What does a girl need to become a ballerina?
A pretty pink leotard? Check. A pretty pink tutu? Check.
Ballet slippers and a pair of long, graceful arms? Check and check.
On Wednesday, 6-year-old Port Orchard resident Michaella Hargrave had all that as she practiced for an upcoming recital with her fellow dancers at the Just for Kicks School of Dance.
But this little ballerina also had something extra — wheels.
Michaella — Micah to family and friends — needs a wheelchair to get around since she suffers from spinal muscular atrophy, which makes her muscles too weak to support her body.
“She got her first wheelchair when she was 2,” said Micah’s mother Kelly Hargrave, explaining that she and her husband, Russell, did not know there was a problem until their daughter passed her first birthday and was still struggling to walk. “She could stand and crawl, but couldn’t walk on her own.”
But that doesn’t keep Micah from dancing.
“She’s always wanted to dance and be a ballerina,” Kelly said. “She dances all around the house and loves to wear her tutu.”
Russell, who moved here four years ago with his family to work at the Puget Sound Naval Shipyard, said his daughter’s favorite move is to spin her wheelchair in a twirl, and that she loves to zoom through the house.
On Wednesday, Russell was videotaping his daughter’s session, explaining that he uses the recordings to help Micah practice her routines at home.
Later this month, Micah will take that dancing to the stage, thanks to the local chapter of the Make-A-Wish Foundation, which has been working with Just for Kicks and Pacific Northwest Ballet in Seattle to make her ballerina dreams come true.
“When my husband heard she wanted to be a ballerina, he thought immediately of Just For Kicks, where our daughters have been going for years,” said Denise Thibeault, whose husband A.J. became involved with Make-A-Wish as a volunteer six years ago.
“Most of the time, the child has a clear idea of what they want, and so did Micah,” A.J. said. “She said right off — ‘I want to be a ballerina.’”
So the Thibeaults approached Just For Kicks owner Tanya Bleil-Geiselman, who said she was not only happy to help, but her school had just started to practice a dance that seemed to have been designed for Micah.
Done to the song “In My Own Little Corner,” the number has the girls sitting in and dancing around chairs, and includes the lyric, “In my own little chair.”
“(Micah) came right in and caught up,” said Bleil-Geiselman, explaining that although the other students had started practicing the dance by the time she joined the group, Micah got up to speed quickly and is “doing great.
“Tanya has been really great about making sure (Micah) can do everything,” Kelly said. “It’s been really great to watch her do things that everybody else her age is doing.”
“I told her parents, ‘She’s got dance lessons for life,’” Bleil-Geiselman said.
All this practicing culminates in a recital June 28, which will feature a special, star-treatment reception for Micah.
The details of that night are top-secret, but what isn’t a secret is the red-carpet treatment Micah is getting this weekend by Pacific Northwest Ballet. Courtesy of the dance company and other businesses, Micah and her parents will be treated to dinner atop the Space Needle, a limo ride to the PNB’s performance and a hotel stay Saturday night.
“These wishes are meant to be a magical day for the child, and a memorable day for the family,” said A.J. Thibeault, explaining that the parents suffer along with their child as he or she undergoes medical treatments, and all the pampering is meant to be a welcome distraction.
“It’s been really great, doing all these fun things with the family,” said Kelly, adding that Micah has been “totally happy.”