A wheelchair-bound dancer set to perform for Pope Francis on Saturday says learning the tango — and other ballroom dances — has helped him continue to push the boundaries of what he thought was possible.
But Nick Scott, who lost the use of his legs 17 years ago after a car accident, had been pushing those boundaries for a long time.
“I realized I was trapped in myself,” said Scott, of Ottowa, Kan. "I felt like a freak and I felt like people stared at me.”
That realization didn’t lead directly to dancing. It led him to bodybuilding. He’s a champion in the sport and one of the most prominent wheelchair body builders in the country.
“I felt like the the one thing I could be was stronger than everyone else,” Scott said.
In 2009, he met Aubree Marchione at the Arnold Festival — a bodybuilding expo in Ohio named for Arnold Schwarzenegger. She was a host of the event, he was a sponsored athlete.
Marchione, a choreographer and artistic director of a non-profit dedicated to wheelchair dancing called the DanceWheels Foundation, was already immersed in the world of helping people in wheelchairs learn to dance.
She checked out Scott’s website.
“A lot of his fitness routines were very musical,” Marchione said. “I though he would be a good dancer.”
Marchione said that when disabled people learn to dance, the benefits are huge — weight loss, better coordination, more confidence.
“There are people like Nick that go out there and have tha confidence to go out there and do stuff,” Marchione said. “Then there are others its hard to talk them into taking a dance class or even touch other people.”
Marchione and Scott, along with two other couples, will dance in front of Pope Francis at the Festival of Families on Sept. 26 at approximately 5:25 p.m. Their performance features one sitting and one standing dancer in each couple.
And yes, there will be a tango. Francis is from Argentina, after all.