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THIS DANCER'S STORY HAS A TWIST CEREBRAL PALSY IS NO IMPEDIMENT TO COMPETITION

ALL HER LIFE, there has been only one dance for Betty Isaacs: the twist.

On Sunday, Ms. Isaacs will be twisting the night away in Los Angeles when she competes in the Oreo National Twist Off. It is the first national twist competition in 20 years; she will be going up against 38 other twisters from around the country.

"I was born with cerebral palsy on the right side of my body," says Ms. Isaacs, 45, who lives in Buffalo. "The twist is the only dance I can do."

Ms. Isaacs was selected the regional winner last summer by WGR Radio, in a local contest sponsored by the station.

Before the dancing began, she was not confident about her prospects.

"At first, I thought it was a joke," she says. "My sister, Cindy, encouraged me to get up and dance, but I told her, 'No, I don't have a chance to win.' "

Once Ms. Isaacs hit the dance floor, however, no other twister was close to her. "I can't tell you what a surprise it was; I've never won anything before in my life."

Now the sisters are on their way to Los Angeles, where the king of the twist -- Chubby Checker -- will be on hand to crown the winner and perform with other twisters. After the contest is over, all the contestants will go on a four-day cruise.

Ms. Isaacs believes her efforts have made a statement.

"I think something like this, in a way, gives hope to disabled people," she says. "It shows we can overcome our problems. Right now, I feel as normal as the next person."

She is also confident of her chances in Los Angeles. The competition includes a 6-year-old twister from Houston, a 59-year-old from Miami and a 30-year-old from Indiana.

Betty Isaacs isn't worried.

"I can twist as good as anybody," she says.

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