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Ballroom Dance Company prepares for Swinging with Santa Holiday Ball

by: JAIME VALDEZ - Ballroom Dance Company owner Sunnie Page and 1-year-old Summer have been through a lot, after Page suffered a massive stroke during childbirth.With its taupe colored brick façade, The Ballroom Dance Company looks like any of the other buildings in Tigard’s downtown.

But inside, it’s anything but ordinary.

“This place is rock and roll central,” said the studio’s owner and director Sunnie Page as her 20-month-old daughter, Summer, bounces to music out on the ballroom floor.

The studio is preparing for Saturday’s showcase, the “Swinging with Santa Holiday Ball,” which features dances from novice to professionals, in a variety of dance styles the studio specializes in, including swing, Latin, belly dance and traditional ballroom.

The event is one of two showcases the dance company puts on in a year.

“It’s a little bit of everything that goes on here during the year,” said Page, a Tigard resident who grew up in Lake Oswego.

Check out The Ballroom Dance Company

What: ‘Swinging with Santa’ showcase

Where: 8900 S.W. Commercial St., in Tigard.

When: Saturday 7:30 to 10 p.m.

How much: Tickets $10 for adults, $5 for students. Children age 5 and younger are free.

Page, a retired professional ballroom dancer, spent years studying dance in New York and England and was ranked second in the nation as a novice before going professional in 2005.

Page said much of the credit for the company’s success is due to the popularity of TV series like “Dancing with the Stars” and “So, You Think You Can Dance,” which revolutionized the way ballroom dancing is seen by most Americans.

Page said she quickly outgrew her original space, a rundown grange in Southwest Portland, soon after opening, and needed to find something bigger.

What she found on Southwest Commercial Street was more than 17,400-square-feet, officially making it the largest ballroom dance studio in the country when it opened in 2007.

“I’ve never met a studio owner who said they wished they had built smaller,” Page said, laughing.

The studio’s clientele has also grown, exploding to a teaching staff of more than 20, training the Portland-area’s dancing elite.

‘Miraculous recovery’

by: TIMES PHOTO: JAIME VALDEZ - Ballroom Dance Company owner Sunnie Page watches her 1-year-old daughter, Summer. The dance studio is the largest in the country at more than 17,400 square feet.

You would never realize it by the way Page bounds after her daughter, but the former professional dancer had a miraculous recovery from a massive stroke nearly two years ago, which put her in a coma for weeks. The episode forced the dancer to learn to walk, speak and dance all over again.

“It’s like a made-for-TV movie,” Page said, recalling the story. Her doctors put her on blood thinners after she developed a blood clot in her leg while she was six months pregnant.

Page remained on the thinners for months. When she went into labor, she tore a blood vessel in her brain, triggering a massive stroke during the delivery.

Page said she didn’t realize that was what happened and went home with her husband and newborn daughter a few days later.

“My head was really hurting, and I had difficulty standing. But I thought that was just because I had given birth,” she said.

Not long after coming home, Page collapsed. She screamed for her husband, Matt, but all that came out was a whisper.

“It took all the strength I had to crawl to the bedroom,” she said. “I crawled onto the bed and woke my husband, and all I could do was touch my head.”

By the time paramedics arrived, she had stopped breathing and her heart rate had dropped to 30 beats per minute.

Page underwent an emergency craniotomy, removing a portion of her skull to relieve the pressure, and she slipped into a coma for weeks.

When she awoke, she was paralyzed on her left side.

“I had to relearn to speak, write, swallow. You would be surprised how many things require half your body,” she said.

Page had to put her profession as a dancer aside and focused on her recovery, she said.

“When I first went into rehab, there was a girl there who could push her own wheelchair, and I was so jealous,” Page said. “That was my goal — that one day I would be able to push my own wheelchair. That was as far as I could see.”

After two years, Page said she isn’t back up to where she was physically before the stroke. She considers her recovery to be “miraculous” and attributes her progress, in part, to her experience as a dancer.

“Learning how to move is not foreign to me,” she said. “For most people, they did that when they were small. But I have been learning how to move for my whole life. Learning how to lift my foot again, it’s similar to learning dance moves.”

Page began teaching again soon after she was released from the hospital.

“The first thing I did when I got back was got back to teaching some of my classes,” she said.

Page has been back at the studio full-time for about a year and teaching a few hours of classes a week. As she continues to regain strength and full mobility, Page would like to teach more.

“As a professional dancer, it’s really fun to share that experience with people, when you feel that same joint excitement with an audience. That’s rewarding, and it’s the same feeling you get when teaching, when you teach students something and then see them do those steps, it’s really rewarding.”

Saturday’s showcase begins at 7:30 p.m. at The Ballroom Dance Company, 8900 S.W. Commercial St., in Tigard.

For more information, visit www.theballroomdancecompany.com.



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