People of Georgian: International dancer finds inner strength after life-changing injuries
July 23, 2021

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People of Georgian: Meet Antonio Sardella

My mom said I was dancing before I was even born.

Every time she would put the music on, she’d see her belly dancing.

So, as I grew up in Italy, I was that kid who said “I want to dance” while all the other kids were telling their dads, “I want to play soccer.”

A person wearing a white T-shirt and blue jean jacket with no sleeves smiles and leans against a metal railing outside.

I started dancing when I was eight years old. Then at 14 I moved to Florence to a professional dance academy.

I got my first professional contract at age 15, and from there I travelled the world. I’ve been on TV, national tours, theatres, radio, all over Italy and Europe. Then I started performing on cruise ships.

I’ve been to more than 50 countries doing what I love.

I also became an aerialist: I was flying (dancing in the air), performing on silks, trapeze and other aerial apparatuses.

Two people dance through the air, held up by lines against a starry night background. They are dressed as Peter Pan in a green jumper, leggings and hat, and Wendy in a blue dress.

Then I ended up working for Disney, in Tokyo, Japan, where I was portraying my favourite characters Peter Pan and Snow White Prince. I was living my best dreams.

Four dancers on a stage dressed as Snow White, The Prince and other characters.

I stayed there for a year until my body broke to pieces because I was pushing too much. I was doing five, six shows a day.

I got a ton of injuries that landed me in a wheelchair.

‘I would be lucky if I got back to walking’

I went from being able-bodied – my body was my temple, my money-maker, my everything – to feeling paralyzed with herniated discs and protrusions and knees that needed replacing.

Deep down, I knew I was never going to go back to dancing. I would be lucky if I got back to walking.

I went into a deep, dark hole of depression where I didn’t know what I wanted to do with my life.

All I had done was dancing and performing, I needed a big life change.

That’s when I decided to move to Canada.

At first I hated it because it was -40 C in the winter and I didn’t want to live in an “ice box” – but then I got into teaching dance to little kids and loved it.

Plus, I had the time to help my body recover.

A dancer, pictured from behind, jumps across a rural landscape with one arm out to the side and the other held up above their head.

I found my own strength because I lost it.

Antonio Sardella, Georgian student and international dancer

Eventually, I took a personal training course to help others grow stronger, and I also started teaching more dance classes and judging local, national and international dance competitions.

I wanted to work more deeply with people’s injuries, and I wound up in Georgian’s Occupational Therapist Assistant and Physiotherapist Assistant program.

Now I’m figuring out where my new path is headed. I want to incorporate my background as a performer, plus personal trainer experience, and occupational and physical therapy.

I really like being able to tell others that you can do it even if it seems impossible. I found my own strength because I lost it.

Antonio Sardella, international student and dancer from Torino, Italy, in Georgian’s Occupational and Physical Therapy Assistant program and a mentor with Georgian’s Peer Mentor program.

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