Bean Gill, Miss Wheelchair Canada

“Disability need not be a limitation”

The Miss Wheelchair Canada pageant showcases women’s beauty and inner strength forcing people to look beyond their disability.  It challenges current perceptions of women who are wheelchair users and attempts to break barriers. The pageant is devoted to the motto “disability need not be a limitation.”

Wheelchair Dance Sport Association Canada, a non-profit created in 2014 is the pageant’s host.  They promote, develop and run Para Dance Sport and also host workshops and one-on-one lessons.

At Wheelchair Dance Sport Association Canada, able- bodied dancers (at different levels of experience) dance with people in wheelchairs to create Para Dance Sport couples. Able-bodied dancers can and should have both an able-bodied dance partner and a wheelchair dance partner because it gives everyone the opportunity to develop dance skills. The Association  has two main messages. The the first is for able-bodied dancers: if you are getting the benefits of dancesport, share it with people in wheelchairs. The second is for wheelchair users: you too can be the best dancers possible.

Olesia Kornienko is the president of Wheelchair Dance Sport and she has been involved with professional  wheelchair dancing for many years. “I started dancing in Poland and won my first medal in 1999. Later I won 10 more medals in other countries. My dancing experience in Canada began in September 2012. With my former dance partner Arnold Ip, we won a gold medal at Vancouver Challenge Cup 2015,” Olesia said.

She treats dancing professionally, as a serious sport and believes that ballroom and Latin dancing breaks down the boundaries between worlds of people with and without disabilities. “For me, the Para Dance Sport is a great way of rehabilitation, because it involves movements of almost the entire body,” Olesia explained. “Collaboration with a partner without a disability is not only achievable but also very rewarding. It promotes identity self-awareness and helps improve memory and has many other additional benefits.”

Olesia’s dream is to gather a group of wheelchair dancers for participation in the Opening and Closing ceremony of the Paralympic Games and her vision:  “I really want to promote Wheelchair Ballroom Dance Sport in Canada.”

The first Miss Wheelchair Canada was held in 2017. One is planned for Summer 2021.