Dance performance close to the heart

Renee Salsiccioli’s Kootenay Danceworks is staging a set of solo performances to raise funds for the Stollery Children’s Hospital Foundation cardiology department tomorrow, June 17, at 6:30 p.m. at the RSS auditorium.

  • Jun. 16, 2011 7:00 p.m.

Renee Salsiccioli’s Kootenay Danceworks is staging a set of solo performances to raise funds for the Stollery Children’s Hospital Foundation cardiology department on June 17 at 6:30 p.m. at the RSS auditorium.

The cardiology department in Edmonton recently performed open heart surgery on Rossland dancer Nadia van Asselt, a Grade 11 student who has been dancing with Salsiccioli for four years, three of which she spent in the Red Mountain Dance Academy.

Nadia is still recovering from her May 9 surgery for a congenital heart defect, her third such operation, but is already getting back on the dance floor. With luck, she said, she’ll only need one more surgery in 15 years and then never again.

“I feel good. I am feeling a lot better than before the surgery,” Nadia said, adding that “dance is very helpful.”

She began dancing some years ago with Steps, in Trail, but “once Renee came, I really fell in love with dance,” she said. “I love the expression of dance, the way it makes me feel, being able to push myself to do better at something.”

Salsiccioli teaches about 100 students in Kootenay Danceworks, and also the four girls currently in the RSS Dance Academy.

“Nadia has no outside imposed limitations on what she can do,” Susan said, “It’s all up to her. She and Renee have a system going to determine how much her body can handle. She chooses how much she can or can’t do.”

“It’s a miracle that she’s dancing,” Susan continued. “Renee is remarkable in that regard. Words escape me. She and Nadia click. Renee pulls out of Nadia the desire to do better and Nadia rises to the discipline Renee puts on all the girls. Nadia is able to shine.”

“It makes me cry, it’s lovely to watch. It’s all about ability, it’s not about disability at all,” she said.

Nadia is taking on a gardening job this summer, but looking to her future she has been thinking about offering dance or movement therapy to others.

“I always wanted to help people who might be in a situation like me, but don’t have an outlet like me. Dance therapy might be a way to use what I love to do what I want to do.”

Nadia’s first surgery for her rare Ebstein’s anomaly occurred when she was three at a clinic in Minnesota where the world’s leading researcher on the anomaly practiced. The B.C. government agreed to cover the costs and by the time her next surgery was needed, the Stollery clinic was ready. She also goes for annual check-ups to a cardiologist at Calgary’s Children’s Hospital.

“[Stollery] is a world class facility that others from B.C. and abroad go to as well,” explained Nadia’s mother Susan, including patients from as far away as Jamaica.

“They are a good team up there,” said Nadia. “They’re very nice and kind, and want to see the best outcomes and help you a lot.”

Susan noted, “Our experience with the medical system has been very positive. She’s always got stellar care.”

Susan said the funds raised will either be used to research congenital heart deformities (CHD) or to buy specialized equipment for kids’ surgeries. Modern techniques have improved considerably and today doctors can handle CHD very well. Thirty years ago, a surgery patient might spend two months recovering in hospital; now they’re out in five to 10 days.

Nevertheless, the pig or cow valves inserted eventually degenerate and need periodic replacements when the valves get too small or stop closing properly. Symptoms like debilitating headaches can leave people unable to function, and only a few major centres in Canada can perform the surgery.

Admission to the performance on June 17 is by donation, and a tax receipt can be provided for donations of $25 or more.