Del Mar: Assaulted dancer recovers from coma, stars in ‘Nutcracker’
By Erin Meanley/Contributor
But just a year ago, he was recovering from a violent assault and resulting coma.
In October 2009, Stegge was jumped by two teenagers with a baseball bat in the suburbs of Concord, Calif. (near Berkeley).
He was crossing the street, just a few houses away from his very own home. Stegge, a principal dancer at Diablo Ballet, was found face down in the street, his severely fractured skull pressing into two sections of his brain. A passerby discovered the unconscious dancer and called 911. Stegge was later told that, with his wallet missing, he entered the ER as “John Doe.”
For days, he drifted in and out of consciousness, hearing the voices of doctors and hoping it was an extremely bad dream. About three days later, Stegge came out of his coma with no memory of the attack. He has since gleaned a few details from the police and, of course, was informed by doctors that he’d had major brain surgery.
He left the hospital with a titanium plate in his head and a mind full of determination.
According to the Oakland Tribune, Stegge had to relearn to walk, use his right arm, and see on his right side. It was also reported that he’d signed up for health insurance just two weeks prior to the attack; friends helped raise money for the deductibles on hospital bills exceeding $200,000.
He began dancing just three months after his hospitalization.
“It was hard to get both my body and my brain working well enough,” says Stegge, “but mostly I focused on getting my life back to normal.” With the support of friends, family and colleagues, Stegge made tremendous advances in record time.
“Most people would have difficulty recovering from the injuries he sustained,” adds Del Mar Ballet co-founder Muriel Teague, who has known Stegge for more than 10 years. “It would be daunting to get back into the kind of physical shape necessary to dance professionally,” she continues. “Eddie accepted the challenge and was able to recover because of the great shape he was in as a dancer.”
Being able to remember choreography was another hurdle. “It is still a bit challenging at times,” Stegge admits, “but it’s hardly anything to complain about, compared with what could have been.”
“We were so excited to have him here dancing with us,” says Teague. Together with her husband (and co-founder) Thomas, she hired Stegge to dance the role of the Nutcracker Prince/Cavalier in their “Nutcracker.” Teague noted that Stegge has danced the Cavalier role many times for various companies.
“He has a unique talent for adapting to new styles and interpreting any choreography presented to him. Eddie is also great around the students—he interacts with them well and is a wonderful role model.”
The founding directors flew Stegge down to perform in the show, but also because his participation is part of the education at Del Mar Ballet, a dance school founded in July 2009 by Thomas and Muriel Teague. Located on Sorrento Valley Road, the studio is steps from the Coaster station. For “The Nutcracker,” the Teagues mixed professional talent (like Stegge) with 50 young locals.
“When it’s time to perform, we ensure that our students experience dancing in a professional setting,” says Teague. “We take the opportunity to educate them—as well as the audience—as to how far the art form goes by bringing in high-level professional dancers to dance along with the students. It is a great experience and very inspiring for everyone.”
Stegge, with his sweet nature and superb talent, did his part to inspire and be a good example of hard work to local boys and girls. On stage, he interacted with the other dancers and delivered a stellar performance, not skimping on any of the Cavalier’s requisite jumps, leaps, or triple turns. He was simultaneously athletic and graceful, receiving a round of applause, mid-number, during his exhausting bravura solo.
It was difficult to believe that a year ago, he was hardly walking.
It almost begs the question—since, in show business, wishing someone “good luck” is bad luck—does anyone tell Stegge to “Break a leg”? “Sure! I’d be worried if people weren’t joking with me about it, because I am,” he says. “I think it’s a good sign when you are able to laugh at yourself.”
For more information on Del Mar Ballet, visit www.delmarballet.com.
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