Injured ballerina works her way back to the stage

AP News
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Posted: May 19, 2016 6:01 PM
Injured ballerina works her way back to the stage

VANCOUVER, British Columbia (AP) — Ballerina Lucila Munaretto refused to accept what her doctors told her after a rollerblading accident left her with serious brain and spine injuries — that she might never dance again.

She recalled one surgeon attending her hospital bed to advise that she stop stretching and consider alternative options for her future.

"I was like, 'Nope, I need to stretch because this is my life. I need to do it,'" Munaretto, 21, said. "I always kept in my mind: I will be able to be there again."

Munaretto, an Argentinian who moved to Vancouver in 2012 on a dance scholarship, was seriously injured in August 2015 while rollerblading on a steep road in North Vancouver. She missed a stop sign and slammed into a mini-van.

Munaretto was put into a medically induced coma in the neurological critical care unit. She suffered fractures to her pelvis, wrists and jaw.

Munaretto's dance companies crowd-funded more than $43,000 to help the young woman, whose family lives in Brazil. And two weeks later she was induced, she was revived and practicing dance moves in her bed.

This weekend, nine months after suffering brain and spine injuries, Munaretto is about to resume her ballet career. The young dancer will perform for about 45 minutes in a production of Swan Lake on Saturday in Vancouver.

"I'm happy, excited," she said, sounding close to tears. "I can't believe that I am going to be on stage again."

Katrina Bois, rehearsal director at Coastal City Ballet, said the dance company was devastated by Munaretto's hospitalization.

"We felt like something was missing," she said. "To have her back we feel whole again."

Munaretto started her recovery slowly, trying to gain her mobility, and by December she was doing exercises by herself on the floor. She progressed slowly and eventually was completing jumps.

Achieving one small goal at a time propelled her to the next, she said. A therapist told her she was recovering faster than anticipated.

"It's weird. Believe it or not, since I started to take class every day, all of my injuries are hurting less," Munaretto said. "The ballet itself has been my physiotherapy."

Munaretto expects her first major performance to be a challenge, noting she still has dizzy spells and tremors. The left side of her body is also less responsive.

But she described the ordeal as a "blessing."

"Before the accident, I didn't know how to live. I was all the time rushing and worrying about everything," she said. "But now I'm enjoying every single second of my life."

Rehearsals for Swan Lake began in January. Munaretto attends five days a week, except when she must leave early for doctors' appointments.

She will perform the role of friend in the first act and the role of a Russian princess in the third act. She is striving to dance as a swan in acts two and four during a second show in June.

Last week after rehearsal, Munaretto approached Bois, who is one of her closest teachers, and began to cry, thanking the dance company for the opportunity.

"She feels privileged, almost like she got a second chance," said Bois.

Other dancers in the company have been uplifted watching Munaretto struggle and persevere, she added.

"I think it makes them inspired, but also more appreciative of what they have," Bois said, noting she would expect many others to call it quits.