ORLANDO, Fla. — When 8-year-old Pressley Meek was a baby, doctors said she would never walk.
She made it her mission to prove them wrong by not only walking, but dancing.
Pressley, who was diagnosed with cerebral palsy as a baby, is still paralyzed on one side, legally blind in one eye and has trouble speaking.
But after half a decade worth of dance lessons, Pressley made her Orlando Ballet debut in her dream production, “The Nutcracker.”
Her mother, Nikole, said dancing and physical therapy changed Pressley’s life.
“I made it my mission to help her,” she said. “I put her in therapy five days a week. Dance has made all of the difference for her, not only for her body, but also confidence.”
Orlando Ballet has a special dance program for special needs children where the instructors learn sign language to communicate.
For years, Pressley had been here working toward one thing — to be cast in “The Nutcracker.”
“We bought a nutcracker, sat there in the audience, holding her nutcracker. We made it a tradition to come every year, walk in, buy the nutcracker, sits here and holds through the performance, at the end she says ‘I want to do that. That is my dream,’” Nikole said.
When the time came for tryouts, Nikole thought: What if she doesn’t make it? How would she and her family deal with devastation?
“I almost didn’t let her do it,” Nikole said. “The fear as a parent you have a fear of your child not making something. As a special needs parent, we are advocates for our children, we have walls for them. We have an extra layer of protection. I wanted to protect her, not letting her do it.”
But Pressley wouldn’t have taken no for an answer so she tried out, confident she would make it.
“After she auditioned, she asked me every day if I knew she made it or not,” Nikole said.
And just as the little girl knew she would, she did, cast as a party girl.
“I am a mix of emotions,” Nikole said. “I am just so proud of Pressley, how beautifully she overcomes her obstacles. How confident she is despite a vision deficit, speech impaired, left side paralysis.”
And Pressley shined on opening night, doing what she felt she was born to do — to dance like everybody is watching, because they were.