Dancer overcomes obstacles on path to achieving her dreams

TUSCALOOSA, Ala. (WIAT) — It’s precision and control. It’s beauty masking strength. It’s grace masking pain.

Ellory Nichols knows the moment she fell.

“When I was five years old I saw Baryshnikov,” Nichols said. “I didn’t know who he was, but I saw him in the Nutcracker on TV.”

Some love stories last a lifetime. The trick, however, is making it look effortless.

“Sometimes you have to simplify it,” Nichols said. “You’ve gotta start small.”

It’s never that easy, especially for Nichols. She suffers from epilepsy, which makes dancing an even bigger challenge.

She was told early on that she would be able to grow out of it because she was young. Nichols says she did grow out of it for a short time, but she was still teased by her classmates.

“My science teacher told me that I would never succeed,” Nichols said. “I would never go anywhere. She told me that I should go ahead and drop out and just get my GED. I would wind up in jail. I jut remember sitting there crying. I thought it was a bad dream.”

But her dream was still driving her, despite the teasing and the odds she faced.

Until one day she lost control.

“We don’t know [what started it]. We just know I started having [seizures] again, and it was very rough, because I was told, ‘You can’t dance. You can’t drive. You can’t do this. You can’t do that,’” Nichols said.

In a sense, it’s even impacted her college education.

“With having seizures, I didn’t want to be in such a big class,” Nichols said. “If I’m in a big class and I have a seizure, I don’t want to be embarrassed.”

Her whole life changed, though, when she was given a new companion – a service dog named Molly.

Nichols refused to give up dancing.

“I think it’s just in their hearts,” said Melissa Brooks, who is Nichols’ advisor at Stillman College. “They’ve just got a love of dance. They’ve got a love for it.”

When Nichols enrolled at Stillman, there was another problem she had to face. Stillman College didn’t have a dance program.

She was asked if she still wanted to go to Stillman College. She responded with a resounding affirmation.

“I said, ‘Yeah, I can get one started,’ “Nichols said.

In January of 2014, Nichols hosted auditions for Stillman’s first performing company, and she’s also hoping to create a dance major.

“It means a lot. I’ve worked very hard,” Nichols said. “I’ll try not to get emotional about it.”

Despite all of the trials, all of the barriers, dancing at Stillman is finally a place where Nichols’ dream can come back into focus, and along with the new program, she can grow.

“I always say the seizures will not define who I am,” said Nichols. “I don’t care if my doctor, if he says quit dance. No.”

It’s supposed to look effortless.

In reality, though, it isn’t.

But Nichols’ life is a dance she choreographs, and she’s moving through it with grace.

2014 WIAT-TV CBS42

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