salmon per person, around 100g depending on your appetite.
  • A nob of butter per person (avoid margarine if you can – it’s a whole other blog to explain why)
  • 1 slice of lemon per person
  • Salt and pepper
  • A bag of ready prepared salad leaves
  • Washed new potatoes
  • a piece of tin foil
  • baking tray
  • saucepan

How to make

Switch on the oven at 180C

Fill and boil the kettle

Put the potatoes in a pan, cover with the boiling water and set a timer for 20 mins

Take a piece of tin foil that is about 3-4 times as big as the piece of salmon

Place the salmon in the centre of the tin foil, season with salt and pepper, put a slice of lemon and a nob of butter on top

Fold the tin foil up at the slide and scrunch together to make a parcel and put on the baking tray

Cook in the oven for about 15 mins

When the timer for the potatoes goes off, check they are cooked by sticking a sharp knife in them and then drain the water off (you can use a colander for this)

When the salmon has been in the oven for 15 mins, remove from the over (using oven gloves) and open the parcel if the salmon is cooked it will be a lighter pink colour

Serve with the salad and new potatoes.

 

Love Dancing?

There are several references as to who Saint Valentine was, but what we do know, it wasn’t until the middle-ages and the days of Chaucer that the celebration of Valentine was “invented” and linked to romantic love.  Valentine’s Day was born and is now a booming commercial industry.

Many will argue it has lost it purpose and is now just a cash cow for businesses to capitalise on.  Couples feel pressure to out-perform each other with sweeping gestures and expensive gifts.

But what about all of those people out there who do not have a significant other?

Love is not just an emotion shared between 2 people; love extends to family, friends, animals and activities and much more.  Love crosses all boundaries and has no discrimination.

Love Dancing

For us at Strictly Wheels Foundation, our love is dancing.  Dance in all its forms, including wheelchair dancing, doesn’t discriminate and gives a freedom to those who dance.  It is a chance to lose yourself in the moment and immerse yourself in the music through movement and expression.

There is a great saying “Dance like no one is watching!”  Take this to heart, get lost in the music and love dancing like we do.

If you would like to find out more about Wheelchair Dancing, demonstrations or classes then feel free to contact us.

Disability Sport

Sport England recently carried out an in-depth survey into disability, the different impairments numbers in different areas of the UK, so we ask why aren’t there as many taking part in disability sport?

Almost 1 in 5 people in the UK are classed as having a disability, that’s just over 18 million people, and almost 70% of those fall into the over 50 age group.

So how many of these actively take part in disability sport?  According to figures produced by Sport England approximately 1.7 million disabled people are taking part in disability sports.

There are various reasons why people aren’t taking part in sports including:

  • Lack of access to local facilities
  • Lack of awareness of available sports
  • Funding and costs
  • Level of disability or being told you can’t do something
  • Fear of injury

Many may not be aware but Wheelchair Dance is classified as a sport and is governed by the International Paralympic Committee (IPC) and dancers (athletes) competed at the highest level for World Ranking just as in any other sport.

Wheelchair Dance Sport is widely practiced in Europe with countries like Russia and Ukraine leading the World Rankings.

In the UK, however, wheelchair dance is not so well known and classes are few for people to take part, not just to be able to compete, but also to dance socially and have fun.

Strictly Wheels Foundation are committed to raising the profile of wheelchair dance sport to encourage more people to seek out classes and take up the activity and to break down barriers of why people don’t take part in this social activity and sport.

SportEngland, despite the IPC governance, has yet to fully recognise Wheelchair Dance Sport in the UK which could open up many avenues for funding for clubs and athletes to progress and complete for Team GB.   With the right funding and increased awareness it would be fantastic if Wheelchair Dance could feature as one of the top disabilty sports in the UK.

 

 

Strictly Wheels Foundation

We are proud to announce the launch of the Strictly Wheels Foundation, a registered charity to promote Wheelchair Dancing.

