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Illness Is Not A Death Sentence

“Everyone is handed adversity in life. No one’s journey is easy. It’s how they handle it that makes people unique.” -Kevin Conroy.

This has been my approach to life ever since I was diagnosed with Scoliosis. Despite this challenge, I chose to pursue my dreams of becoming a professional dancer. What I thought was as a setback has actually set me apart from many other dancers. My passion for dance has been the driving force that keeps me going.

The day I was diagnosed with Scoliosis was a really pivotal moment in my life. During my freshman year of high school, I was told by my doctor I had a curve in my spine. I had just started attending Professional Performing Arts School and was eager to be around other artists and study dance at the prestigious Alvin Ailey School.

Unfortunately, this excitement was overcome by fear when my doctor told me I had Scoliosis. Scoliosis is an abnormal curving of the spine that causes muscle tightness and improper alignment. It is most common in woman and can be treated with surgery, physical therapy, and massage. After reviewing an x-ray of my spine, my orthopedist immediately suggested surgery and told my parents that the curvature would only get worse as the years went on.

Because of my desires to dance professionally, I knew surgery was not an option. My family opted against the procedure and decided I would get treated with chiropractic care. We found a phenomenal chiropractor in Manhattan that began treating my condition immediately. He suggested that I wear a back brace whenever I was not dancing to help maintain my posture.

My approach to dance instantly had to change because Scoliosis affected my balance, range of motion, and caused muscle tightness. I was fortunate that one of my ballet teachers also had this condition and could help me work through the challenges of dancing with it. Being this aware at a young age prepared me for the career I have now. It has kept me very in tune with my body and alignment. This mindset has stuck with me through my professional career. In addition to chiropractic treatment, I practice Yoga and Pilates regularly to keep my spine in a neutral place. I have developed a very specific warm up regimen that I do before class to warm up my spine and pelvis. New York City Ballet’s Wendy Whelan is my biggest inspiration because of the phenomenal career she has had despite having this condition.

Thirteen years later, I am fortunate to have a professional career in dance, surgery free. Despite having Scoliosis, I have achieved so many of my dreams. Following high school I went on to graduate from Fordham University’s Ailey School of dance. I danced for two years with Ailey II and I am now a founding member of Visceral Dance Chicago in my third season. I was recently selected by Intel to share my story of adversity for their new commercial campaign “Experience Amazing.”

Having Scoliosis has been a blessing in disguise. I have learned so much about myself as an artist and human being. It has taught me the true meaning of perseverance and resilience. As an artist, I want to continue to share my story of adversity in hopes of inspiring others with this condition. My passion for dance has never died. Dance is healing.