A Dance with Love

Josh and Samantha Tate's wedding dance.

Josh and Samantha Tate's wedding dance.

It’s often been said that true love conquers all, and in the spirit of Valentine’s Day, we thought you might like to hear the touching story of Josh and Samantha Tate.

While students at Messiah College in Grantham, Pa., Samantha and Josh had been dating for nine months when Samantha’s graduation approached in May 2009. They were excited to begin the next steps in their lives and decided to celebrate with friends at an end-of-the-year party at a nearby house.

Josh is a lover of all things adventurous. When the chance to ride on a zip line came, he eagerly took the opportunity. In the next few moments, the couple’s lives took an unplanned course. The zip line broke and Josh fell, breaking his neck.

“We spent two weeks at the Hershey Medical Center, and another few months in spinal cord rehabilitation – we weren’t really ever apart,” said Samantha.

The couple demonstrated their commitment to each other, and their love continued to grow during the months that followed. On October 22, 2010, Samantha excitedly said yes to Josh’s proposal.

In preparation for their big day, the couple began taking dance lessons to perfect a routine for their first dance as husband and wife.

“We attended a few friends’ weddings, and I realized I didn’t know how to dance using a wheelchair,” Josh explained. “We contacted American DanceWheels and worked with our trainer Aubree Marchione to choreograph a song for our own wedding.”

Aubree is a professional ballroom and Latin dance instructor and choreographer with American DanceWheels. The company teaches wheelchair ballroom and Latin dancing. She worked with Josh and Samantha to choreograph a rumba-inspired routine, which means “dance of love.”

“Just like in traditional ballroom dancing, the man leads and the lady follows,” explained Aubree. “Wheelchair dancing gives couples something to do together, and it is a lot of fun!”

Josh and Samantha agreed that they’ve seen many benefits of adding dance to their lives, including emotional closeness and physical strength.

“We see it as overcoming a challenge together,” said Josh. “We have different skillsets. She has the musical talent, and I have more athletic ability. The timing of body movement is a nice challenge for the two of us to figure out together.”

Aubree elaborated that wheelchair dancing adds a positive physical challenge for people who use wheelchairs too. It strengthens different core muscles than those used in typical activity.

“It’s also improved our confidence,” said Josh. “I remember very specifically going to some of my friends’ weddings and sitting on the sidelines during the dancing. Now we feel comfortable being a part of the dance or the celebration.”

Aubree echoed this sentiment and the benefits of dancing for couples, as she recently worked with American DanceWheels to conduct a study about its effects. The participants shared that dancing made them feel more confident. They also saw physical improvements in balance, coordination and strength.

“One woman said that it made her feel more feminine,” said Aubree. “A couple also shared that dancing brought them closer and strengthened their relationship.”

Heightened romance and a feeling of true love also filled the room on October 1, 2011, as Josh and Samantha shared a beautifully intimate dance on their wedding day.

“The accident made us realize how trivial our previous concerns were,” said Josh. “We figured out everything together, and I’m thankful for Sam wanting to support me through it.”

For the couple, living well with a disability means accepting the chips as they fall, but then doing whatever you want anyway.

“Maybe your dreams change, but that doesn’t mean life is over or that you can’t do what you love anymore. I think Josh is pretty remarkable in finding new ways to do what he loves,” Samantha said with warmth in her voice.

Since the wedding, the couple has continued their weekly dance classes. They are currently learning the hustle and planned to practice it on Valentine’s Day.

For more information about how you can get involved with wheelchair dancing, contact American DanceWheels via its website, www.americandancewheels.org, or call 215-588-6671.

Have you ever taken wheelchair dance classes?  Leave us a comment on our Facebook page, and let us know what you thought!

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