Women’s gymnastics is a sport that thrives off perfectionism. A flawless body must perform an error-free routine, which culminates with a perfect landing topped off with a beauty queen smile. Injury is unacceptable and intense practice is expected.20 year old PCC student Isabelle Allender is a former gymnast who used to have a deep passion for gymnastics. A career-threatening injury forced the former level six gymnast to retire from the sport that she immensely adored sooner than she expected.
The minute she was injured, Allender unknowingly introduced herself to her new passion: dance.
“When I was in the third grade I begged my mom to put me in gymnastics and she did. I excelled at it. It was my favorite thing to do and I did it all the time,” said Allender about her beginnings.
Allender’s mother was a traveling photographer making it tough for Allender to stay involved in the sport because most of her life she was constantly moving.
She lived in numerous countries and 48 states at one point in her life excluding Hawaii and Alaska.
Things became easier when she was 12 years old. She decided to permanently live with her father in Burbank.
It was in Burbank where she really honed her skills by competing and performing in numerous shows and competitions.
Her career as a gymnast was cut early as a high school junior at Burbank’s Burroughs High School when she hurt her back doing backhand springs on the balance beam.
“It felt like I pulled a muscle. It hurt really bad. I couldn’t do anything else that day and it lingered on. There was swelling in my back,” said Allender about her injury.
She was unable to tape up the damaged area to eliminate the pain. There was no back brace available that she could use to compete in gymnastics.
The injury had long-lasting implications and she was forced to leave the sport for good.
“Time went on. I grew up and there was still nothing I can do about the injury. My dream was lost. I didn’t know what to do,” she said. “I still love the sport very much, but I can’t compete and that’s what hurt the most, but I’ve moved on to new and better things.”
As a senior in high school a year after her injury, Allender was watching one of her close friend’s dance classes and she became entranced with the activity.
“I was watching her and it just took me away. I was so excited to watch the class. I wanted to be a part of it,” recalled Allender. Soon after, the teacher asked her to join the dance team and her new love affair with dancing began.
It didn’t take long for her to pick up steps and routines. Her previous training as a gymnast was key in her new training as a dancer.
“Isabelle is an excellent student. She is one of the quicker students in the class. She looks like she’s been a student of dance for years,” said Professor Richard Kuller, a dance teacher at PCC.
She admits dancing is much more enjoyable than gymnastics. The creativity and personal touch that is left behind from gymnastics appeals to Allender. She feels less restricted and a sense of independence in her new interest.
“Pretty soon it was my life. I could be so much freer. It was everything that I was looking for. It was just enough physical activity that I could do. In gymnastics, I couldn’t have the freedom, I couldn’t have the personal touch. It’s a lot more fun. I’m glad dancing is my new passion” she said.
Allender will perform in upcoming shows at PCC and hopes to dance in music videos after she finishes school.
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