A DETERMINED Ponteland dancer has reaped the rewards of her recovery.
Bethany Whittle has overcome a serious back injury to be named Miss Dance of Great Britain 2011.
The 20-year-old was told she could be left wheelchair-bound if she risked dancing again after an operation to repair a prolapsed disc, a rare condition for someone so young.
But after surgery and a lengthy period of rehabilitation, she vowed to get back on stage.
The former Ponteland Community High School pupil began competing again this year and in the popular BBC1 Saturday night show So You Think You Can Dance she almost made the final 20.
Ms Whittle has now beaten off competition from 47 other elite performers to win the national title in front of 3,000 spectators at the Winter Gardens in Blackpool.
“The doctors said there was a risk of paralysis if I took up dancing again, but I was determined to make a comeback and I was prepared to spend a long time doing rehabilitation,” she said.
“I had only been 100 per cent for a couple of months when I went for the first audition for So You Think You Can Dance and I’m really glad I did as getting through the rounds gave me a lot of confidence.
“I was first reserve for the television stage so I still went down to London and spent a month learning all the routines which was a great experience.
“For the Miss Dance competition, I was lucky enough to win my first regional heat to qualify for the final, then in Blackpool I did a three-minute modern jazz routine three times as it went down from 48 people to 12 then six.
“After what I had been through it was an absolutely amazing feeling to win the title — I’m over the moon. I was happy just to make the final as I remember going to watch it with my dance school when I was a little girl.”
Miss Whittle, whose parents Paul and Karen and brother Ben live in The Rise, has been dancing since the age of three and trained at the Elaine Milbourne Theatre Dance School in Throckley.
After high school she enrolled on a dance course at the Phil Winston Theatre Works in Blackpool, but her dreams were in doubt once she started to suffer from back problems when she was 17.
Things got worse and after a series of tests she was eventually diagnosed with a prolapsed disc and underwent an operation at Newcastle General Hospital in Spring 2009.
She said: “The pain was so bad that I had to stop dancing and this was months before the operation so when I started the rehabilitation I had lost a lot of muscle tone.
“It took me a long time and a range of exercises to get stronger bit by bit, but it has definitely been worth the effort. I owe everything to my family for their fantastic support, especially during the hard times.”
She is now moving to London and looking to obtain commercial work.