Given a Chance to Be Little Ballerinas, and Smiling Right
Down to Their Toes |
practice bar, mirrored walls and lush orchestral music, the small dance studio
in Bayside, Queens, seems like countless other ballet schools that nurture the
dreams of little girls.
Parents peek in from a crowded waiting room as a patient teacher
demonstrates first-position to little girls proud simply to be wearing tights,
tutus and ballet slippers.
But this studio holds one special class a week for dancers whose movements do
not exactly exhibit the refined control of a prima ballerina. There are no lithe
leaps, perfect pirouettes or pointed toes here. Most girls cannot walk or stand,
much less make a shallow curtsy. Their crutches and walkers lie nearby and their
customized ballet slippers are stretched over leg braces.
The eight little ballet students, who have cerebral palsy and other debilitating
physical conditions, are assisted in class by teenage volunteers with strong
healthy bodies and infinite patience. The teacher is Joann Ferrara, a physical
therapist who owns and runs Associated Therapies, where most of the girls go for