Today, the dream is reality. They dance! They perform! They experience the wonder of the Arts in ways they never thought possible. Teen volunteers help with their every step. An imaginative pediatric physical therapist provides the inspiration. And it doesn’t stop at the dance studio. They take the dream into the neighborhoods in the tri-state area—helping reach over 1,000 elementary school children with a positive message about disability education.
The dream of little girls to put on a tutu and glitter-and dance just like other little girls their age. Despite their dreams, these girls were not able to dance like their friends, sisters, cousins and even their mothers. They had physical and medical challenges that prevented them from joining classes in their community.
The dream was realized for them in 2002. Joann Ferrara, a pediatric physical therapist with a background in ballet, was inspired to make the dreams of these girls come true. The tipping point was when one little girl came to Joann’s physical therapy session and said simply “I want to dance, but nobody will let me.” Not anymore. Joann gave her a tutu and tiara, which is in a “dress-up” box she keeps in her office, and conducted the session in costume. The little girl beamed.
In 10 years Dancing Dreams has grown from five girls to more than 50 (and growing!), ranging in age from 3 to 17. With 30 years of experience and her passion for dance, Joann designs and instructs dance classes for physically and medically challenged children and produces the annual performance, which is the highlight of their lives. Dancing Dreams became a 501 (c) 3 nonprofit organization in 2008 and relies on charitable contributions for funding.
They dance! Each aspiring ballerina has a “dance helper”—a high school student who is trained to assist the girls during class. At last count, Dancing Dreams has more than 60 dance helpers enrolled in the Dancing Dreams Teen Leadership Program. Each year culminates in a Dance Performance—a celebration of achievement.
“I have had a relationship with Dancing Dreams for several years now. It began when I attended one of their performances and saw the joy beaming from the dancers on stage. Girls of all ages were overcoming their disabilities, defying the world’s expectations, and performing on stage before their family and friends. The dancers’ spirits were shining like bright lights as they moved to the music. I have rarely been so moved by a performance.”