Strictly Wheels came about as a public profile of Paula Moulton and Gary Lyness as they began dancing to help create a voice for Wheelchair Dance Sport in the UK.  Paula and Gary are most remembered for their appearance on Britain’s Got Talent in 2012 where they wowed the judges with their routines and made it to the live semi-finals.   They have also competed for Team GB in Wheelchair Dance Sport for the last 5 years and have competed at IPC Level achieving World Ranking since 2014.

They are now very excited to launch the charity Strictly Wheels Foundation which will work both locally in Manchester, providing facilities for wheelchair dancing, and continuing to promote and raise awareness of the sport throughout the UK.  The charity will also retain its name “Strictly Wheels” as a working name which is synonymous with wheelchair dance in the UK.

They have brought together Trustees with a wealth of experience in both the public and private sector in Fundraising and campaigns along with training, project management and health and fitness who will drive the charity forward.

We are extremely pleased to have full funding in place to run an exciting range of events coming in 2016 so look out for more information coming soon.  Make sure you follow us on Facebook and Twitter for live announcements.

Do the Strictly

Strictly Come Dancing Fever is upon us and we’re half way through the series so far and the Do the Strictly craze is gripping the nation.

It’s that time of the competition when the real cream of the celebrity dancers start to come to the fore and get through to the next rounds.

At Strictly Wheels we’ve got our eye on a couple of favourites with Georgia and Anita favourites in the girls and Peter and Jay in the boys.  We’ll see if our top 4 make it through towards the final week.

Everyone’s been getting involved this year too with the social media craze “Do The Strictly” and our founders and dancers Paula and Gary weren’t to be left out!  Watch our #DoTheStrictly wheelchair dance style below!

 

**UPDATE – 16-11-2015**

We are thrilled that our entry was chosen as one of the winning entries and was featured on It Takes Two with Zoe Ball.

As a result Paula and Gary won the opportunity to get tickets to watch the live show.

They both went to watch Strictly broadcast live from the magnificent Tower Ballroom in Blackpool!  An amazing night and so great to see how the show is put together to go live!

IPC Wheelchair Dance Sport Continents Cup 2015

The IPC Wheelchair Dance Sport Continents Cup 2015 takes place this weekend 5th-6th September.

The event which is the largest IPC Wheelchair Dance Sport competition in the calendar, ahead of the World Championships, will see dancers from at least 21 worldwide countries meet in St Petersburg, Russia.

Athletes will compete in the standard Ballroom and Latin categories as well as the new Singles and Freestyle events which, given previous years entries, will no doubt prove very exciting to watch.  Former routines have wowed the judges particularly in the Group Freestyle events.  Russia itself has dominated the event in previous years, so we are looking forward with anticipation to see the results from the weekend as a forerunner to the World Championships.

The event will be broadcast live on Saturday and Sunday via the IPC Wheelchair Dance Sport website.  Check out the Continents Cup website for the running order.

Unfortunately, Great Britain will not be represented this year due to lack of funding available to athletes in the UK so we are unable to send a team.

Wheelchair Dance Sport at this level is still not recognised so it is difficult to find funding and sponsors.  We are still hoping for funding and sponsorship so that Team GB will be able to compete at the upcoming World Championships in Rome.

 

Wheelchair Dance Workshops

Over the last few years we’ve had some amazing opportunities to meet many different groups of people and introduce them to wheelchair dancing through wheelchair dance workshops.  Often these are one off sessions, such as the National Naidex Exhibition or IIC however we have also had the opportunity to give long term support to other groups.

For the last 18 months we have had the privilege to work with alongside a group of Manchester based schools who already had a dance programme but wanted to expand and improve their offering with our wheelchair dance workshops.  In that time the popularity of wheelchair dancing has increased so much the number of children taking part has exceeded the places available so some children have to take rotate when they attend sessions!

