Para dance sport is an extremely elegant, graceful and stylish sport which involves athletes with a physical impairment that affects the lower limbs.
Participants can compete combi style, dancing with an able bodied (standing) partner, or duo dance for two wheelchair users together. Group dance involves wheelchair users only or together with able-bodied partners whereas single dance sees a wheelchair user dance alone.
Standard dances include waltz, tango, Viennese waltz, slow foxtrot and quickstep.
Latin American dances include the samba, cha-cha-cha, rumba, paso doble and jive.
Freestyle/ showdance can include the standard dances (conventional) or any style for presentation (folk, hip hop, latin, standard, ballet, contemporary, street dance, salsa, Argentinean tango, cumbia, belly dance, etc.).
There are also Formation dances for four, six or eight couples dancing in formation.
Since 1998 the sport has been governed by the IPC and co-ordinated by the World Para Dance Sport Technical Committee which incorporates the rules of the World Dance Sport Federation (WDSF). The sport is not part of the summer Paralympic Games sports programme.
In recent years the sport has benefitted greatly from the screening of popular dance based TV shows such as Strictly Come Dancing and Dancing with the Stars.
Today the sport is widely practiced in 29 countries and the last World Championships took place in 2013 in Tokyo, Japan. In 2014 the European Championships was held in Lomianki, Poland and, for the first time, the sport took part in the Asian Para Games, in Incheon, South Korea.
Wheelchair user Els-Britt Larsson was one of the pioneers of wheelchair dancing when it originated in her native Sweden in 1968 for recreational and rehabilitation purposes.
From there the sport’s popularity grew and in 1975 the first competition was organised in Vasteras, Sweden involving 30 couples.
Two years later in 1977 Sweden staged the first international competition and several regional and international competitions soon followed.
In 1984 Munich, Germany staged the first Rock’n’Roll European Championship for wheelchair dancers and the following year the Netherlands hosted the first unofficial European Championships in Latin and Standard.
The first World Championships took place in Japan in 1998, the same year the sport came under the governance and management of the International Paralympic Committee.
At the 2006 World Championships in Papendal, the Netherlands, duo-dance was presented for the first time in two Standard and three Latin dances.
In 2014 singles and freestyle/showdance (singles and combi) were introduced as the part of the official programme.
The Para Dance Sport World Championships are held every two years and were last staged in 2017 in Malle, Belgium.
The surface of the dance floor must be a minimum of 250 square metres with no side of the floor less than 10m in length, and 350 square meters for Championships.
Participants have the option of using electric wheelchairs if they need to.