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Wednesday 24 Sep 2014

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Ballroom glamour and glitz come to BBC Three as celebrities join forces with wheelchair users in a dancing competition like no other

19 October 2009 – this press release has been updated to include the names of the members of the judging panel.

Singer Heather Small, gold medallist Mark Foster and actress Michelle Gayle are among the celebrities that will be dancing with wheelchair users in a groundbreaking new six-part series for BBC Three uniting wheelchair users and celebrities in a dance competition with a difference.

The lead choreographer for the show is Brian Fortuna, a professional ballroom dancer who appeared in the last series of Strictly Come Dancing and who has been teaching wheelchair dancing for the last eight years, will be putting the couples through their paces.

A panel of judges – presenter and Paralympian, Ade Adepitan, and Strictly Come Dancing's professional dancers, James and Ola Jordan – will decide each week which couples stay in the competition.

Also taking part are actor Kevin Sacre, rugby legend Martin Offiah and presenter Caroline Flack all of whom are set to partner wheelchair users who have never danced before – with only five weeks to master everything from the cha-cha to the paso doble.

The wheelchair users are: Simone, a 22-year-old Cambridge graduate; Diana, a 48-year-old magazine editor and mother; 27-year-old Carolyne, who enjoys nothing more than a night out; James, a cocky 31-year-old whose impressive acrobatic ability puts most able-bodied people to shame; Paul, a 24-year-old festival-goer who is looking forward to Glastonbury this summer; and 23-year-old Harris, who recently got married to a girl he met whilst travelling in Thailand.

They will all be learning the art of Wheelchair Dance Sport, a popular international sport where at least one dancer is a wheelchair user.

Wheelchair Dance Sport is practised widely by athletes in 22 countries, with competitions and championships held across the world.

In Dancing On Wheels (working title), the couples will be compete in the "combi" event where a standing able-bodied dancer partners a wheelchair user.

The winning couple will go on to represent the UK at the Wheelchair Dance Sport European Championships in Israel this autumn.

Danny Cohen, Controller, BBC Three, says: "This is a really important project for BBC Three, and underlines our commitment to covering disability in a mainstream way following the success of Britain's Missing Top Model last year. The series will be surprising, fun and glamorous."

Under the guidance of Brian and some of the other top names in dance, the couples will be trained intensively each week to compete in a variety of exhausting and challenging dance disciplines as they battle for supremacy.

The judges will then select the two strongest couples who will get the chance to take part in a final dance-off, before a winning couple is chosen to represent Britain in the European Championships in October 2009.

Dancing On Wheels will be made by Fever Media.

David Mortimer, Managing Director at Fever, says: "We're so excited to be back in business with BBC Three and can't wait to launch our search to find Britain's best new wheelchair dance talent.

"Wheelchair Dance Sport is every bit as graceful, glamorous and entertaining as regular ballroom, so we can all look forward to some amazing action."

The series was ordered by Harry Lansdown, BBC Three's new Commissioning Editor for Features, Formats and Specialist Factual.

The executive producer for Fever Media is David Tibballs.

The programme will be shown later this year.

Notes to Editors

Wheelchair Dance Sport

The art of wheelchair dancing was born in the UK in the late Sixties. A rehabilitation centre in Scotland was teaching people how to operate and manoeuvre their new wheelchairs and it soon became evident that the movements such as rolling backwards and forwards, rocking, twisting from side to side and rotating, could be done to music.

A Wheelchair Dance Association was set up in the early Seventies and it was anticipated the sport in the UK would grow – but this didn't really materialise.

Then, in the early Eighties, a Dutch wheelchair user named Corrie van Hugten came to England and checked out the WDA. She took the basic elements back to Holland and adapted them to incorporate standard Ballroom and Latin American techniques.

It quickly developed in Holland and, with the help of her close friend Ondine de Hullu, it spread throughout the world.

Holland now has in excess of 140 clubs, providing social and therapeutic activities to hundreds of disabled people.

In 1998, Wheelchair Dance Sport became an International Paralympic Committee (IPC) Championship Sport but is not yet part of the Paralympic programme.

Wheelchair Dance Sport is widely practised by athletes in 22 countries worldwide.

The countries that compete include Holland, Malta, Germany, Belgium, Spain, Italy, Ukraine, Bulgaria, Slovenia, Poland and Mexico, to name a few.

The 2008 European Championships had 420 participants. Only eight of them were British.

The sport is growing in this country but has yet to catch up with its foreign competitors.


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