CHARLOTTE, N.C. Nicole Smith has a disability, but she doesn t let it stand in her way.
On Thursday nights you ll hear the sound of tapping feet dancing Flamenco in the Metropolitan Ballroom. You ll also find a couple in the corner of the room dancing to a different beat.
Nicole and Jonathan Pabaka have been dancing together for three years. Every step they take is in synch and every move is graceful. At times it s hard to notice that Nicole has a disability.
Down syndrome is associated with mental disability and muscle weakness and heart defects that require open heart surgery and thyroid problems and Nicole has had to cope with all those problems, her mother Diane Smith explains.
Doctors told Diane and Mike Smith that their daughter would probably never walk, talk, read, or dance.
She has overcome so much -- and to see her on the dance floor -- when she gets on the dance floor something clicks in Nicole to the point you don't see the disability anymore. You don't see the down syndrome anymore, Mike says.
Nicole was six-years-old when her parents noticed her love for music, so they enrolled her in a dance class.
I realized how talented she was right from the beginning and we got through so much material in her first few lessons that we started to work on shows almost right away, says her instructor and partner Pabaka.
It s not just dancing, her father says. She feels the music she feels the spirit of dance and she moves and that's what touches your heart -- it really does.
Nicole practices dance for several hours each day, even when she is not in the ballroom. She even has a job to pay for her own classes. She won t miss a lesson for anything.
I remember one time she had a back surgery and she was on this machine that was extracting stuff out of her spine and the one day she had to come out of the hospital she came for a lesson and didn't complain about a single thing, says Pabaka. I asked her how she was and she said she was great.
It takes her twice as long and twice the effort to be able to do what she does and she pushes through all of that, says Diane.
Nicole only dances with Jonathan, she says she loves him and he s the coolest.
While Jonathan may be teaching Nicole dance, she is teaching the world a different kind of lesson.
Jonathan and Nicole have several performances throughout the community and she says her favorite part is taking center stage.