Wheelchair Dance Workshop Group
School Wheelchair Dance Group

Through wheelchair dance the children have not only increased their dance skills but improved their day to day wheelchair skills. Their confidence has been boosted so much that some of them have even taken part in 2 international wheelchair dance sport competitions.  It has been great to develop a long term relationship with the children and the schools.

We have also been committed to providing support to Whizz Kidz, a national charity program, especially at their camps, by supporting them with dance sessions and peer support and mentoring.  These sessions go down really well proved by the number of teenage boys who end up enjoying dancing!

It sessions like these that really make our organisation worthwhile; being able to pass on skills and inspire people of all ages to get moving and discover the joy of wheelchair dance, whether they use legs or wheels!

Review

“I just wanted to say a huge thank you for delivering the dance session last week. The kids loved it and got so much out of it. They wouldn’t stop talking about it and ‘A’ in particular wouldn’t stop dancing all Camp.”

Cat Marsh – Whizz-Kidz

 

 

National Paralympic Day 2015

National Paralympic Day 2015 takes place on Sunday 26th July in London, Brighton, Plymouth and Nottingham.

The day is a celebration of disability sport and legacy from the fantastic 2012 Paralympic Games in London.  The day will feature many events and open sessions to try sports along with the Sainsbury’s Anniversary Games.

Wheelchair Dancing will feature at the London event at Queen Elizabeth Park.  Gary & Paula from Strictly Wheels will be performing a few routines to showcase Wheelchair Dance Sport as part of the Liberty Festival.

Come along to see Gary & Paula performing and have a go at wheelchair dancing.  They will be at the performance area at 1pm and again at 2.30pm.

We look forward to seeing you there and celebrating National Paralympic Day 2015.  More information on the event can be found here.  #NPD2015

National Paralympic Day 2015

Disability Pride

Disability-Pride-LogoThis weekend sees Belfast host the UK’s first Disability Pride event. Disability Pride is an organisation that began in Chicago in 2003. It is a parade through the city to celebrate the lives of disabled people and an opportunity to express the accessibility into society of those living with a disability.

Every year since its inception, Disability Pride has asked a new city to join the network, these have been until this year, cities in the USA and Canada. In 2013, Madrid and Berlin joined the network and held their first Disability Parade and now finally the UK has joined in.

The event starts with a parade which begins at 11am followed by a day of celebration in the ‘village’ in front of City Hall with live acts, music, stalls and food.

We’re extremely happy that 2 of our dancers – Paula Moulton and Gary Lyness will be showcasing wheelchair dance sport on the main stage at 2pm.

It’s a great opportunity for people in Northern Ireland to see wheelchair dancing “in the flesh” and Gary is very excited to be dancing in his home country for the first time since taking up the sport.

You can find out more about the event on the Disability Pride website here.

IPC Wheelchair Dance Sport Competition in Germany

Gary & Paula MedalsCongratulations to Paula Moulton & Gary Lyness who competed for Great Britain at the recent IPC Wheelchair Dance Sport Competition in Rheinsberg, Germany.

The competition was held at the HausRheinsberg Hotel, a fantastic, fully accessible hotel specifically designed for disabled travellers, on Saturday 15th March.

This is only the second time they have competed at top level in IPC Competition and they were thrilled to come 6th out of the 7 couples present.  Paula said “it’s a great feeling to know we can progress given we are now competing against couples who have been dancing in top level for longer than we’ve even been dancing overall!”.

They competed in Combi Class 2 Latin, with Paula having received her permanent classification from the IPC for Wheelchair Dance Sport against couples from Ukraine, Spain, Italy, Russia, Malta and Austria.  Photos from the competition can be found on the couple’s Facebook page.

They are now currently ranked 6th in the world – until the next competition in the 2014 season that is!.  Unfortunately though, due to lack of funding in the UK and sponsorship, it is unlikely at this stage they will be able to travel to any of the planned IPC Wheelchair Dance Sport competitions through the year, so they be unable to gain any further ranking points.

