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When I Took My 'First Step' Ballroom Dancing With Cerebral Palsy


Very few times in our lives do we realize how what we think is a small decision in the moment might affect the course of our lives profoundly. You never know where that first step will lead…

About seven years ago, I arrived home in time one afternoon to catch the local 5 p.m. news. They featured a story about a blind gentleman who was competing and placing in ballroom dancing. My first thought was, “How cool!” Then I thought “Maybe, just maybe, I could learn to do that, too.”

I have triplegia spastic cerebral palsy, and graceful is definitely not the first word that comes to mind when I describe myself.

The next day, I called the dance studio and explained my situation. To my surprise, even though they had never worked with anyone quite so physically involved, they were willing to try to teach me to ballroom dance. I was beyond excited and not just a little afraid of this new adventure. As the day approached for my first lesson, I grew more and more scared for many reasons. So much so, that the day before my lesson, I cancelled. I was certain the instructor was not going to want to touch, let alone dance, with me!

Thankfully, I did not allow my fears to keep me from the dance floor. It took six months, but I gathered up enough courage to walk through the door for my first lesson. There I was, on the eve of my 29th birthday, a young woman who couldn’t open up her right hand enough for someone to hold it or walk in a straight line. I tried my best to explain to a complete stranger that I would like to learn how to waltz.

Much to his credit and my joy, rather than laughing at me or telling me this wasn’t going to work, the young man asked me a question. “Miss Cauley, would you care to dance?” He asked with a smile on his face and an outstretched hand. Thus my ballroom adventure began, and I continue to learn to dance through many challenges. Like life, my first few lessons were anything but a fairy tale. It took more than six lessons for me to complete a Rumba box, which only has four steps!

By sharing my story, I hope to demonstrate that with faith, hard work and determination anything is possible. So I encourage you to take that first step onto the ballroom floor of life, because you never know where it might lead!

ballroom dancing with cerebral palsy
Sarah ballroom dancing.

The Mighty is asking the following: What was one moment you received help in an unexpected or unorthodox way related to disability, disease or mental illness? If you’d like to participate, please send a blog post to [email protected] Please include a photo for the piece, a photo of yourself and 1-2 sentence bio. Check out our Submit a Story page for more about our submission guidelines.