ELLSWORTH – Dance runs in Chelsea Vietti‘s family.
She’s been a part of her mother’s Libitzki School of Dance since she was five years old.
Over the years, a lot has changed, but dance has been the one constant, carrying her though the changing rhythm of her life.
For as long as Chelsea Vietti can remember, her life has revolved around dance.
“This is what I’m meant to be doing,” she said.
She started when she was five.
“It was definitely an escape for me,” Vietti said. “If I was stressed out or whatever, I knew I would just come to my ballet classes, and be able to just focus on that, focus on my body for an hour and a half, and let everything else go away.”
Now, she helps others who are in her old shoes.
“Our oldest kids that are doing amazing things, it’s exciting to say, ‘Oh my gosh, I remember doing that,'” Vietti said.
“My husband and I are always saying she’s our hero, because I don’t know how many people could do what she does,” said Cheryl Libitzki, Chelsea’s mom and founder of the Libitzki School of Dance.
What started as a hobby for Vietti would become the thing that kept her going.
“It definitely pulled me out of a dark place,” Vietti said.
On the night of her 22nd birthday, her life took an unexpected turn.
“It was the most traumatizing thing in our lives,” said Libitzki.
She was in an accident with a drunk driver, shattering her C4-C5 vertebrae. It was the first bone she’d ever broken.
“I really didn’t think that this is where my life would go. I definitely thought, ‘Oh, you know, I just broke a bone. I‘ll heal and I’ll be back to doing what I was planning on in a couple months,'” Vietti said. “It didn’t compute that, ‘Oh my gosh, my life is going to be completely different.'”
Instead, Vietti was paralyzed, confined to a wheelchair for the rest of her life.
“I was devastated and needed to find a way back to being a part of it somehow,” Vietti said of her love of dance.
That’s when the student became the teacher, proving herself, and others who may have doubted her, wrong.
“Honestly, I think the biggest frustration would be people thinking I can’t, you know? ‘How can someone who’s in a wheelchair teach dance? You have to move your body,'” Vietti said.
“The type of ballet my mom started the school on, it’s not meant to be demonstrated,” she explained.
With her family’s support, Vietti returned to the dance school for her new role as a teacher, one she’s held for more than ten years now.
“Here she is in this wheel chair, in front of all these mirrors, but confident and just so happy to be back a part of it,” Libitzki said.
“It’s not just a dance lesson, it’s a life lesson, showing someone who was a vibrant dancer, she got hurt and here she is and she’s doing this and she’s doing it so well and loving it and passing that on to the kids, it’s just amazing,” Libitzki added.
“Life changes in a minute. You never know what’s going to happen,” Vietti said. “You kinda have to embrace it and go with the flow and see how and where it takes you.”
Chelsea Vietti’s story is the latest in our new series Heart of Maine, which will be airing every other week on ABC 7 and FOX 22.
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