Karina Selvaggio

“Me as Julie Jordan–the only role in Carousel that is completely exempt from dancing.”


I have always been a performer, even when I’m not on stage.  I’ll admit, I love having–often hogging–the spotlight.  Singing, in particular, has always brought me joy.  Acting has also come naturally to me.  I have been performing in musical theater since I was in high school, and during and after college, my addiction to musicals only deepened.

Except, of course, for that one nagging little detail: I can’t dance.

Even before my ankylosing spondylitis manifested, my dancing was limited.  I had surgery for scoliosis when I was twelve, and with the addition of a couple pounds of metal in my spine, there already wasn’t a lot I could do.  AS combined with the metal in my spine made things worse–now, not only could I not bend, but my hips and legs had trouble.

Still, I continued to perform.  When I couldn’t get away with my awkward dancing, I played in the pit orchestra.  In the meantime, though, my condition only got worse.  When I started working full-time, I started walking with a cane part-time.  Now that I live in a place where driving is near impossible, and where there are few elevators but many stairs, I’ve had to give up theater entirely.  I have to climb two flights of stairs just to get to my apartment, and even when I’m not on the cane, I can’t overexert myself.  My legs go numb.  My hips creak.  My already fused spine declares mutiny.

There is one difference, though, between my story and many others’: I didn’t live with a mystery.  My mother was diagnosed before I was born, so as soon as I started exhibiting symptoms, I went to the doctor and got a swift diagnosis.  I delayed sharing the news with my mother, though, because admitting I had a problem would be the first step to an acceptance I did not want to accept.

Current status: working part-time at a few jobs.  I don’t have to be on my feet or standing for too long, so the variety helps.  My social life–which mostly consisted of performing and karaoke–has definitely been cut short.  After all, nobody wants to party with a cane.

One Response to “Karina Selvaggio”

  1. Dear Karina,
    Thank you so much for sharing your story with us. You have such a beautful voice, and we are blessed that you allowed us to hear you.
    Sincerely Cookie

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