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Born to dance: Ballerina performs again after life-threatening accident
Last August, 21-year-old ballerina Lucila Munaretto was in a coma and fighting for her life.
But now the young dancer is back on stage, performing on Saturday for the first time since the rollerblading accident that left her critically injured just four months ago.
“I was so happy to be back on the stage… I was shaking…it was like so much adrenaline and I couldn’t control it,” Munaretto says, a huge smile on her face. “I wasn’t thinking about the accident – I was thinking ‘this is one more chance to be happy.’”
Munaretto was rollerblading down a steep hill in North Vancouver when she failed to stop at an intersection. She smashed into the side of a mini-van, seriously injuring her head and body, and was in a medically-induced coma for nearly two weeks.
After undergoing surgeries to stabilize her spine and repair her jaw, the ballerina was finally released from the hospital at the end of September.
She visited her dance studio a day later with her mother at her side, but was forced to wait until early November for doctors to give her the green light to start dancing again.
Finally, on the evening of Dec. 12 at Burnaby’s Michael J. Fox Theatre, Munaretto performed for the first time since the accident in Coastal City Ballet’s holiday dance recital – her mother and sister in the audience.
“This was an amazing, unforgettable night,” she says, calling her performance on Saturday “even more unforgettable” than the major roles she danced before the accident. “This was an amazing experience.”
Munaretto first came to Vancouver in 2012 when a scout from Coastal City Ballet offered her a scholarship. Her family had previously moved from their native Argentina to Brazil after she was awarded a scholarship to attend the Bolshoi Theatre School.
A Go-Fund-Me page was created shortly after her accident to bring her mom from Brazil to Vancouver, and to help cover the cost of Munaretto’s recovery.
Katrina Bois, rehearsal director at Coastal City Ballet, says she had never seen an accident – or a recovery - like Munaretto’s before.
“From what I knew in August when she was in the accident, I never imagined we’d be anywhere near close to this point already,” Bois says. “It’s amazing.”
Munaretto wasn’t originally supposed to perform in the recital, but when one of her fellow dancers got sick she was more than willing to step in.
“It’s a very minimal [role] and there's not much dancing to it,” says Bois. “Most dancers don't enjoy those kinds of roles in normal life, they want to be doing the all-important role…but she was super excited.”
While she still can’t jump or leap, the young ballerina has no serious pain, and is attending dance classes nearly every day. Her instructors are hopeful she will move on to larger parts soon.
“I hope that she can make it back, and move on to a professional career in dance,” says Bois. “Her spirit lights up the room…you can really see the love of dance that she has.”
Her fellow ballerinas agree.
“It’s so emotional, it's amazing to see her come into class and come to the theatre with such a smile on her face after everything she's been through,” says Alena Loboda.
“Knowing that she’ll be on stage again is amazing, just like old times,” says Kaela Willey. “She has overcome a tremendous amount of fear and struggle…that makes me really proud of her.”
As for Munaretto, she has big plans: to dance forever.
“I think I was born already dancing. When I was kicking my mom inside of the belly I was dancing I think,” she laughs.
“I don’t know why I love to dance – it’s just something that completes me. My long-term goal is to dance forever, forever, forever.”