Beautiful "17 Steps" Performance Honors Young Dancer With Cerebral Palsy
For a while, nervousness held Meg back from becoming a dancer. Then she found a studio, an instructor, and a class that welcomed and inspired her to pursue her dream of performing onstage.
13-year old Meg uses a wheelchair for most of each day. She was diagnosed with cerebral palsy at the age of 1, and the condition has affected her physically, but Meg and her family never saw the chair or her different abilities as limiting to her full embrace of life. "Meg feels that the world is her oyster," says her mom Ann, "and she is here to have the best possible time."
Meg realized that she desperately wanted to be a dancer and to perform onstage, while observing her sister in dance class. She recalls bursting out crying while watching her sibling leap and prance around, the emotions overwhelming her. Fortunately, Beth Wheeler noticed. Beth, the instructor of Meg's sister's class, asked Meg's parents why Meg wasn't participating in class. "Well, she has cerebral palsy," Ann and her partner Carol told Beth.
"So? ... Why isn't Meg dancing?!" Beth recalls replying to Ann and Carol. "And that's when they started Meg in class."
From age 4 to 7, Meg was an enthusiastic member of the class. But as she grew up, her parents were no longer able to carry her up the 17 steps to the second-floor dance studio. A new challenge faced Meg, but as usual, she took it head-on. With the help of her teammates, Meg practiced walking the steps until she was able to do it all on her own. Her strength and bravery inspired the dance group to create a performance called "17 Steps," with choreography that celebrates the different hardships that all members of the class have overcome in their lives.
"We really wanted to include everybody's story... We all have our 17 steps," Beth says of the performance.
"At first, I wasn't really sure if it would actually happen," Meg remembers of her effort to ascend the studio 17 steps. "But it did, and I kind of surprised myself."