The year Para dance sport took over TV shows

Bonn 2019 world champions join Korean celebrities and Norway fall in love with a Para Nordic skier and rower turned wheelchair dancer 18 Dec 2020
A female wheelchair dancer holding hands with her male standing dance partner on a dancefloor
Birgit Skarstein (left) and dance partner Philip Raabe took Norway by storm in 2020
ⒸEspen Solli / TV 2
By EJ Monica Kim and World Para Dance Sport

While the COVID-19 pandemic impacted the competition season, it did not prevent Para dance sport from reaching new audiences in 2020. 

This was the year the sport broke through on TV in Asia and Scandinavia.

In October, millions of South Koreans watched a group of celebrities join the country’s best Para dancers in the second edition of the TV show 'Happy Champion Season 2: Dancing Together.' 

Exhibited by KBS (Korean Broadcasting System), the TV show invites Korean pop starts to try different Para sports. This season, the selected sport was Para dance.

Bonn 2019 World Championships gold medallists Hye-Jeong Jang and Juhee Hwang took part in the show alongside Bonn 2019 silver medallist Sewoong Kang.

'Happy Champion Season 2: Dancing Together' featured their stories and the training sessions with their celebrity partners. Kang competed with model Angelina Danilova, while Hwang’s pair was Korean singer Brian.

Jang won the show competing with singer Tae-Joo Na, who was appointed as honorary member of South Korea’s national Para dance sport team.

The show also introduced the Ulju-gun Para Dance Sport Team, the biggest Para dance team in the country, based in Ulsan. 

A TV screen showing a Korean news show with a male host and a female sign language translator on the right corner

Dancing with the star

That same October Norway fell in love with Birgit Skarstein on “Skal Vi Danse” – the first wheelchair dancer in 16 seasons of the country’s Dancing with the Stars on TV2.

The Para Nordic skier and Para rower had never tried dancing until she joined dance partner Philip Raabe on TV. 

The duo even managed a perfect score of 40 points before being knocked out. 

Crown Princess of Norway, Mette-Marit, called Skarstein a “role model” and she spent weeks on media interviews with her video trending in Norway.

“Many people are saying now we should have been in the final, not because of anything to do with the disability, but because we were the best dancers,” Skarstein said.

In 2021, she is set to compete in Para rowing at the Paralympic Games in Tokyo.