Australia

Australian wheelchair dancing couple set to shine on world stage

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The Sydney couple will be the first Australian wheelchair dancers to compete in the world's largest Latin dancing competition.

Emily Prevketes-Ashley and her husband Paul Ashley are training hard ahead of the World Latin Dance Cup.

On Monday, the Sydney couple will join the hundreds of competitors from 35 countries who are participating in the competition in Florida. 

They will be the first Australian wheelchair dancers to compete.

Emily Prevketes-Ashley and Paul Ashley
The couple in training.
SBS News

“My ability is stronger than my disability," Emily told SBS News.

"People in wheelchairs can achieve their goals, and do anything we want to achieve.” 

“I love dancing with Paul ... I want to keep learning different moves.”

My ability is stronger than my disability.

- Emily Prevketes-Ashley

The couple first attended dance classes for their wedding, which sparked an ongoing passion for performing.

“It was really special, something that I'm definitely never going to forget,” Paul said.

Wedding day
The couple performing on their wedding day.
Supplied

Paul has represented Australia in wheelchair basketball, but even with his experiences as a professional athlete, the twists and turns that make up their routine were still challenging.

“Emily might be stronger in some areas but I’ll be stronger in some areas too – it’s about matching those strengths,” he said. 

His wife is also a para-athlete, playing wheelchair basketball, and now competing in long and short distance races.

“I love the moving around and spinning around,” Ms Prevketes-Ashley said.

"I want to keep learning different moves."

The couple will be the first Australian wheelchair dancers to participate in the competition.
The couple will be the first Australian wheelchair dancers to participate in the competition.
Supplied

Latin dance is a broad term which refers to a variety of different dances; salsa, bachata, cha-cha, samba, and more. Each of the dances has their own unique techniques, but for most, the hallmark features are rapid footwork and swivelling hip movements.

With the help of choreographer Nestor Manuelian, the couple have been able to work out a routine suited to their skills.

“When you are on the dancefloor everybody is on equal footing, and that is what makes it so good for everybody to do,” Nestor said. 

As well as next week's competition, Paul is also thinking about what could potentially come next.

He said his dream would be “to have other couples in wheelchairs join us and make this a big thing in Australia.”

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