SHE was told never to perform again after a freak back injury threatened to leave her wheelchair bound.
But Bethany Whittle has defied medics to become one of Britain’s top dancers.
Bethany beat off competition from 48 elite performers to be named Miss Dance Great Britain 2011.
Her success last weekend in front of 3,000 spectators follows on the heels of her stint as first reserve performer on the popular BBC 1 Saturday night show So You Think You Can Dance.
Bethany, 20, from Darras Hall, Ponteland, said: “I had to win the regional heat to get through to the Miss Dance final but I couldn’t believe it when I won the whole competition, I was just shocked.
“This is my first proper year back since my injury and to win is still such an amazing feeling.”
For Bethany, making it to the final rounds of the TV show, judged by Arlene Philips and Nigel Lythgoe, while securing the top place in the prestigious dance contest would have seemed unachievable three years ago.
Having trained in dance from a young age at the Elaine Milbourne Theatre Dance School in Throckley, the former Ponteland High School pupil left the region and her family, aged 16, heading to Blackpool after winning a place at the Phil Winston Theatre Works.
But during her first year there she started to suffer back problems. With the pain proving too much she was sent for an MRI scan, which revealed she was suffering from a prolapsed disc, a rare injury in someone so young.
The injury meant Bethany had to return to the North East where she underwent an operation at Newcastle General Hospital.
She said: “The hardest part was the recovery as I was unable to do anything for months. It was after the operation that I was advised by doctors to stop dancing if I didn’t want to end up in a wheelchair by the time I was 30.
“Hearing that was devastating when you’ve spent your whole life pursuing one dream.
“I’d known from a young age I wanted to be a dancer and be on stage in the West End. I couldn’t just give it all up, and so I gradually started doing exercise, training and doing lots of pilates to help support my back.”
Having spent a long time in recovery Bethany decided 2011 would be her year and started entering national competitions to test her ability.
With the TV show giving her a taste of what life as a professional dancer could be like, she is set to move to London later this month to pursue her dream.
She added: “For anyone told they can’t do something I’d say it’s about mind over matter. It may take you a while but you can achieve what you want to do.”