Nine months ago, Coastal City Ballet dancer Lucilla Munaretto was in a near-fatal rollerblading accident that landed her in a Vancouver hospital for weeks. The twenty-one-year-old ballerina from Argentina is now slowly making her way back to the studio, stepping into a character role this weekend in the pre-professional company’s Swan Lake.
Even in a minor role, Munaretto stands out in this production by German choreographer Irene Schneider. Her theatricality and grace were on full display when I stopped in to watch a dress rehearsal. It’s evident that she’s loving being back in rehearsal, in costume and performing.
Brittany Duggan Hi Lucilla, I’m Brittany.
Lucilla Munaretto: Nice to meet you. Do I know you?
BD No no, I’m just introducing myself.
LM Oh okay [laughs].
BD I heard about your accident last summer. What a year it’s been for you. How are you feeling today? I noticed you got a bit emotional.
LM Yeah, because I’m so happy. I was missing this. I was rushing and I was like ‘Yeah, I don’t have time, it’s so fun, it feels good, it feels like I really like to do this.’
BD Right, you’re back doing what you love. I noticed in the character piece you’re very expressive.
LM I think sometimes too much expressing.
BD No, not at all. Because people will be sitting for away, you have to let the people with the cheap seats see that you’re having a good time.
BD I wondered if you could tell me a bit about what the past eight months have been like?
LM It’s been such a good experience because I’m learning everything again, but this time I can’t cheat anymore. So I need to learn the proper things and I’m loving it, like I’m learning to live. Before I was kind of rushing everything, I was always like, ‘Oh my God, I need to do this, this, this, and I dont have time for anything,’ and now I’m like, ‘Just take it one step at a time, what happens will happen.’
BD Back in August, at the time of the accident, what do you remember as being some of the first thoughts going through your head as you realized what had happened and what that meant?
LM I don’t remember anything of the day of the accident, actually not even two weeks before. And after the accident probably a month for me doesn’t exist. But I remember one day, because I was kind of like stretching at the bed and the doctor told me, ‘You may not be back at dance, you just need to think about something else.’ I was like, ‘No, no, it’s all that I’ve done until now so why do I need to stop dancing?’ And all the pains that I have is just normal, like every dancer has some pain, all of the dancers go for some injury, this is one more that I have. Because for me it’s not that serious because I don’t remember; I don’t feel like I almost died. The thing that I remember is that I woke up in the hospital once and then I just left the hospital.
BD Throughout your recovery did you have doctors telling you to slow down when you were trying, as a dancer, to to just push through the pain?
LM Yup, they told me, ‘You have a really high level of supporting pain because you shouldn’t be moving now.’ Well I’ve felt pain my whole life, so one pain more or one pain less, it’s just a pain.
BD Did you ever hear that that might be dangerous to your recovery?
LM Yeah, one of them told me that I couldn’t jump and turn for at least one year because that will make my brain … [trails off circling head]. And then I went to the neurologist and the neurologist told me that my brain was healed, so it won’t interfere with my jumping or turning.
BD You walked into to the neurologist’s office and said ‘Hey, can I actually jump or can’t I?’ because you were itching to get back?
LM Yeah, I was worried about what the physiotherapist told me. She told me to calm down, it hasn’t even been a month since you left the hospital and you want to be jumping and turning in class, just calm down. But if the person that takes care of the brain told me that my brain is fine, I’m fine.
BD Were there any frustrations to coming back to dancing?
LM It is actually frustrating because I want to do stuff that I could do before but I can’t, like it doesn’t work now. But, at the same time, I think it’s a blessing because I’m learning since the beginning again and this time I won’t be able to, for instance lifting the leg high [demonstrates a développé to the side]. Before I found a way to lift it but by twisting and using the wrong muscles, so now I have the chance to relearn, to bring my leg up without using the wrong muscle.
BD What do you tell yourself to keep yourself motivated when things get hard?
LM I just think this is my second chance of living so if I don’t use it properly it will be a waste and I don’t want to waste a second chance of life. Who gets that? It’s really weird to hear someone that gets a second chance. So I just think if my life had a second chance why would a simple step, or a lifting of the arm, not deserve a second chance? I just give a second chance for everything.
BD If something doesn’t go well one day you think, well, there’s tomorrow.
LM Yeah, and I always think that the only day during the week that you can’t do anything is yesterday and tomorrow. So why do I need to live tomorrow and live yesterday if I’m here today? Like live today and enjoy life today because I don’t know if I’m going to be here tomorrow and yesterday has passed, so I’m living in the moment.
Coastal City Ballet premieres Swan Lake May 21 at the Vancouver Playhouse and June 10 at the Surrey Arts Centre.