The couple’s only sponsors come in the form of International Dance Shoes, who provide their competition shoes and Fish Insurance who cover all of their insurance needs for travel and wheelchairs.  They are most in need of a sponsor to cover their travel to wheelchair dances sport competitions as this is their largest expense through the year on top of training costs, costume and equipment.

Gary said “It’s a shame the sport does not have the recognition it deserves in the UK to open doors to funding, many other European countries are wholly funded by their governing bodies.  Sponsorship is still an option though, as IPC Guidelines allow couples to display sponsors on their costume and wheelchair when competing”.

If you or your company would like to speak to them about sponsorship then please contact them.

Dutch Open Gold Medal 2013

Paula Moulton and Gary Lyness swept to victory on Easter Sunday at the Dutch Open when they won the Amateur Latin title.  They also won a Silver Medal in Ballroom the previous day just being pipped to the post by Poland.

It was a fantastic competition and the couple’s third year competing at the Dutch Open.  It is the largest wheelchair dance competition of its kind in the world.

Gary said, “It’s very exciting, but daunting to be entering the World Class arena after such a short time, but it is testament to our dedication”.

“We were thrilled to get silver in Ballroom as a great improvement on last year,” said Paula.

With the third win in a row in Amateur Latin they are now set to become the UK’s first Top level competing couple in Latin Wheelchair Dancesport!

Next Competition

Our next competition is closer to home when we compete in an International Wheelchair Dancesport competition held in the UK. The Manchester Grand Prix Wheelchair Dancesport Championship will take place on Sunday 30th June at the Wythenshawe Forum. The city plays host to competitors from at least 10 European nations.  Spectators will be able to see the world’s best Wheelchair Dancesport champions in action.

Fish Insurance Sponsor Strictly Wheels

We’re delighted to announce that Fish Insurance are now backing the UK’s top wheelchair dancing talent, Gary Lyness & Paula Moulton – Strictly Wheels.

Gary & Paula are the current UK Amateur Ballroom and Latin Champions and also hold several International Amateur titles.

Their success is even more astonishing when you consider they are self-funding, reliant on donations and sponsorship to support their training and participation in domestic and international contests. Fish has stepped in to assist by providing specialist disabled travel insurance to ensure they are well protected when competing abroad.  Representing GB they are set to travel not just in Europe but possibly as far afield as Brazil for the IPC Wheelchair Dance Sport World Championships.

Meeting Lee Daffern, BDM at ASAAL Conference
Meeting Lee Daffern, BDM at ASAAL Conference

Paula expressed her thanks to Fish for the company’s backing. “We’re really grateful to Fish for stepping in and providing us with disabled travel insurance and insurance for my dance wheelchair.  Not only will this give us peace of mind knowing that cover has been designed specifically to protect people like me for competing, but it saves us much needed money.”

Fish’s managing director John Garrard says he didn’t hesitate to lend the company’s support to the pair. “This was one of the easiest decisions I’ve had to make in my business life. Gary & Paula are an extraordinary success and a fantastic advert for a can-do mentality. Three years ago they had never even danced, let alone competed and yet they swiftly rose to become the first UK couple to reach top class status and have collected no fewer than 11 domestic and international trophies. It’s an absolute privilege to be able to support their endeavours.”

Check out Fish’s disabled travel insurance policy. It includes many benefits designed specifically to protect people with disabilities and/or pre-existing medical conditions. These include cover for manual wheelchairs and mobility aids and the emergency replacement of a carer and prescription medicines. For a quote call 0800 088 3275 or click here.

International Dance Shoes Sponsor Strictly Wheels

We are thrilled to announce that International Dance Shoes have given a sponsorship to Gary Lyness & Paula Moulton.

Gary & Paula aka “Strictly Wheels” are the UK’s top competitive Wheelchair Dancing couple and are the current UK Amateur Ballroom and Latin Champions.  They regularly compete for GB in Europe.

