BY ARIEL HERNANDEZ
Dancing Dreams, a nonprofit performing arts program for children with physical disabilities, will host its annual performance at the end of the month at York College to celebrate the year’s accomplishments of the dancers, teachers and volunteers.
This year’s theme is “The Enchanted Toyshop,” and the performance will feature colorful costumes, joyous music and participation from children and staff members.
“It’s a happy, fun day for everyone —and for some parents, it’s the first time they see their children performing,” said Joann Ferrara, the founder and executive director of Dancing Dreams. “This is their [children’s chance] to be the stars and to shine.”
Dancing Dreams was founded after Ferrara, a physical therapist, was told by a young girl with cerebral palsy—who was wearing a tutu and tiara—that she wished to be a dancer, but added that “nobody wants me.”
This confession prompted Ferrara to take action and inspired her to establish Dancing Dreams, which currently consists of more than 110 boys and girls with disabilities who are between the ages of 3 and 18, and more than 170 teens, who are enrolled in the organization’s leadership program.
“The teens are amazing,” said Ferrara. “They are just as proud of the dancers as the parents are.”
Leading up to this year’s performance, each dancer has a teen helper, who assists the dancer during classes and performances.
But Dancing Dreams is also unique because its choreographers are either current or former physical therapists. This gives them the advantage of teaching the children certain moves based on their strengths and weaknesses.
“The Enchanted Toyshop” will be performed at the York College Performing Arts Center, which is located at 94-45 Guy R. Brewer Blvd. in Jamaica. The show will begin at 2 p.m. on April 29.
Any child who has a physical or mental challenge can enroll in the Dancing Dreams program.
“Dancing Dreams is based on abilities, not disabilities,” said Ferrara. “This allows each dancer to advance within his or her own limits and maximize their own potential.”
The program is free of charge, but parents can make voluntary contributions to help cover its costs. This year, Amazon named Dancing Dreams as its featured nonprofit.
For more information, visit www.dancingdreams.org or call (516) 659-8704.