Special ballroom dancers competition is Positively Fort Wayne

FORT WAYNE, Ind. (WANE) – A Fort Wayne woman is one of dozens of special needs adults who will compete in a statewide competition sponsored by Fort Wayne Dancesport. 

“I have Asperger’s, that’s a high-functioning autism and I’m also hearing impaired,” said Ashley Porter. This year the 33-year old will participate in her 10th special ballroom competition.

Porter considers herself both an athlete and a dancer and she has won a number of awards at the contest. “I have won from first to third places,” she said. Winners take home gold, silver and bronze medals along with bragging rights.

Porter’s partner is ballroom dancer Jim McCann. “These athletes have feelings just like all of us,” said McCann. “We’re all here to have fun and I think dancing and music is an international language, so there are no barriers.”

Porter and McCann take lessons from Fort Wayne Ballroom Company dance instructor Tony Didier. “We don’t treat the athletes any different as any other student because they’re a student,” said Didier. “A student is a student.”

Fort Wayne Dancesport leaders say competitors in the special ballroom competition are judged on the same criteria as those who don’t have special needs. “We’re the only ones in the country doing this type of program,” said organizer Dan Keck. “We follow USA National rules without changing them. We don’t lower the standards. They (the dancers) have to come up to the standards.”

Forty-seven dancers will participate in this year’s contest. Many organizations work with Fort Wayne Dancesport to showcase the event and help those with special needs. The competition will be held Saturday August 12th in the Walb Union Classic Ballroom at IPFW at 2101 East Coliseum Boulevard in Fort Wayne. It starts with an opening ceremony at 10 a.m. and ends at 4:30 p.m. Everyone is invited to attend the free event and learn more about the competition.