NORTH OGDEN -- Aspen Field's dream of becoming a dancer was nearly destroyed when she broke the tibia in her left leg in a fifth-grade gym class.
But the 17-year-old would not be deterred, and now she's one of the youngest dancers in the University of Utah Performing Dance Company, and an instructor as well.
Aspen knew she could overcome her physical problem and become a dancer.
"I have always known I loved dancing. If I'm told I can't do something, I go and do it," she said.
When Aspen was 8, her mother, Julie Field, took her to see "The Nutcracker," and the girl became hooked on ballet. She attended Ballet West Academy and before long danced with Imagine Ballet Theater.
That stopped when she broke her leg. Doctors told her she would never dance again. One doctor said she would need to have metal plates screwed onto the broken bone, but that option was rejected. Another doctor put rods into her leg after struggling to get the bone to line up. Aspen went home from the hospital in a cast up to her hip.
Aspen couldn't accept that she would never dance again. While still in a cast, she tried dance moves. Once the cast and rods were removed, she spent weeks in physical therapy to strengthen the leg.
Then it was back to dance class.
Julie Field looked for a dance teacher who would take Aspen as a student despite the possibility she wouldn't be able to dance. She found LaRae Thackeray, owner of LaRae's School of Dance in Layton and a teacher at a Kaysville school. Aspen attended junior high and high school in Kaysville and was able to attend Thackeray's dance classes.
"I look for potential," Thackeray said, praising Aspen's ability.
"Aspen has great upper-body strength; she needed to build her leg strength," Thackeray said.
It wasn't long before Aspen was dancing a solo in one of the school's performances.
"She has a lot of stage presence," Thackeray said. "It was hard, grueling work to make her leg strong. She was a student teacher here. I ask my very best students to be assistants so they can learn how to teach. Her ballet background makes her more valuable."
Aspen has used that experience to broaden her horizons and now is an instructor as well as a dancer.
"I teach Zumba classes twice a week," she said.
Some of her students are younger than she is.
"Because I am teaching kids my own age, I know what they are going through," Aspen said.
She perseveres despite the lingering effects of her broken leg.
"I still have after-effects. My leg gets sore where it was broken. Some days it's hard to dance."
At Davis High School, she was in the Davis Dance Company but decided to do modern dance instead of ballet.
"I wasn't happy where I was, so I auditioned for the modern dance program. It was probably the best decision I have ever made," she said.
Modern dance lets her express emotions without words. She said, "Dancing helps people understand. This is a way to express what I can't say."