Candice dances her way to top of the class
CANDICE Ingram admits when she was 14 years old, she was totally in love with dance, often spending five days a week at the Studio One Dance Academy with her teachers.
But when she started experiencing back pain, the diagnosis put a stop to her dancing dream.
Diagnosed with scoliosis, by the time she underwent surgery in January 2014, she had more than 60 degree curvature in her spine.
Fast-forward to now, and the Grafton High student has completed her HSC studies, and her major dance work has been recognised as one of the best in the state, being nominated for the annual "Callback" dance showcase performance in Sydney.
And while Candice says she is stronger than she's ever been now, at the time of the surgery it was a distant dream.
"I had to have two rods down my back, and there's half a dozen screws in there to correct the curvature," she says.
"I spent eight days in hospital rehab, I had to relearn to walk, and had to learn to cope with all of it because I was used to having a displaced spine - it was a horrible period."
For three months after the surgery, Candice wasn't allowed to put pressure on her back, with friends helping her carry her school bag, no sport, and definitely no dancing, although that didn't stop the idea.
"After six months I was allowed to come back to dancing, but I was so in love with dancing I'd come to lessons for the previous three months and just watch," she says.
"I just didn't want to miss out, and I'm a visual learner so I was able to pick up what they were doing."
She began dancing again six months after the surgery, still not able to jump until a full twelve months after the back surgery, which Candice says lead to a lot of frustration.
"I was always mentally ready to go back, but I was restricted physically, and Miss Gail (dance teacher Gail Harding) was always great at managing it, always asking 'Are you sure you can do this?" she says.
Given the all clear, Candice faced another hurdle in her HSC dance journey, being the only student at Grafton High wanting to study the subject.
After first trying to study the subject through the South Grafton High School class, she ended up studying through Southern Cross Distance Education and began working with teacher Belinda Toth on the subject, who says that Candice's journey and work ethic through her studies make her a deserving nominee for higher honours.
"Candice has been the model student," she says. "She was absolutely amazing and took on ever critique that I could give her."
Candice's major work, a contemporary piece that Miss Toth choreographed was called "Insomnia" and was based on showing the effects of having insomnia over your normal daily routine, something which Miss Toth said Candice showed brilliantly.
"Her interpretation was absolutely amazing - she took it on and really made it her own," she says.
"She really personalised it and it was pretty amazing - I'm so ecstatic she has been nominated for it."
Candice says the nomination for her major work has made all the work worth the effort.
"I feel like it's part of a major journey and it's kind of coming to an end and it's really going out with a bang," she says.
"I've just always loved being on stage and performing, and although dance isn't going to be my chosen career, no matter what I do in moving, away going to uni, there's a part of me that'll always be a dancer."
And looking back on her journey, Candice says it's the support she's had that have helped her through.
"Along the way you've got family and friends, and my teachers, Miss Toth, Miss Mills at the school and Miss Gail and her teachers have been awesome to me and I can't thank them enough," she said.
"I have to pay respect to mum, she really went in depth and supported me," she says. "She was really worried at the time and really went in depth, talking to other patients and finding out lots of information that really supported me... especially because at the time of the operation I would swing from 'I don't want to do this' to 'Hurry up and do it.'"
"Now I'm pain free... and I couldn't be more thankful for it."