Dancing With Grace

A Broken Arrow teen dances despite the odds.

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Nineteen-year-old Kyle Tyson continues her passion for dance despite a crippling illness that left her partially paralyzed years ago. Photo by Brandon Scott.

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Nineteen-year-old Kyle Tyson continues her passion for dance despite a crippling illness that left her partially paralyzed years ago. Photo by Brandon Scott.

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Nineteen-year-old Kyle Tyson continues her passion for dance despite a crippling illness that left her partially paralyzed years ago. Photo by Brandon Scott.

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Tyson and her therapy dog, Dessa, practice bar work. Photo by Brandon Scott.

Like many other 19-year-olds, V. Kyle Tyson has spent the summer preparing for college, finding a place to live, choosing her classes and worrying about how she’ll make new friends. Yet, Tyson isn’t quite like most 19-year-olds.

In 2011, when Tyson was 15, an illness left her paralyzed from her collarbone down. Doctors diagnosed Tyson with transverse myelitis, a neurological disease caused by an inflammation of the spinal cord.

In the following months, Tyson slowly regained feeling in her extremities; however, the swelling in her spine persists.

“There aren’t a lot of dance programs for people with mobility problems,” says Tyson. “iMErge puts students with mobility problems alongside other able-bodied students.”

“I have good days and bad days,” says the Broken Arrow teen. “I fake it to make it some days.”

Medications allow Tyson to walk briefly, but she requires a wheelchair or a walker most of the time.

Through all of the adversity, Tyson has never lost sight of her passions in life.

“I have been dancing since I was 2 years old,” she says. “It never occurred to me to stop now.”

Tyson became the first wheelchair-bound person to perform for the Youth America Grand Prix, the world’s largest student ballet scholarship competition.

“I didn’t know it at the time,” recalls Tyson. “I was just so excited to be out of the hospital and be with [my friends]. I was very excited to even get to compete.”

Tyson’s mother, Laura Tyson, has since created iMErge, a performing arts program for teens who are physically limited. iMErge is part of Oklahoma Performing Arts, a center for art education.

“There aren’t a lot of dance programs for people with mobility problems,” says Tyson. “iMErge puts students with mobility problems alongside other able-bodied students.”

Tyson, a recent graduate of Oklahoma Performing Arts, also teaches dance to children as young as 4 years old.

“I love teaching little kids,” shares Tyson. “They are very accepting of what I can and can’t do. I show them everyone has limits, but you can still learn. I teach them, and they teach me.”

Tyson has big goals ahead. She plans to study public relations and minor in acting and film.

“It will be a struggle at first,” Tyson says of college. “But, everybody struggles at first anyway. I am excited for this adventure.”

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