Shayanne Quiles was 5 years old the first time she danced with a partner as a part of production of “Grease.”
“I had to dance with a boy in couples,” said Quiles, a Winter Garden resident and a sixth-grade student at Howard Middle School, a magnet school for the visual and performing arts. “I was so nervous, but it just felt so fun.”
It was the beginning of an interest in a dance form that Quiles has grown to love. She began to take ballroom classes through Giving Dance Inc., a Central Florida nonprofit, and made long-term friends with dance partners. Like many of the dancers at Giving Dance, Quiles became involved in the Orlando Chapter of USA Dance, where she has participated in a variety of competitions and performances.
Although the chapter is based in Winter Garden, USA Dance is a “well-kept secret” there, said chapter president John Davis, who also resides in Winter Garden.
As a nonprofit, the organization’s mission is to help the community and show all the physical, social and mental benefits of ballroom dancing — not only in Winter Garden but also throughout Central Florida.
For this mission, USA Dance performs at schools, festivals and assisted-living facilities. In West Orange, the organization has performed at Health Central Park and Golden Pond assisted-living facilities, as well as at events such as Spring Fever in the Garden.
Members also participate in social and competitive dances. The competitions allow for a competitive form of ballroom dancing called DanceSport, which the organization defines as lead-and-follow dances done with a partner.
FUN IS NO. 1
USA Dance also organizes classes for people who may not typically have access to ballroom dancing — people who are homeless, have special needs or are disadvantaged.
The special-needs program at the city of Altamonte Springs partners with USA Dance for lessons. Participants have the ability to learn ballroom dancing and participate in a showcase.
“I enjoy how they take a month out of their time to teach these kids and adults how to dance, and then just seeing the smiles on their faces when they get out there on the basketball court and start dancing,” said Zander Adkins, a freshman at West Orange High School and a member of USA Dance. “That brings warmness to my heart because it’s a beautiful thing.”
Dancing with USA Dance offers many advantages for participants in the program, said Terri Vitale, special-needs and activities assistant of the Altamonte Springs program.
“Fun, first of all, is No. 1,” she said. “That’s obvious but not always said. It’s socialization. It’s friendly competition — it’s not competitive in a football team way. I would say teamwork, too. Another benefit is acceptance from the community and involvement from the community.”
USA Dance provides opportunities for even the more seasoned dancers. The organization has afforded Adkins, who is also part of Giving Dance Inc., the opportunity to travel.
“USA Dance has been so supportive of the kids,” said Jill Adkins, Zander’s mother. “They’ve allowed these kids opportunities that we wouldn’t otherwise have. Every time we go, when the kids hit the floor, the whole ballroom lights up.”
Contact Jennifer Nesslar at [email protected].