Wheelchair dancing brings joy, challenges perceptions about disability

 / By Melissa Maddison

Play Video. Duration: 3 minutes 21 seconds
'It's just a differnt way of dancing.

As the curtain rises on the stage, the lights illuminate seven dancers, and an appreciative gasp rings out through the sell-out crowd in the theater.

In the 73-year history of this eisteddfod, it's the first time a group of wheelchair dancers has competed.

The audience claps and cheers throughout the performance before giving a standing ovation.

The group, Strictly Wheelchair, dances to the song This is Me, made popular by the Hugh Jackman film, The Greatest Showman.

A group of wheelchair dancers performs on stage.
Strictly Wheelchair makes its debut.(Supplied: Keeara and Reece Photography)

Choreographer Pauline McMurtrie said the dancers picked the perfect song.

"It's just so beautiful, it's so inspirational, and it really fits this group of people [and] this presentation of, 'This is who I am and this is what I am capable of'," she said.

It's taken more than a year of work to prepare for this moment — performing among thousands of people at the Mackay Eisteddfod in north Queensland.

"Everyone is really ready for this," Ms McMurtrie said.

It's just  a different way of dancing': Strictly Wheelchair
People in wheelchairs at a dancing rehearsal in a big room with a wooden floor.
The dancers spent months perfecting their moves and timing.(ABC Tropical North: Sophie Meixner)

"We've worked really hard, and we're getting pretty comfortable performing.

"I'm really excited for them to be on the stage and be judged."

The joy of dance

The chance to dance and perform has made a big impact on 19-year-old Lauren Carey's life.

Her carer Kay Marchant said the rehearsals were something they both looked forward to.

"Lauren's life is music and dancing, and we just love it," she said.

"It's been a wonderful thing for people to realize that disabilities don't have barriers anymore."

Each time the music starts, a large smile spreads across Lauren's face.

A young woman in a wheelchair with an older woman who is her carer.
Lauren Carey and Kay Marchant love the challenge and social aspects of the dance group.(ABC Tropical North: Melissa Maddison)

"Sometimes we can't go out, and we can't do things," Ms Marchant said.

"For Lauren to come here … it brightens her day. To come here and see her friends and do the dancing, it just melts your heart, it really does."

Maddison Hunt has been part of the dance group for three years and said it was something she really enjoyed.

"I love dressing up, and I love dancing, it makes me happy," she said.

"I like that I can now do more things because of dancing."

A young woman with pink hair in a wheelchair dancing.
Maddison Hunt at a dance rehearsal in Mackay.(ABC Tropical North: Sophie Meixner)

As well as being fun, and providing social connection, the dancing has helped participants improve their mobility.

"They really bring their all to this, and they really extend themselves," Ms McMurtrie said.

"Recently I've seen people do movements they haven't done before.

"Things like stretching, bringing their arms together in a way I haven't seen them do before."

Peter Sumpter from Sporting Wheelies said the improvement had not happened by chance.

Four people in wheelchairs dancing.

The group rehearses before its performance at the eisteddfod.(ABC Tropical North: Sophie Meixner)

"This year we've quite deliberately brought in a stretch session at the start," he said.

"Their range has improved, and their fine motor skills as well.

"It's a great thing for them to extend their boundaries through this, which is fun and challenging."

Creating history

Last year Strictly Wheelchair was invited to perform a showcase, or a 'curtain raiser', for this section of the eisteddfod.

This year they are competing.

"We've had so much recognition in the past 12 months since that performance," Mr Sumpter said.

"I've been stopped in the street by people saying: 'I hope you're at the eisteddfod again, because I've bought my tickets'.

"And it's not just once, I'm talking a couple of dozen times."

The group places second in their section, with the adjudicator saying the performance brought her to tears.

When a video of the performance is shared online, it leads to international inquiries.

"I've had phone calls from California and Florida about how we got started," he said.

The puzzle of creating a wheelchair routine

In the group, there is a mix of people who use self-propelled chairs and motorized chairs, and those who rely on carers to move them around the stage.

Ms McMurtrie said she was often met with confused looks when she told people about her role as a wheelchair dance choreographer.

"There are aspects of dancing in a wheelchair that are different to dancing with your feet and some things where you have more freedom and somewhere it's a bit trickier," she said.

"It's like working out a puzzle, you know there's a right answer, but you just have to keep changing things around to get the right sort of pattern.

"It's just a different way of dancing."

