Teen dancer back performing after medical condition
September 1, 2017
Being cleared to dance competitively again was like sweet music to Jaya Scott’s ears.
Just three months after undergoing spinal fusion surgery at The Hospital for Sick Children, the 17-year-old took part last Sunday in the Canadian National Exhibition (CNE) 31st Rising Star Talent competition for young artists between the ages of six and 21.
The Taylor Dance Centre (TDC) member was diagnosed with scoliosis almost two years ago.
Scoliosis is a sideway curvature of the spine that occurs most often during the growth spurt prior to puberty. While the cause of the condition in most cases is unknown, children can develop spine deformities as they grow.
To prevent the curve from worsening, some young people wear a brace which is what Scott did for 17 months before opting for surgery.
Prior to the onset of scoliosis, Scott did a lot of contortions and acro which is an extremely challenging dance style as it requires training in dance and acrobatic skills.
“That meant I bended my back a lot and I would often go home aching,” she said. “It was very painful to the point I couldn’t work through it anymore.”
Outfitted with titanium screws and rods in her back to correct the curvature, Scott was back at TDC about six weeks after the surgery doing barres which are used extensively in ballet training and warm-up exercises.
“I just had to bide my time and do things slowly,” said the Grade 12 student.
Two weeks ago, Scott was cleared by doctors to dance competitively.
Kaitlin Taylor-Rivet, the TDC choreographer, said Scott will have to make some adjustments.
“Jaya can no longer do some of the routines she did that involve bending her back in half which is what she did before,” she said. “We have to find new kinds of movement that she can do that will work for her body.”
Taylor-Rivet said it was obvious that her student was in discomfort after she was diagnosed with scoliosis.
“She grew very tall very fast and we could see that the condition was taking a toll on her,” she added. “Teenagers are hard on themselves and Jaya was conscious about the condition. You could see that her back was curved and the shoulder difference. Since she has been back with us, she’s very focussed and working hard. This is a young lady who, when she first came to the studio, was timid even though it was evident she possesses a lot of God-given talent.”
Scott has been dancing with the Scarborough-based TDC for the last five years.
“This is a very welcoming and supporting environment,” she said. “The teachers and students make me feel at home and I have made quite a few friends since I have been here. This place is like home away from home for me.”
As a dance major taking ballet and modern dance in high school for the last three years, Scott’s favourite dance styles are contemporary and lyrical.
“They allow me to express myself and show emotion,” she said. “I also loved doing acro which I can’t perform anymore.”
The teenager singled out ‘Dance Moms’ and American ballerina Misty Copeland as her favourite television shows and dancer respectively.
Two years ago, 34-year-old Copeland made history by becoming the first African-American female principal dancer with the prestigious American Ballet Theatre.
After completing high school at the Claude Watson School for the Arts, Scott plans to pursue occupational therapy studies up to the Master’s level.
“I will however continue to dance because I love doing that,” she said.
Not advancing to the next round after a spirited performance last Sunday didn’t’ faze Scott and her supporters. What mattered was that she was back dancing competitively and having fun.
Just for doing that, she was a winner.