As the Sugar Plum Fairy in the Columbia County Ballet's The New Nutcracker this past weekend, Carlee Snyder performed several series of graceful spins and jumps with seeming ease.
The six performances, which included three shows specifically for school groups, represented a triumph over a longtime physical condition that required surgery more than a year ago.
"It's been a very emotional process," Snyder, 18, an Evans High School graduate and Augusta State University freshman, said of her surgery and year of recuperation.
When she was in the eighth grade, Snyder was diagnosed with scoliosis during a physical required to attend a summer dance program. Dance has always been one of Snyder's passions. She began lessons at the age of 5 and dreamed of a career with a professional dance company.
For the next few years, doctors monitored the curvature of her spine. It stayed the same until May 2006.
"He told me I needed surgery; the curve had changed," she said.
Concerned about how the surgery would affect her dream, she took a videotape of her dancing to her doctor.
"I said, 'Tell me if I can do that afterward,' " she said.
The response was hopeful.
The surgery in October 2006 involved placing two rods and several hooks and screws in Snyder's back. During her yearlong hiatus, she continued to teach ballet classes and stayed involved with the Columbia County Ballet's other productions. She danced in a limited role in the spring production of The Roar of Love.
The role of the Sugar Plum Fairy is one she has danced before, but this year, some of the choreography was altered because of limitations caused by the surgery.
"It still takes time, but I've come a long way," she said.
Snyder said that in the past when she performed certain ballet techniques, such as an arabesque, she concentrated on how high she could raise her leg. Now she's working on accenting the elegance of a pose rather than the acrobatics of it.
Snyder will continue to work at her art and believes her body will make the right adjustments.
"I hope everything gets back to normal," she said.
After her performance in The New Nutcracker, Snyder's dream is on track and has her set on dancing with a smaller professional company.
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