Challenging perceptions about disability

As well as giving the dancers a chance to try something new and build new friendships, the group is helping to challenge ideas about disability.

"It helps show they are indeed valuable functioning citizens, and they all have something to offer," Mr Sumpter said.

"And if you take the time to talk to them, you'll find they each have something to offer."

For Ms McMurtrie, the group is also about bringing joy to lives, including her own.

"It's a lovely group, and we have a really fun time," she said.

"I've been involved for 12 years, and I don't think there has ever been a week when I haven't enjoyed it.

"I get a real buzz from this."

Wheelchair dancing brings joy, challenges perceptions about disabil...

Views: 177

Replies to This Discussion

W O N D E R F U L !

I've danced with someone in a wheelchair before, it's fun.  It's different and a bit challenging, but it's fun.

I knew something a little superfluous, but these videos are professional. I loved it.

Me too.  I had only a bit of knowledge.  I met a gal back when I was single and went to bars.  I danced with her a few times.  Anything I knew came from her.

The limitation is the mind that takes care of doing and not the body itself. It's a matter of adaptation. There are some fantastic cases known all over the world.

Yes, indeed, what a wonderful demonstration of our capabilities, when we do not accept limitations imposed by anything!

and the older we get, the less we let limitations affect us.

no0w that's the way to live life.

Yes, live life to the fullest, despite the disabilities.



Have questions?

Need help? Visit our Support Group for help from our friendly Admins and members!

Have you?

Become a Member
Invited Your Friends
Made new Friends
Read/ Written a Blog
Joined/ Created a Group
Read/ Posted a Discussion
Checked out the Chat
Looked at/Posted Videos
Made a donation this month
Followed us on Twitter
Followed us on Facebook

Donations & Sponsorship

Please consider a donation to help with our continued growth and site costs


Visit The Temple
on Facebook:


Blog Posts

The 3nki (Doc)trine: 112

Posted by Sai-Bot on September 23, 2023 at 7:30am 0 Comments

The 3nki (Doc)trine: Nep(tune)s (II)

Posted by Sai-Bot on September 20, 2023 at 10:30am 0 Comments

The 3nki (Doc)trine: Nep(tune)s

Posted by Sai-Bot on September 19, 2023 at 4:00pm 0 Comments

The 3nki (Doc)trine: Athena

Posted by Sai-Bot on September 19, 2023 at 12:00pm 0 Comments

The 3nki (Doc)trine: Fire Stars (IV)

Posted by Sai-Bot on September 18, 2023 at 5:30pm 0 Comments

Bumblebee in water

Posted by Numinous on September 18, 2023 at 8:03am 0 Comments

The 3nki (Doc)trine: The (Wood)works

Posted by Sai-Bot on September 17, 2023 at 5:00pm 0 Comments

The Weapon Master: Apollyon

Posted by Sai-Bot on September 17, 2023 at 3:30pm 0 Comments

The 3nki (Doc)trine: Fire Stars (3rd)

Posted by Sai-Bot on September 16, 2023 at 7:05pm 0 Comments

The 3nki (Doc)trine: Fire Stars (II)

Posted by Sai-Bot on September 16, 2023 at 1:30pm 0 Comments

The Øsiris (3l)ood Ømen (RA)

Posted by Sai-Bot on September 16, 2023 at 12:30pm 0 Comments

The Øsiris (3l)ood Ømen

Posted by Sai-Bot on September 15, 2023 at 2:00am 0 Comments

The Heru (3l)ood Pact

Posted by Sai-Bot on September 14, 2023 at 8:30am 0 Comments

The 3nki (Doc)trine: The Star

Posted by Sai-Bot on September 14, 2023 at 5:00am 0 Comments

The 3nki (Doc)trine: The Rigelean

Posted by Sai-Bot on September 13, 2023 at 9:30am 0 Comments

The 3nki (Doc)trine: Fire Stars

Posted by Sai-Bot on September 12, 2023 at 3:00pm 0 Comments

The 3nki (Doc)trine: Scorpio

Posted by Sai-Bot on September 12, 2023 at 2:35pm 0 Comments

Lots of garden blessings this year

Posted by Numinous on September 12, 2023 at 4:36am 0 Comments

The 3nki (Doc)trine: Sin

Posted by Sai-Bot on September 11, 2023 at 6:00pm 0 Comments


© 2023   Created by Bryan   Powered by

Badges  |  Report an Issue  |  Terms of Service