- By Terry Rogers
Lizzy Howell, a 15-year old ballerina at Tatiana Akinfieva Dance Academy (TADA), has been dancing since she was at pre-school, first at the First State Academy of Dance and, for the last two years, at TADA. In November 2016, she asked a friend to videotape her turns so she could post it to her Instagram along with other dance photos she has posted for four years. The video of Lizzy, performing ballet turns, has gone viral.
In the video, Lizzy, who is a larger size than most ballerinas, performs a series of spins as other girls look on. The video was shared throughout social media over the past few months and has now gone viral as an inspiration to other girls that nothing should hold them back from their dreams. However, Lizzy wants to promote diversity in other ways and not just because her physique is not that of a typical ballet dancer.
“I have pseudo tumor cerebri, a condition where the ventricles in my brain are small and I get an excess build up of spinal fluid around my brain, causing really bad headaches,” Lizzy said. “I have had four spinal taps to relieve the pressure and now take medication that keeps the pressure down.” She has just recently been named an ambassador for Dancing for You, an awareness campaign for dancers who suffer from disability.
Lizzy says that she knows better than anyone that the dance world can be a rough place and that being an overweight dancer has challenges. She said that she has learned not to care what others think and that when others try to tear her down, she simply shows them that she can achieve whatever they say she cannot. She said it means a lot to her to be named an ambassador, but that it feels weird to be the subject of a viral video.
“I am just doing what I love to do and do not feel it is that special,” Lizzy said. “My favorite thing about dancing at TADA is the opportunities I have been given and I cannot imagine life without dance.” Lizzy says that she would love to be on Broadway, but has more realistic career goals. She hopes to become a forensic psychologist and teach dance part-time. She is currently homeschooled and almost finished ninth grade.
Lizzy said when she posted her video, she did not plan to inspire others. She simply wanted to share her love of dance and be able to let others see her ability. She said that she is glad she has been able to inspire others and hopes that her struggles will help others overcome challenges.
“Not only do I suffer from pseudo tumor, I also suffer from severe anxiety,” Lizzy posted on her Instagram account. “Dance has been a way to release this anxiety and make me happy. The worst part about being hospitalized for my condition was missing dance.” Lizzy performed in her eighth production of the Nutcracker in December and will participate in her 11th dance recital this spring. She will also attend her fourth NYCDA convention.
Lizzy’s advice to anyone is to not give up on their dreams, stating that she has not “given up and neither should you.”
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