Deanna’s parents were hesitant to continue her dance education, given her medical diagnosis. But they knew Deanna was talented. She had auditioned and been accepted to the internationally recognized Central Pennsylvania Youth Ballet (CPYB) in Carlisle, a couple hours away. Her mother knew the heartache of having her own dreams of dancing cut short by the loss of her mother at a young age. So Deanna’s parents put their fears aside and found a host family, the Thomases, through a local church. “My parents told me,” Deanna said, “‘Don’t let the grass grow between your toes.’ They always reminded me to work toward my goals, to be productive, to immerse myself in what I love, and it would pay off in celebration.”
“It was embarrassing to have to wear the back brace at school. I became even more introverted and focused on my dancing.”
“But it was embarrassing to have to wear the back brace at school,” she said. “I became even more introverted and focused on my dancing.” Missing home, Deanna found solace in Mrs. Thomas’s greenhouse and garden fragrant with jasmine and gardenia. During her daily, seven hours of ballet training after school, Deanna chose not to wear her brace because it was too limiting. So every day, Mr. and Mrs. Thomas would help her unhook the brackets on her brace, and would lay hands on her back and pray for healing. One day, Mr. Thomas said, “It’s one thing for me to pray, it’s another for you to believe.”
“Of course I believe,” Deanna replied. And in that moment, she felt air shoot through her. When she returned to the doctor, he found zero curvature of the spine. The scoliosis was gone. From then on, Deanna let her faith radiate and lead her into some of the most exciting moments of her life.
Nearer Her Dream
Over the next two years, Deanna’s mother drove her to New York City a couple of times a year to observe and take classes at the School of American Ballet (SAB) where competition was fierce and tuition expensive. During one such visit, Deanna saw an older gentleman observing her class. Later she learned he intended to donate a scholarship in honor of his late wife, an Irish step dancer. He chose Deanna. She was accepted into the SAB at age 16 on full scholarship. For many years afterward, she kept in touch with this man whose encouragement and financial support helped her draw nearer to her dream.
“When each class was over, I would plop on my back on the dance floor, green in the face, with visible steam coming off my body,”
Ballet classes at SAB were a whole new level of difficult, taught by strict Russian instructors. “When each class was over, I would plop on my back on the dance floor, green in the face, with visible steam coming off my body,” Deanna said. But Deanna had an uncanny ability to learn ballets quickly. So she was a natural choice to replace an injured dancer for the fast-paced ballet Symphony In Three Movements. She learned a 45-minute ballet in 15 minutes. Her rehearsal performance solidified her spot in the show and led to her being one of five dancers in the world invited to join the New York City Ballet.