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Live Active Cultures

Seth Kubersky gets down with USA Dance

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What scares you? I like to tell myself that there isn't much that frightens me.

I've gone scuba diving with sharks, rappelled down craggy mountain faces and belly-crawled through guano-choked caves. I've yawned my way through gore-streaked haunted houses, munched popcorn through the gross-out flick Human Centipede and eat lengua y cabeza from sketchy-looking taco trucks without a second thought. Heck, I've even driven the hairpin turns of the Pacific Coast Highway through zero-visibility fog in an underpowered Prius hybrid (eco-mode isn't your friend when trying to pass trucks on a 15-degree grade). And just the other week, I exorcized my acrophobia by hovering in a door-less helicopter over the Legoland construction site (see OW's Culture 2 Go blog for the video proof).

Be it a sign of bravery or (more likely) boneheadedness, I've become largely immune to threats to my physical and intestinal health. But that doesn't mean there isn't anything out there that frightens me. Want to make me wet my pants? Just whisper the words "public performance," particularly if there's dancing involved. Sure, as a theater producer/director I've occasionally cast myself in a show, usually in a non-speaking Silent Bob role, and only when I can't find someone better (or cheaper) to do the job. But unless large amounts of alcohol are involved, you'll hardly ever see me on a dance floor, especially if any kind of challenging choreography is involved. (If anyone has film footage of me flailing to Taylor Dane in Tony & Tina's Wedding at the old SoulFire Dinner Theatre, I'll pay you to burn it.)

That's why I accepted an invitation last week to experience others doing what I dare not do myself. It came in the form of an email from John Davis, president of the Orlando Chapter of USA Dance, which is "a national 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization serving as the National Governing Body for DanceSport (the competitive form of ballroom dancing)." Ordinarily I have little interest in the ossified strictures of ballroom dancing, and I gave up on So You Think You Can Dance? after even Mia Michaels' choreography devolved into stupid human tricks. But a sentence in Davis' pitch for a special dance showcase featuring developmentally disabled performers caught my eye: "It will be just like Dancing With the Stars, but with special needs dancers instead of celebrities." How could I resist?

That's how I found myself inside the Lake Brantley South Gymnasium, adjacent to Forest City Elementary School on Sand Lake Road in Altamonte Springs, on a sunny Sunday afternoon. By the time I arrived, shortly before showtime, the gym's pull-out bleachers were already filled almost to capacity, mostly with family members of the performers. Davis, serving as MC in a white tuxedo jacket and spangled tie, introduced the "special stars," each paired with a volunteer partner, for a quartet of group dances directed by Dale Wenner. They started with a box-stepping fox trot, followed by a salsa (dedicated to victims of the Japanese tsunami) and an audience-participation round of the macarena (there goes the money I had to spend on psychotherapy after that evil earbug took hold in 1995). For the finale, they broke out the colorful cowboy hats for a boot-scootin' barn dance to Will Smith's 
"Wild Wild West."

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