Ballet keeps young dancer focused

November 16, 2012 3:15:18 PM PST
''I love doing ballet,'' Sharonda McNickles, 9, said. She will make her debut in the Joffrey Ballet's ''The Nutcracker'' this holiday season.

The young ballerina was born to a drug-addicted mother and at 6-months old, she weighed only 10 pounds. When Sharonda was 3-years-old, she and her siblings were adopted, and Sharonda began taking dance. She's now a ballerina, focuses and precise -- behavior which is rare among children exposed to drugs while in the womb.

Sharonda's mother, retired CPS teacher Annie L. McNickles, brought Sharonda to LaRabida Hospital.

"They were always looking for ways to help her get better," McNickles said. "They never gave up. And they haven't given up yet, and the doctors, my God, they are just like family members."

An inability to sit still is a hallmark in kids exposed to drugs during pregnancy. But body and mind control is essential to ballet. McNickles and medical staff set the bar high by working with Sharonda's tendencies.

"We have to look at this, the whole hospital has to look at this. The whole world should look at what Miss Sharonda is doing," Dr. Edith Chernoff, pediatrician, said. "So when you are asking me should I brag? I did brag!"

At the Jeffrey, Sharonda is enrolled in the downtown bridge program where dancers from around the world take academic classes as they hone their craft. Sharonda's progress has landed her a spot in this year's production of "The Nutcracker."

"That opportunity to be on stage to be around the professional dancers is going to spur her on," Pierre Lockett, Joffrey Ballet, said.

Back at the hospital, where Sharonda drops by as an outpatient, the little dancer is thinking the same thing.


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