Paula said “IDS will provide me with custom shoes suited to my needs which I have not had before, I am so looking forward to wearing dance shoes made for me!”

International Dance Shoes
International Dance Shoes

IDS  are renowned worldwide manufacturers and suppliers of ladies, childrens and mens dance shoes. Their range includes ballroom and latin american dance shoes manufactured exclusively in Milton Keynes. Specialising in Latin and Ballroom shoes and with over 30 years of experience within the industry, their shoes are the first choice for many of today’s leading amateur and professional dancers.

We are thrilled they are supporting Wheelchair Dancesport in the UK.

Disability Sports Awards 2012

Last night we attended the Nationwide Disability Sports Awards held in conjunction with the English Federation of Disability Sport.

The event was held at The Point, LCC in Manchester and was attended by around 300 invited guests including many Paralympians, the stars of London 2012 and the upcoming athletes and clubs for whom the awards are presented.

Guests were welcomed to a drinks reception before the blinds rose over the room below which looked resplendent in GB colours!

Disability Awards 2012
Fantastic setting for the Awards

A great meal was enjoyed by all before the real reason for being there commenced; the awards.

Awards were given out to Junior Stars, who will be the future Paralympic talent in years to come. Awards were also presented to “Rising Stars” – athletes who are currently competing and making a difference in their sport and who are set to shine in the next few years and also Clubs who have been making a difference for disabled athletes at all levels.

Paula Moulton “Rising Star” in Wheelchair Dancing with her dance partner Gary Lyness

We are extremely pleased to say that Paula was picked from 100s of nominations to receive a Rising Star award for Wheelchair Dancesport. Paula has been an inspiration to many with her achievements in Wheelchair Dancesport, now holding 5 current international titles in Amateur (Class 2) Latin and Ballroom as well as the current UK Amateur Latin and Ballroom Champion.

Paula with her dance partner Gary Lyness were also thrilled to be able to perform at the awards to showcase Wheelchair Dancesport.

As part of the awards Nationwide contributed £20,000 to be awarded between the rising stars and clubs. This money will support future talent to help them train and grow to become the Paralympians and athletes to the best of their ability.

Jody Cundy with Shelly Woods inspire the nominees

The event was attended by the Minister for Disabled People – Esther McVey MP; double gold Paralympic medallist Hannah Cockroft, bronze cycling Paralympic medallist Jody Cundy,
silver Paralympic medallist athlete Shelly Woods and bronze swimming Paralympic medallist Natalie Jones.

EFDS Vice President and retired NBA player John Amaechi OBE gave an emotive speech despite his illness saying that professional sports people should be looking to the disabled sports arena for inspritaion on what taking part in a sport really means – the volunteers, inclusiveness and camaraderie is what truly makes “Games Makers”, the core of sport.

John Amaechi’s Emotive Speech

Same Sex Open Blackpool

Its great to know that dancing really is open to all.  Dance has no bounds, age, sex, race, ability, disability the list goes on, but dance can touch every single persons’ lives in some form or another.

The UK has been home to ballroom dancing for as long as anyone can remember and its great that the UK can also be the first to invite the world to its shores for the dance events that are outside the realm of the standard competition.

Manchester held the first International Wheelchair Dancesport competition in the UK in 2011 and we are also pleased the UK will also host the first World Same Sex Championship in Blackpool this coming weekend.  We are also honoured that they have asked us to showcase Wheelchair Dancesport at the event, so Gary and Paula aka Strictly Wheels will be performing at the Grand Finals evening at the Winter Gardens.  It’s a great opportunity to show another section of the Ballroom Community what we do in wheelchair dance and fantastic to perform in such a great venue.

We wish the Same Sex Open every success and hope they can build on it as we have and keep the Championships going year on year and keep the world coming to the UK for Ballroom Dancing in all its forms.

Same Sex Open