Coquitlam dancer rebounds with lead role after an achilles injury

It was only a small jump.

But its impact could have had a potentially career-devastating outcome for Coquitlam ballerina Erin McNeill.

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The Centennial secondary graduate was on a summer break from her company, Atlanta Ballet, when she made the little leap while taking a class at a Vancouver studio in May of 2013.

The land snapped her achilles. "I went into shock right away," McNeill said. "I knew what I had done."

The tendon damage meant surgery and months of rehabilitation.

And the news from the doctors was heartbreaking: She was told there may not be a chance she could dance again.

Luckily, McNeill found physiotherapist Karen Nichol in New Westminster who was able to work with her nearly every day.

"I told her, 'I have to be able to dance again.' Not dancing wasn't an option."

After six months of intensive therapy, McNeill was back on her feet again and, on the first anniversary of her injury, she was stepping in for a corps dancer with the Coastal City Ballet.

Still, it wasn't an easy transition.

Just the sound of pointe shoes descending on the hardwood made her nervous. "I had to leave the room at first," she said, but eventually, "I had to put mind over matter."

This month, McNeill appears in her first three-act ballet performance in two years, portraying an autumn fairy for Coastal City's May 15 production of Cinderella at the Centennial Theatre in North Vancouver.

On May 30, at the Surrey Arts Centre, she'll take on the starring role of Cinderella.

Asked if she's ready to lead the cast for the second show, McNeill said, "I am. I'm very, very excited. I knew I had to be super human to do this and, it just shows, you can do anything if you want to."

Tickets for Cinderella on May 15 at Centennial Theatre (2300 Lonsdale Ave., North Vancouver) and May 30 at the Surrey Arts Centre (13750 88th Ave.) are $30/$22/20. Visit coastalcityballet.com.

jwarren@tricitynews.com

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