Last dance culminates a journey from setback

Advocate staff photo by ADAM LAU -- Natalie Hano, 14, center, swaggers with Central Middle School's dance team as it performs its state-championship-winning hip hop routine during halftime of Central Middle School's basketball game against Lowery Middle School in Prairieville on Jan. 24.
Advocate staff photo by ADAM LAU -- Natalie Hano, 14, center, swaggers with Central Middle School's dance team as it performs its state-championship-winning hip hop routine during halftime of Central Middle School's basketball game against Lowery Middle School in Prairieville on Jan. 24.

Central Middle School’s Maggie Tortorich couldn’t hold back tears recently as she and the other members of the Dancing Mustangs performed for the last time as a group.

For Maggie, 13, it was the end of a bumpy journey that was almost over before it started.

Maggie had danced since she was 2 and was a member of a competition dance team for many years. Dancing with her middle school’s dance team was a dream she worked hard for.

On Sept. 13, 2011, Maggie was involved in a car crash that left her with a skull fracture and in critical condition.

“We were on our way to pick up her ballet shoes she forgot for dance class,” mother Kristi Tortorich said.

Maggie credits dance and her desire to make the dance team for pushing her through her recovery.

“I knew tryouts for my dream of being a Dancing Mustang were slim to none if I didn’t push it,” she said. “My accident happened three days after my 11th birthday in September on the way to ballet practice. Some of my last understandable words were ‘call Ms. Katherine. I don’t think I will make dance tonight.’”

Dance team tryouts were in March.

“I refused home schooling as all the doctors suggested so I could dance,” she said.

She continued to push her doctors about when and if she could return to dance, Kristi said.

In March she made the team.

“Dance was the main reason I recovered,” she said.

Maggie and the other dancers ended their season on a high note with a win at the recent American All Star Louisiana State Competition in Lafayette.

The team, led by dance team sponsor Nikki Foster Hall, won first place in pompoms and hip-hop and took home a third place win in the jazz division, Hall said.

The win came just one year after a disappointing competition that led the coach to encourage her team to practice with hopes of improving.

“As a team, we have very high goals and expectations for ourselves,” Hall said. “We want to be the best, so the girls work very hard to achieve that. You never know who you will be competing against at the competition so you have to show up ready.”

The team showed off its trophies and one of their award-winning rotuines at a Jan. 24 basketball game.

Maggie and some of the other eighth-graders will soon be trying out for a spot on the East Ascension High School’s Spartanettes dance team.

Maggie wants to earn a dance teaching certificate so she can teach at Erin’s Dance Company, the school she’s been a part of for since she was two.

One day, she would like to be a part of the LSU Golden Girls.

On Monday, Maggie was told she has been nominated for the Louisiana Young Hero Award.

“So proud of our little dancer,” Kristi said.

“She’s our little miracle,” Krisiti said, adding that she’s thankful dance is still a part of her daughter’s life.

In addition to Maggie the team includes officers Lexie Babin, Kallie Davis, Allison Delapasse, Annie Lambert and Bailee Ramey; squadleader Natalie Hano; eighth-graders Madisyn Allred, Emily Kline, Ally Laiche, Kaylin Poirrier, Jayce Sholmire, Alyssa Ford, Bayli Kendrick, Emma Stafford; and seventh-graders Selina Dison, Colbie Foltz, Reagan Herrington, Amber Pearson, Jacelyn Wheat and Rachel Wheat.