Between the special needs group performances, normally abled dancers demonstrated a range of different ballroom styles with varying degrees of success. Older entertainers ranged from a slick arm-twisting exhibition by the Salsa Heat Dance Studio, to an uncomfortable creepy/clumsy doctor and nurse duet to "Bad Case of Loving You." Christian Sola directed the young adult Sensual Bachata Team through a Moulin Rouge-flavored "Roxanne," filled with terrifying tosses and near-miss lifts. The most polished performance came from a few pre-teen teams, like siblings Sam and Kimberly Hamilton from Culture in Dance, who pulled off a surprisingly sophisticated waltz that transformed into a "Last Dance" disco - impressive, especially considering their combined apparent age of around 16.
But the real stars of the show were the special needs dancers themselves, whose Down Syndrome and other disabilities did nothing to dampen their infectious lack of self-consciousness and (cliché as it sounds) inspiring enthusiasm. Unlike USA Dance's usual competitions, there were no scores, and every participant went home a winner with an award. Davis told me that the organization, which is funded solely by private donations and fundraisers rather than grants, has given away more than $10,000 over the years. But the self-confidence this program - held in cooperation with the city of Altamonte Springs Special Community Services and the Advisory Board for the Disabled, which also offers bowling, baseball, field trips and other social activities - gives to its participants appears even more valuable. Watching their fearless movement, I felt a twinge of jealous admiration: Who cares about handicaps if you've got the courage to get up and dance?