Wheelchair Tap Dancing Content from the guide to life, the universe and everything

Wheelchair Tap Dancing

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A traditional wheelchair user sign but with superimposed top hat and cane image suggestive of a wheelchair tap dancer.

Wheelchair dancing has been in existence for over 20 years, but wheelchair tap dancing is a relatively new endeavour. While traditional wheelchair dancing involves moving the wheelchair across the dance floor, wheelchair tap dancing focuses on the movements of the limbs while in a seated position. As such, it is an exciting form of dance that is accessible not only those in wheelchairs, but also to others who cannot handle the physical demands of regular tap dancing, and can choose to participate from a standard chair.

What You Need

  • A wheelchair or standard chair.

  • Taps. For those with motor control of the legs and feet, standard tap dancing shoes will suffice. The metal taps used on tap shoes are sold separately, and can be attached to a pair of lightweight, flexible gloves to make a set of 'hand taps'. More co-ordinated dancers may enjoy using both tap shoes and hand taps at the same time.

  • A surface to tap on. For those using their feet to tap, a hard floor surface will work. For those using hand taps, a table will often do the trick. Specialized 'dance mats' are available via dance supply stores, and can be placed over the floor or table and provide an excellent tapping surface1.

How to Get Started

  • If you are in a wheelchair, consider locking the wheels. It can be great to move the wheelchair and tap at the same time, but it can also be frustrating to have your wheelchair start rolling unintentionally while you are tapping.

  • Tap! You might consider watching a videotape or attending a class to learn about tapping techniques or patterns; however, these will almost certainly be based on regular tap dancing, and you will need to adapt them somewhat for your use.

  • Because wheelchair tap dancing does not require the shifting of weight and balance that can make regular tap dancing so difficult to learn, you might find yourself picking up new techniques and patterns more quickly than regular tap dancers. For an additional challenge, try tapping different rhythms with different hands or feet.

  • Don't forget to make the 'tap face' - it's half the fun! If you're not sure what the 'tap face' is, watch some older movie musicals that feature tap dancing. The 'tap face' is an incredibly wide, open-mouthed smile, that announces to all, 'I'm having such a great time, isn't tap dancing absolutely wonderful?'.

1Be forewarned that both tap shoes and hand taps can damage the surface of unprotected floors or tables.

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