Bayside students and kids with disabilities put on dance performance for local seniors

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Photos by Claudia Boyle

Talented local kids and teens came together to put on a dazzling winter-themed performance for a crowd of seniors in Bayside.

Dancing Dreams, a local nonprofit whose mission is to help children and teens with physical or medical disabilities reach their fullest potential, and student volunteers from Benjamin N. Cardozo High School performed “Dancing Through the Snow” at the Selfhelp Clearview Senior Center on Dec. 14.

The Dancing Dreams Dancers and around 70 Cardozo dance students presented the collaborative dance performance. Accompanied by popular sounds of the season, the festive show celebrated the joy that comes with the holidays.

Cristal Ortiz, a senior at Cardozo, worked one-on-one with her dancer, 5-year-old Diyarah, for weeks in preparation for the performance. By the time the day of the performance arrived, Ortiz said, the youngster was able to do dance movements she wasn’t able to do at the beginning of the year.

“[Diyarah] has improved so much,” the volunteer said. “I remember at first she would be crying for her mom or wanting to see her. But as the weeks progressed, she started doing the movements more easily and she stopped crying for her mom.”

The East Elmhurst resident said she was encouraged by her best friend to volunteer in the organization’s Leadership Program last year. After working previously at a local children’s hospital, Ortiz immediately knew she was interested and capable.

“I really enjoy working with children,” she said. “And I definitely want to continue dancing and volunteering.”

Over 150 people attended the December performance.

Founded in 2002 by pediatric physical therapist Joann Ferrara, Dancing Dreams has grown from five dancers to a current enrollment of over 115 male and female dancers. The organization welcomes any child who is physically or medically challenged with a dream to dance and classes are adapted so that each child can participate to the best of his or her ability.

To learn more about the organization, visit the Dancing Dreams website.

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