Right now, you're probably getting pretty pumped about one major high school milestone: Prom! Do you have your dress yet? Did you work up the courage to ask that special someone? Are you planning the best-ever post-prom party? We thought so.

Dancers do prom in the best way. I mean, getting dressed up and dancing the night away? That's kind of our M.O. To get in the spirit of all things prom, Dance Spirit asked a few of our favorite pros about their big nights—and what they had to say is just so cute!

Tookey looking fab with husband Gene Gabriel at the 2011 Emmy Awards (via Zimbio.com)

Stacey Tookey

I wore a floor-length, velvet (yes, velvet!) wine-colored dress with a sweetheart neckline and a long slit up the side. I also wore long white gloves, like I was royalty or something. My mom did my hair—which, in that pre-blonde era, was brown—in an updo. (Actually, that hair is the only part of the outfit I'd reprise today. Go, mom!) It was 1994, and I thought my outfit was amazing.

At the reception, my date pulled out my chair for me, and like the dancer I am, I sat down in a wide, turned out second, and I ripped the slit of my dress all the way up to my waist! I was so embarrassed. But my very sweet date gave me his suit jacket, and I wore it all night.

Kyle Hanagami can certainly bust a move now! (Jayme Thornton for DS)

Kyle Hanagami

I went to prom with a bunch of friends. I think I wore a suit... I don't really remember, but I'm sure it wasn't super cool. What I can remember is standing on the dance floor and being terrified to dance! I didn't start dancing until after I graduated high school, so I couldn't even two-step. How embarrassing!

Dowling in her real wedding gown with husband Reza Fakrieh (via @joeydowling)

Joey Dowling

When I was a sophomore, I got to go to prom with a guy I thought was the hottest boy in school. He was a junior, and he was blonde, tan and buff—he looked like a surfer. I remember shopping for my dress with my mom, and thinking how absolutely perfect it had to be. I found it: A white halter dress with a low back and beading all the way up the front. I probably looked like I was about to walk down the aisle...but I thought it was gorgeous! I wore my hair in a high French twist with the ends hanging out and curled. (That was big back then.)

The prom was held in the Capitol building in my hometown. The whole night felt like a fairy tale. Date dances in high school were usually lame and awkward, but that night was one of the best of my life!

Prom! A young Torbert posing with friends from Fiorello H. LaGuardia High School of Music & Art and Performing Arts (Courtesy Torbert)

Ade Chike Torbert

I ended up asking my girlfriend at the time to prom. But because we didn't start dating until the end of the school year, we had both originally planned to go with close friends of ours—so it was a little tough breaking the news to them.

I wore an all-white suit with a white fedora and a champagne-colored vest. I was definitely the best-dressed! We all had such a great night. Our prom was held at this beautiful venue by the South Street Seaport in NYC, and there was a ton of food and great music. Then we boarded a yacht and continued to party until the wee hours of the morning.

Not going to prom this year? You're not alone. Many of the dancers we spoke with confessed they never made it, either—they were too wrapped up in their dance commitments. Take former New York City Ballet soloist (and current Dance Spirit columnist!) Kathryn Morgan, for example:

Morgan with Seth Orza in NYCB's Romeo and Juliet (Paul Kolnik/NYCB)

Kathryn Morgan

Unfortunately, I never got to go to a real prom. I was hired by New York City Ballet at the end of my junior year of high school and finished school online. I do, however, consider my debut as Juliet my "prom." I was 17, and it was a huge deal for me. There was a beautiful ballroom scene, and that was a pretty great prom substitute! I wore three dresses and had two hairstyles: up for the first half of the evening, and half-up/half-down for the second. My "date" was my Romeo, Seth Orza...though he was engaged to someone else! 

