No matter what your ability, you can take dance from spectator sport to emotional release and freedom of expression. Just as your wheelchair becomes an extension of your body, dance becomes an extension of your mind. As Martha Graham said, “Dance is the hidden language of the soul.”

Dancing on air

Ray Leight and Melinda Kremer wrote the first wheelchair ballroom curriculum for instructors.

Ray Leight and Melinda Kremer wrote the first wheelchair ballroom curriculum for instructors.

For Ray Leight, prior to his 1991 car accident at age 20, it took a “really hot girl” to get him out on the dance floor. Now Leight ballroom dances with his wheelchair four or five days a week, five to six hours a day.

Leight took up dancing in 1998 after meeting ballroom dancer Melinda Kremer. An instructor helped them choreograph using Leight’s wheelchair. Soon after, Leight and Kremer (herself married) were dancing a Viennese waltz for an audience of about 3,200 people at Philadelphia Festival, the city’s largest dance competition for nondisabled ballroom dancers.

“The place went crazy!” Leight says. “We had no idea how it was going to be taken. They put us on Limelight on Saturday night. It was received better than what we could have expected.” The response encouraged Leight and Kremer, who, along with Sandra Fortuna, created American DanceWheels Foundation, which now teaches American-style, wheelchair ballroom dancing. The international style of ballroom dancing popular in Eu