Photo Credit: @quincenmulberry on Instagram
Since June is National Scoliosis Awareness Month, I wanted to take the opportunity to highlight a professional dancer who is defying odds every day by continuing to dance with scoliosis. Principal ballerina Beckanne Sisk was diagnosed with scoliosis at age 13, but instead of agreeing to a doctor-recommended brace treatment, she and her parents opted for an alternative treatment regime that has kept her dancing career alive.
Scoliosis, which is defined as a lateral curvature of the spine, can cause a lifetime of orthopedic problems for people, but this condition can also end a dancer’s career. While Sisk was training with the Longview Ballet Theatre, she experienced rapid growth spurts that resulted in her spine becoming twisted while forming two s-shaped curves. Once given a diagnosis of scoliosis, Sisk and her mother immediately grew scared for her future as a dancer. Sisk’s mother recognized her daughter’s talent and passion for ballet and wanted to help her to continue to dance.
Sisk's doctors initially recommended that she wear a brace with metal bars from the shoulder to the neck for 24 hours a day until she stopped growing, but she refused to believe this was her only option. After some research, Sisk chose an alternative treatment regimen of weight training and strengthening exercises to build the muscles in her back and keep them from sinking into her spine. Even though Sisk still experiences constant aches and pains, this regimen is the reason she continues to live out her passion on stage.
Photo Credit: @galadedanza on Instagram
“For me, the pain got worse and the curvature became more noticeable as I grew. I had teachers trying to push back my shoulders or shift my leotard over because I looked crooked to them,” Sisk told deseretnews.com
Despite her ongoing aches and pains, Sisk knew she was meant to be a professional ballet dancer. When she was 15, Sisk caught the eye of Adam Sklute, Ballet West’s artistic director, and after graduating high school she accepted an offer with the company. In her early years at Ballet West, she was featured on the CW's reality show 'Breaking Pointe' as the up-and-coming prima ballerina. Now, at age 26, Sisk is a principal dancer with the company.
Most recently, Sisk starred as the lead role of Tatiana in Ballet West’s premiere of choreographer John Cranko’s 1965 ballet “Onegin.” Sisk related to the role of Tatiana in many ways because just like Tatiana, she also faced some huge challenges that helped to mold her into a strong woman, and a strong dancer.
Sisk's story is especially near and dear to my heart because my dance teacher discovered that I had scoliosis at age 10. I went through a much different treatment plan than Sisk, but I can fully relate to how much more time and effort it takes to be a dancer with scoliosis. The fact that Sisk is still able to dance on a professional level is truly a testament to her dedication and work ethic. She's is a sign of hope for aspiring dancers everywhere. "Curvy girls" can now look to her and know that a scoliosis diagnosis doesn't have to kill their dancing dream.