Apr. 21, 2023 By Ethan Marshall
More than 100 kids from New York City with physical or medical challenges are taking part in a recital held by Dancing Dreams at Queens College next month.
Nearly 1,500 people are expected to attend the recital, which is scheduled for 2 p.m. on May 7. The theme of the dance recital is “Road Trip.”
The recital is the culmination of several weeks of the kids learning routines, custom costume fittings and many giggles at dance class.
In addition to celebrating the achievements of the dancers, this recital also recognizes the teen helpers at Dancing Dreams, as well as the community’s supporters and donors who helped to make it happen. Admission to the recital is free and open to the public.
In the past, Dancing Dreams has collaborated with New York City Ballet and TV personality Meredith Vieira. This led to Dancing Dreams performing at the Lincoln Center in 2016, with the show being featured on a nationally televised segment of “The Meredith Vieira Show.”
The organization was also featured on NBC’s “Nightly News” in 2017, as well as “People Magazine,” “Ladies Home Journal,” and “Women’s World.” Amazon also filmed a video of Dancing Dreams as part of its promotion of AmazonSmile.
The Dancing Dreams program exposes children to a variety of dance types, including ballet, tap, hip-hop and ballroom. A wide range of socioeconomic and ethnic groups are reached through the program, with participants who speak more than 27 languages and more than 60% identifying as minorities.
The classes are taught by physical therapists, with each dancer being paired one-to-one with a teen helper ‒ a high school student enrolled in the Dancing Dreams Leadership Program. Through hands-on volunteer experience and participation in leadership workshops, the over 200 teen helpers at Dancing Dreams are empowered as confident role models and gain leadership, advocacy and teamwork skills.
Some of the dancers have been a part of the program for a long time. One of them, Leah Zelaya, has performed with them for 10 years.
Zelaya, who suffers from cerebral palsy, recently had a role dancing professionally in a Jennifer Lopez movie.
According to Dancing Dreams Founder and Executive Director Joann Ferrara, she was inspired to create the organization while working as a pediatric physical therapist in Bayside. She met a girl named Veronica who told her that she didn’t think the world would let her be a dancer.
In a split second, Ferrara decided to make Veronica’s dream a reality and Dancing Dreams being born a few weeks later.
“I was a dancer at Dancing Dreams through my senior year of high school in 2016, when I was 17,” Veronica said. “I was starting my first semester of college that fall. Now I have graduated with my bachelor of science degree in communications. Dancing Dreams is more than just a dance class, it’s a community, a place to feel safe and accepted. It is a place where you are loved exactly as you are, where your body is not a source of shame. Dancing Dreams showed me that there are people in the world that understand that happiness and perfection are not synonymous. It is because of Dancing Dreams that I know my worth. It is because of Dancing Dreams that I can appreciate my body and do not apologize for it. I’ve learned to create my own grace. It is because of Dancing Dreams that I am who I am today.”