Nevertheless, she persisted

Despite the difficulties that come from having scoliosis, sophomore Denise Kao does not let her 20 degree curve stop her from dancing.

Kao first began dancing at five years old and has been dancing for ten years. After being put into a dance class by her mom in the Dance Corner, Kao transitioned to Dellos Dance and Performing Arts, then switched to Cutting Edge Dance Center and is currently on the dance team.

“Each studio I went to really helped me grow in that stage of my life. At Dello’s I had a lot of fun, but it was more for fun. Cutting Edge really pushed me to become a more competitive dancer,” Kao said. “Each studio has really fit me well for each part of my life.”

At eight years old, Kao felt back pain while she was dancing. After getting it checked out and viewing the x-rays from her doctor, she discovered the 20 degree curve in her spine, indicating scoliosis.

“I was glad it wasn’t something more serious, but it was a bummer; it was affecting my dancing because it just hurts me. I was also glad they found out there was a problem because when I was younger I didn’t know why I was having so much back pain when I danced,” Kao said. “I then was very worried because they told me if I grew too much the curve could either get worse or better.”

In order to prevent back pain when she was younger, Kao visited a chiropractor weekly to help her adjust her spine and to ensure her back pain didn’t worsen. Now that she has stopped growing as much and her spine has stabilized in the same curve, she only visits her chiropractor once every couple of months.

“I honestly didn’t mind going, other than having to work around my busy schedule, but it does make me feel better, so I like going there,” Kao said. “I realize that there’s always people so willing to help me with my back problems.”

Kao has also discovered different ways to protect her back, such as icing before dancing and performing core strengthening exercises, such as sit-ups, crunches and hamstring stretches as well as toe touches before dancing.

“I had to figure out different ways to be able to protect my back but be able to dance like everyone else. Scoliosis has made me more aware of my body, which muscles I need to work on and what I need to do to protect myself,” Kao said. “In a way, it made me to treasure my own body more.”

Despite all the support Kao received, she often felt defeated because she had scoliosis while other dancers didn’t. However, she talked to other dancers who were going through their own problems, which helped her realize that she wasn’t the only one experiencing struggle.

“I was definitely discouraged for a long period of time because I felt like I couldn’t do some [moves] and I felt like it wasn’t fair. Then, I realized that every single dancer has a different problem with their body, so I should be grateful that it’s not so bad that I can’t dance at all,” Kao said. “I tell myself that I’m not alone, and I make sure I’m always doing my best to prevent any back pain.”

Dancing with scoliosis has allowed Kao to see dance from a different perspective. It has taught Kao the importance of hard work and control, and how to work around difficulties, which she finds she can apply to her everyday life.

“Scoliosis made me work harder. It also helped me make sure that I’m doing what I can to protect my body when I’m dancing so I’m not throwing myself around; I’m controlling myself,” Kao said. “I learned a different kind of work ethic, knowing if one way doesn’t work, there’s always another way I can go to make things happen.”

With support from her friends and family and her love for the art, Kao maintains her passion and is inspired to work harder to master the craft.

“The art of dancing is my motivation to dance, but the support from my mom and teachers really help me push through tough times,” Kao said. “There are some challenges, but in the end you can still do it.”

By Flora Lei, Staff writer
Photo by Justin Jiang