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Choosing the right wheelchair for dance sport

We recently caught up with Paula Moulton, otherwise known as one half of award winning wheelchair dance duo Strictly Wheels, to get her top tips on what you need to consider when choosing the right wheelchair for dance sport. 

What’s the difference?

“The main difference between a wheelchair used on a day-to-day basis and one for an activity such as dance sport, is that you’d generally use a manual folding chair for day-to-day, whereas for dance sport you’re better off with a fixed frame chair. This type of chair generally tends to be smaller, lightweight and more compact, which is great for storage when travelling. It also provides more stability and allows for better manoeuvrability, which is of key importance as a dancer.”

The essentials

“High pressure tyres are a must! A standard chair has around 80psi, but for dancing you’re looking for anything from 140 to 200psi. Mine are around 180psi. Also, you can get specialised tyres with different grip for use on different types of surfaces which tend to be more responsive, so it’s less likely your wheels will get stuck on the floor.

It’s also helps to choose a chair which has the front casters and rear wheels in close proximity – this reduces the turning circle and makes it so much easier to turn and move around the dancefloor.

Another important factor is tension adjustable seating. You need to be sure your positioning is correct and you’ve got adequate support. This is unique to each person and may depend on your disability, so keep an eye on it to make sure nothing changes, and be sure to adjust accordingly if required. If you don’t, it could lead to serious shoulder, back or ligament injury which could prevent you from using a manual chair altogether.”

You wouldn’t perform in scruffy shoes

“Well you shouldn’t, anyway! Keep your chair clean, after all it’s an integral part of your performance. I always carry a pack of wet wipes with me to make sure my chair is clean and presentable. Give it a regular clean and remove any undesirables like dirt and hair that inevitably get caught up in the front casters.

Also make sure you keep the bearings well oiled, and try if you can to avoid them getting wet. Check moveable parts, such as nuts and fixings, to make sure they’re tight and not liable to fall off  – which would really put a spanner in the works if you’re about to go on the floor, (pun intended). It’s also crucially important to check that any strapping is secure. This not only affects you, as you don’t want to fall out of your chair in the middle of a tricky cha cha cha move, but also could affect your dance partner or anyone else around you. If they’re tired or worn, replace them.

I’ve no horror stories as such, as I look after my chair properly, so any of the problems I have had have been due to issues when flying, like burst tyres, mangled footplates, broken camber bars. But because I’ve got insurance, I was able to sort a replacement, which saved the day and meant I was still able to perform.  Due to the pressure we put on the frame and the force it undergoes, it will eventually need replacing. Like any piece of equipment, the more you use it, the shorter its shelf life, but for what I do a chair could last anywhere between 3-5 years.”

Fish Insurance is a proud supporter of Strictly Wheels.  Find out more about the award winning wheelchair dance duo at

You can also follow Strictly Wheels on Twitter at @StrictlyWheels and on Facebook.

Photo credit: Miodrag Kastratovic

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