Healthy Living

Teen with Neurovascular Muscular Dystrophy Competes in Ballroom Dancing Competition

Teen with Neurovascular Muscular Dystrophy Competes in Ballroom Dancing Competition

Muscular dystrophy and ballroom dancing doesn't often mix. But Ariel Mayer, who was diagnosed with neurovascular muscular dystrophy, uses ballroom dancing as a way to cope with her devastating symptoms.

Neurovascular muscular dystrophy is a progressive condition that  leads to painful joints and muscles in kids. Unlike other forms of muscular dystrophy, this form affects mostly girls and its symptoms can range from headaches, fever, chest pain, insomnia, weight fluctuation, to fatigue.

There is currently no cure for the disease but treatment options include exercise, biofeedback, stress reduction and mindfulness.  When someone is diagnosed with the disease they have to learn how to adapt to the changes in their body, which may require to give up certain hobbies and activities.

Ariel Mayer: Finding a new dance with neurovascular muscular dystrophy

After an extended hospital stay where she received her diagnosis, Ariel returned home to find that she could no longer do what she had always done. As a talented ballet and jazz dancer, Ariel had always used dance as a form of creative expression. Now, after her diagnosis, the stress on her joints caused by the use of Pointe shoes or extreme jazz dance moves became too much to bear. Not wanting to give up on dance altogether, Ariel decided to try her hand at ballroom dancing.  After just one beginner lesson, Ariel was told to get a partner and coach. She had the talent to become a pro.

After being introduced to a coach and eventually a dance partner, Ariel found herself immersed in the ballroom dancing world. Even for a seasoned dancer like Ariel, it was challenging to meet the demands of professional ballroom dancing. Weekly lessons were hard on her body, and she was having trouble regaining her strength back after being in the hospital.

But Ariel rose to the challenge and worked very hard to reach her goals. 

In the first year of training, thanks to her coach and new dance partner, Ariel saw that her stamina increased, and her ability to push through her pain grow and her dancing significantly improved. 

Her strength, resilience, and talent eventually led to her winning the United States National Pro/Am Youth Smooth Ballroom Championship, as well as the National Pro/Am Youth Rhythm Ballroom Championship. At just 14 years of age, Mayer won in the category for 16-year-olds and 18-year-olds. By working alongside partners and coaches older than her, Mayer is already working closely with the pros and is continuing to her pursue her dream in dancing.

Photo: Ariel Mayer and her partner Daniel Burke by Melanie Barocas