Bella and Becca’s Story

May 28, 2019

A Dream Come True: Sports Medicine Physician Makes Sure Nothing Gets in Ballerina Team's Way

Pictured from left Becca and Bella. Photo Credit Ebeth Fielder

hunterbeccaleftbellarightballerinaSarah Hunter of Detroit remembers that when her oldest daughter Bella was only 12 months of age she memorized choreography while watching television.

“Our pastor at World of Faith in Southfield, Bishop Keith A. Butler, said, ‘Parents, watch your children and they will show you what they were created to do.’ It was pretty clear at a young age that Bella was destined to dance. Her sister Becca, just one year younger, followed in her footsteps,” says Sarah.

Both girls started dance around the age of two and their love for ballet has led them to international recognition in their sport. Bella and Becca’s training includes the Cecchetti method, one of the world’s most challenging training methods of classical ballet.

Sarah explains the rigorous training program is similar to karate in that there are several levels of expertise. “Becca and Bella are at the diploma level in Cecchetti which is uncommon. For those more familiar with karate it’s like earning a black belt,” she says.

Because of the rigorous training involved with ballet, Sarah and her husband Freddie, a former captain for the University of Michigan basketball team, knew they needed a partner in sports medicine to treat and help prevent injuries that are common given the toll ballet takes on many parts of the body.

They found that partner with Kunal Kalra, M.D., orthopedic surgeon at DMC Children’s Hospital of Michigan, who specializes in sports medicine.

“Dr. Kalra appreciates that ballet is not only an art form but a very rigorous sport. He sees Becca and Bella an average of three to four times per year to treat complications such as recurring ankle and knee injuries as well as back issues. They also undergo physical therapy when needed. We are so appreciative of the excellent care that Dr. Kalra continues to provide for our daughters. When they see him, it feels like they are his only patients in the world. He not only provides excellent care, but is so genuine and kind and truly goes beyond the call of duty,” Sarah says.

One example of the care they will always be grateful for occurred when Becca and Bella were invited to perform in an international ballet competition in Florence, Italy representing the U.S.A.

Sarah says they were the only two sisters in the world invited to this year’s competition. Becca had an ankle injury and her dance director Betty Mitchell from The Link School of the Arts in Troy, insisted Rebecca should be seen by Dr. Kalra to assure she was not seriously injured before they headed to Italy for the competition.

Becca had plantar fasciitis and tendonitis (inflammation of the tendon) and this prevented her from going on her toes without severe pain.

“Dr. Kalra made room in his schedule late on a Friday afternoon because we were boarding our plane early Monday morning. We felt it was vital for Rebecca’s confidence to be seen by the doctor who knew her best. We were so grateful that she was able to be seen by Dr. Kalra on such short notice,” says Sarah.

She adds that the recently opened Children’s Hospital of Michigan-Troy offers a wonderful option for care. Bella and Becca can see Dr. Kalra either close to home or close to their training facility.

As for their future aspirations, Bella, 18 and Becca, 17 both hope to pursue their dream of becoming professional dancers. “As well as auditioning at professional dance companies, Bella is applying to colleges that offer a dance major. Becca plans to go straight into a professional program after graduating from high school,” says Sarah. 

As Dr. Kalra sees the girls pursue their dreams, he plans to make sure nothing from a physical standpoint gets in their way.

“During my Orthopedic Sports Medicine fellowship training in New York, I took care of dance athletes from Alvin Ailey dance academy and I realized how difficult the training is to get to this elite level. It has been my privilege that I have been trusted to care for Bella and Becca by their parents. I am grateful for the trust they have bestowed on Children's Hospital of Michigan and our team,” says Dr. Kalra. 

“Dance athletes frequently experience foot and ankle injuries due to the nature of their sport. They can also incur muscle sprains and rarely even ligament injuries of the knee or ankle. It’s imperative that these athletes not only stretch diligently for at least half an hour each day, but also strengthen their muscles including their core abdominal and trunk muscles,” he adds. 

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