1) Wolk is danced in pairs. These can be any combination of male and female you like. A group of pairs make up a team. Teams of eight are ideal, but there are a number of dances that can be danced with fewer or more.
2) Each pair is assigned a colour, with one partner being a dark shade and the other a light shade. For practices, wear a ribbon on your chair so that everyone can see which colour you are.
3) Apart from moving your head to acknowledge the person you are dancing with – and moving your joystick or wheels, of course! – there are no body movements in wolk. If you can’t move your head, or are being pushed, no matter – it is the eye contact with the other dancers and the people watching that is crucial.
4) One team member takes responsibility for each dance, learning it thoroughly so that they can call the detail to the other dancers if necessary as well as knowing the formal calls.
5) Keep the dance moving; don’t just move from position to position. Unless the choreography requires you to stay still while other dancers move, keep moving at all times.
6) Stay aware of the other team members, and the space you are dancing in.
7) Teams dance at the pace of the slowest member. If it helps, get the person with the slowest chair to start their movements early; they should appear to lead rather than finish last. (This can also help the rest of the team to know when to move.)
8) Power chair users should anticipate the movements with their joysticks to avoid starting late (unless your chair is ‘dance enabled’ to remove the delay).
9) Everyone takes responsibility for each other’s health and safety as well as their own – be mindful of each other. Manual chair users should wear gloves to avoid blisters.
10) Have fun! This will matter much more to anyone watching than if your dancing is perfect.
Click here to download a Word version of the Wolk Rules and Notes
All you need to run a Wolk dancing session is sufficient space (indoor or outdoor), a music source (live or recorded) and a set of ribbons. (Try light/dark blue, light/dark green, pink/purple, red/orange …) It will also be helpful to have access to a pump for pneumatic tyres, electrical and gaffer tape and WD40. Using a small PA or karaoke machine for calling ensures that everyone can hear (dancers and audiences).
Start each session with a 5-10 minute warm-up (a sample is included). This will help to avoid injuries as well as ensuring that everyone gets the maximum benefit from the session. Encourage onlookers to join in too.
It is helpful to have a separate caller when you are learning the dances. If necessary, dancers can call the dances that they are responsible for later on (see Wolk Rules! for details), but remember that you will then need a wireless clip-on or headset microphone for connection to a PA or portable speaker within performances so that everyone can hear clearly.
Teams can invent their own kit, but a good staple is a T-shirt in the relevant colour, perhaps with the team logo on it (you can easily buy iron-on transfers for computer printers). Team members should be encouraged to develop their own accessories in ‘their’ colour rather than trying to look identical.
Adding bells to chairs helps to enhance the performance experience for your audience, particularly those who are visually impaired. You may want to try different sounds for dark and light colours. Look for children’s wrist and ankle bells (which come attached to a plastic band that can easily be taken on and off chairs), and Indian ankle bells (which are attached to strings).
If you are part of an existing social, school or college group, remember that not everyone will want to dance. However, they might want to join in as callers, or take responsibility for switching the music on or off, or assist with costumes. Think about whether you can provide your own music rather than using the soundtrack provided: the melody can easily be played on a recorder or fiddle. Then teams will also find it helpful to have onlookers marking the beat by clapping along, and having the movement changes prompted with a drum as these are on the soundtracks.
Finally, don’t allow non-disabled people to dance in chairs; this is too dangerous for everyone concerned. If you are short of dancers, it is better for non-disabled people to take part on foot. But remember that there are lots of disabled people who would benefit from using a wheelchair but who don’t have access to one, or who have a manual wheelchair that they are unable to propel themselves rather than having access to a power wheelchair. Think about who you can recruit, and how you can help them to get a chair for themselves. (Try local classified adverts, Freecycle etc – NHS and social services’ provision is much more limited than many people believe.)
Photo: Hugh Hill