Girl with terminal condition fulfils dream of appearing in The Nutcracker

Olivia Francis dreamt of dancing in the famous Christmas ballet, The Nutcracker, but just a year after she started dance lessons, she was diagnosed with a rare neurological condition.

The nine-year-old from Oklahoma, USA, was diagnosed with Friedreich’s ataxia – a terminal condition that affects her ability to walk.

But determined to see her daughter’s wish come true, Olivia’s mum, Mary, reached out to Oklahoma City Ballet, to see if they could help.

Working together, they were able to create a new role just for Olivia — a girl named Marie who uses a vintage wheelchair. 

Olivia made her debut on stage on 10 December, and will continue to perform until 18 December.

While Olivia said it’s not how she imagined appearing in the famous ballet, she said: ‘I’m really grateful.’


The schoolgirl had long loved the Russian ballet – even writing about it in her first grade notebook.

But in 2020, Olivia was diagnosed with Friedreich’s ataxia – a genetic disorder damages the spinal cord, peripheral nerves, and the cerebellum portion of the brain. 

Olivia is unlikely to ever walk again, and there is currently no cure for Friedreich’s ataxia.

But Mary knew she had to do something to help her daughter.

Olivia said she cried when she heard the news that she would finally be able to perform on stage alongside her fellow ballerinas. Clips at rehearsals show her being led on stage, while holding a toy doll. She also joins in with the choreography using her arms.

She also said that while she was nervous to take part, she loved making friends with the other dancers in the company.

And when she does appear on stage, Racheal Nye, the school director for the Oklahoma City Ballet, said ‘everyone just has their eyes on her.

‘It’s really something to see her on stage. It’s inspired everyone around her.’ 

Meanwhile, Mary said watching her daughter achieve her dream brought a tear to her eye.

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