Tuesday, June 01, 2010

Deaf dancing queen makes it against the odds

Deaf dancing queen makes it against the odds

A profoundly deaf teenager is taking steps towards West End stardom after overcoming adversity to win a place at a top dance school.

Natasha Julien, 18, from Openshaw, beat off competition from hundreds of other hopefuls to gain entry to the Hammond School – a specialist performing arts centre.

Natasha was one when doctors told mum Paula Arrigonie, 44, that she was profoundly deaf. They warned it was unlikely she would speak and said her only option was to have a cochlear implant – a ‘bionic’ ear.

But Paula was stunned when NHS chiefs refused to pay for the operation and she told of her heartbreaking plight in the M.E.N. Just days after the story appeared, health bosses performed a U-turn and the toddler was given the vital treatment when she was three.

Paula, an ambulance worker, believes the operation gave her daughter the confidence to start dance classes in Clayton at the age of five. She said Natasha’s story showed it was possible to achieve anything against the odds.

Paula, of Neston Street, Higher Openshaw, said: “I’m so proud of her I could cry. When we found she was profoundly deaf we thought she would never speak and we were so upset when the NHS refused to give her the operation.

“Thanks to the M.E.N story, they changed their minds and the operation helped to give her confidence. She wants to be a role model to other children and people with disabilities to show you can achieve your dreams. She’s so talented I’m sure she’ll make it.”

Natasha, a former Wright Robinson College pupil, has won ‘trophy after trophy’ in dance styles ranging from ballet to contemporary.

She is set to study for a national diploma in dance at the Hammond School in Chester after coming through auditions. Her dream is to be a professional dancer.

Natasha’s three-year course will cost £14,000 a year and she now hopes kind-hearted M.E.N readers will help her pay her fees.

Anyone who can help should call City College, where Natasha is currently studying, on 0161 909 6655.