One hundred years ago Virginia Katherine McMath was born in Independence. Taking her stepfather’s name, she became known as Ginger Rogers and as one of America’s top professional dancers.

One hundred years ago Virginia Katherine McMath was born in Independence. Taking her stepfather’s name, she became known as Ginger Rogers and as one of America’s top professional dancers.


Maybe it’s time for history to repeat itself with another Independence native, Emily Scott, now 17 years old, who is quickly asserting herself as a formidable competitor in ballroom dance.


Emily recently received a grant from the Independence Host Lions Club so she could enter a regional ballroom dance competition held at the Westin Hotel in Kansas City. At that event she received 10 first-place awards, eight second-place championship awards, two fifth-place scholarship awards and one first-place solo exhibition award.


While it sounded incongruous to me, her mother, Melissa Scott, revealed that this graceful teenager also has her third-degree black belt in taekwondo. However, both ballroom dancing and taekwondo demand mastery over one’s body.


“Ballroom dance” is rapidly developing into a national, or even international, art or sport. It has a well-developed set of dances (waltz, tango, etc.) with defined movements (poise, posture, timing, body alignment, etc.) regulated by the World Dance Council. In order to participate in official competition, Emily must often hire a professional partner when she participates in officially authorized competition. Thus, with travel expenses, gowns and costumes, etc., ballroom dancing can easily become a fairly expensive hobby, sport or creative activity.


When I was interviewing Emily’s mother, I noticed that she had a tendency to speak with her hands – and that is exactly what she was doing. You see, Emily has been totally deaf since birth. Fortunately, she received a cochlear implant in her left ear at age 6 and one in her right ear at age 12. These allow her to hear some of the music or beat, but she is still greatly dependent on her partner when it comes to the exact tempo or foot movements for a specific dance.


The Independence Parks and Recreation Department has made the Truman Memorial Building available for ballroom dancing on the second Saturday of each month. That activity now attracts some 60 to 80 couples and is hosted by Blue Springs residents Mike and Sandy Prentiss, who were Emily’s first ballroom instructors. They also teach ballroom dance at the Sermon Center and at Metropolitan Community College – Blue River. Emily’s current instructor is Jake Fisher, who is associated with Ballroom Unlimited in Mission, Kan. Videos of Emily on the dance floor show her as nothing less than pure fluid beauty.


Emily tried attending public schools, but her hearing impairment made it extremely difficult. Thus she is the product of home-schooling and maintains a high grade point average based on formal tests administered by the Abeka Academy. Upon completing her high school senior year, she anticipates attending a local community college and then fulfilling the academic and training requirements to eventually work as a physical and occupational therapist.


But, who knows? Maybe, like Ginger Rogers, she’ll become a very successful professional ballroom dancer.