February 25, 2010
Dancing On Wheels, the new BBC3 series in which the wheelchair-bound show off their own stunning moves, is very dear to my heart.
The show came on air around the time of the death of my father, Martin Chaplin, who never allowed disability to stop him taking to the floor. He may have walked with a zimmer frame, but nothing was going to stop him gearing up to stand up without one for a few minutes at the tango teas I run at the Waldorf, and do his best to get around the floor.
And disability doesn’t come only with old age - Vanessa Lloyd Platt, the divorce lawyer who featured in the film made about our school, London Tango, had suffered a small stroke a few years before filming which affected one whole side of her body. In spite of this, she managed all the moves asked of her, and the fact she had had a stroke never showed.
This level of grit and determination - and considerably more - have been shown by the contestants in Dancing On Wheels, It’s a variation on the Strictly format, with celebs partnering the wheelchair-bound performers - but the difference is that the only real experts here are the judges.
Diana and Simone, the two remaining non-celeb female contestants, are absolutely amazing - they move with such grace and style on their wheels, and what they are achieving is very beautiful.
Choreographer and former Strictly star Brian Fortuna has not made many allowances for any of their chair-bound performers, exhorting them to work as hard as he would expect of any able-bodied dancer. I think they appreciate this; they don’t want to be labelled “disabled” and in need of special treatment.
They certainly have a challenge to face tonight, however, with the paso doble, hard enough for men who have only a woman to lift. Tonight, Olympic swimmer Mark Foster will be seen spinning both 49-year-old magazine editor Diana Morgan-Hall and her chair!
“Then she comes racing towards me as I jump over her,” he explains....my dad would have been proud of the spirit of this lot. He might, in fact, well have gone on to join a wheelchair dance group - it’s a recognised sport which originated in Britain.