 

Kelsie competing (courtesy Hall of Fame Dance Challenge)

I was 10 when I first knew something was wrong. I was dancing at a dress rehearsal, and suddenly, without warning, I couldn’t breathe. It was terrifying. My teacher called an ambulance, and I was rushed to the emergency room. My throat had swollen shut and my lips were big and puffy, so the doctors assumed I’d had an allergic reaction. They diagnosed me with allergies to ibuprofen and naproxen, as well as exercise-induced asthma, and sent me home.

After that, similar attacks happened every few months or so—and my allergy medications were doing nothing to help. I could tell an attack was starting because I’d get tired and dehydrated, and then my body would start to tingle. But I was baffled as to what was triggering them because I wasn’t taking the medications I was supposedly allergic to and attacks didn’t always happen during physical activity. There was no pattern. Sometimes I’d even be sleeping and the swelling would wake me up.

I found refuge in dance class. I was on the competition team at Nouveau Dance Company in Plainfield, IL, and I loved being able to walk into the studio and forget about everything else. But every time I got an attack, I’d have to take time off, which made it harder to keep up with my teammates.

By my freshman year in high school, my attacks had increased in frequency and involved swelling in my lips, cheeks, nasal passages, hands and neck. I also started having chronic abdominal pain, and my stomach would go from flat to extremely distended within minutes. It was painful, and I was embarrassed to go out in public. Eventually, I was having some sort of swelling or difficulty at least once a day. Still, no one could tell me what was wrong.

Kelsie giving herself an infusion poolside

Finally, in November 2011, doctors landed on a diagnosis: hereditary angioedema (HAE). HAE is a very rare disorder, so my doctor had to send me to a specialist. The disease causes my internal tissues to swell unpredictably. There’s nothing I did to cause it, and, as of right now, there is no cure. There’s also no known trigger, so I couldn’t eliminate anything from my day to cut back on attacks. I just had to treat the symptoms as they came with two medications, both injections. One had to be administered by a nurse, and the other I could do on my own.

In terms of school and dance, my doctors told me I could do whatever I was able to, which wasn’t much. It became difficult to last a full day at school, so I had to have tutors come in the evening—which meant no dance classes. Even when I could make it to the studio, the pain and swelling made it hard for me to dance full-out. Within three months of my diagnosis, I was taking all my courses at home online. Worst of all, I had to forfeit the rest of the competition season. I remember my first time walking into the studio after announcing I wasn’t going to continue. Every dancer was crying, and they gave me the biggest hugs.

That summer, some friends introduced me to the Shorewood HUGS foundation, home of Huggables, a dance program for kids with Down syndrome. I started teaching six dancers ages 8 to 12 every Sunday for 45 minutes. These kids became like little sisters to me. We began with basic positions and stretching, and this year, I introduced tap. In January, my high school put on a benefit for HAE awareness, and my students were able to perform. I was so proud.

Kelsie (center) with the Huggables

The Huggables are the perfect way for me to keep my love of dance alive, and teaching is a nice distraction from the fact that my attacks are getting worse. Now they last for three or four days, even with treatment. Then I have only a few days to recoup before the next one starts up. In February, I had to stop dancing completely. I stay as involved as possible with my studio, doing hair and makeup for the dancers, supporting the company at competitions and helping my teacher make costumes. Not being able to dance is devastating, but I’m still a part of the team.

People always say, “You don’t know what you’ve got till it’s gone.” I took things for granted, and I regret that now. All I want to do is step back into the studio and work hard and sweat and give everything I have, but I can’t.

Still, I haven’t given up hope. My dance teacher is determined to get me onstage, and I have doctors in Chicago, L.A. and Boston on my team, working hard to get me back into school and the studio on a regular basis. My dream is to go to University of California, Los Angeles, and then medical school. Eventually, I want to help others with HAE. And there’s no way I’m giving up on dance. I’m going to go back, whether it’s next season or in college. It’s going to happen.

Click here to learn more about HAE by reading our exclusive interview with Dr. G. Wendell Richmond, one of Kelsie’s doctors.

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