Tag Archives: dancing dreams

Star of Queens: Anna Marie Neubauer


| aaltman@queenscourier.com

Photo Courtesy of Anna Marie Neubauer

Anna Marie Neubauer
Volunteer

Dancing Dreams

Community Involvement:

Seventeen-year-old Anna Marie Neubauer has been a volunteer at Dancing Dreams, an organization that helps little girls with developmental disabilities learn to dance, for six years.

“It’s just something I love to do,” said Neubauer, who acts as a “helper” for an 11-year-old Dancing Dreams participant named Monica. Every week, Neubauer attends dance sessions with Monica where she assists her with twirls, bends and lifts. Dancing Dreams was started by Joann Ferrara, a physical therapist who created the program after a young patient expressed desire to become a dancer.

Personal:

Neubauer is a senior at Archbishop Molloy High School. She lives in Whitestone with her parents and older brother, a student at Loyola University in Maryland. When she is not at school, Neubauer enjoys spending time with her friends and going skiing. Neubauer did not have any dancing experience prior to Dancing Dreams.

Challenge:

Neubauer feels that volunteering has no challenges, just rewards. “I enjoy [participating in Dancing Dreams]” said Neubauer. “It’s helped me grow a lot, and it fulfills me to see how just a little bit of help can help these girls.”

Favorite Memory:

The recitals are Neubauer’s favorite part of Dancing Dreams. “I love seeing the looks on the girls’ faces when their dreams are coming true,” said Naubauer, who also said that her dancer, Monica, has made volunteering for Dancing Dreams a wonderful experience.

Inspiration:

Neubauer first discovered Dancing Dreams when she was a patient of Ferrara’s, and has been volunteering ever since. Her main inspiration, however, comes from the girls themselves. “[The girls] are my inspiration,” said Neubauer. “To see their hard work – they look so beautiful doing it.”

‘Dancing Dreams’ become a reality for these girls


| aaltman@queenscourier.com

THE COURIER/Photo by Alexa Altman

Helen Trougakos crouched in the front row of the audience. She snapped copious pictures on her iPhone of her four-year-old daughter Noreen as she danced on stage in a sparkling tutu and matching red feathered headpiece — and two leg braces. A tall, older girl dressed in black hoisted Noreen up by her waist and spun her around as Noreen beamed wildly.

“I think it’s wonderful,” said Trougakos, who smiled as she watched her daughter dance. “It helps her feel like she’s normal.”

Noreen has Cerebral Palsy, a diagnosis she defies by participating in classes with Dancing Dreams, an organization that teaches ballet to physically challenged girls. Established by physical therapist Joann Ferrara, Dancing Dreams includes 43 budding ballerinas.

Ferrara, a former gymnast and dancer herself, began the program in 2008 when a young patient of hers wished she could be a dancer like her friends. From the back of her physical therapy practice, Ferrara began giving dance lessons.

“It’s a chance to be in a social environment and they have the ability to move in a fun way,” said Ferrara.

Each dancer has a designated high-school-aged “helper” to assist her, and classes are funded on a “pay-what-you-can” basis. Since many dancers come from low-income families, they participate on scholarships.

Trougakos believes that dancing not only provides a source of enjoyment for Noreen, but also benefits her physically.

“[Dancing has] helped her muscle tone increase at the same time she’s having fun,” said Trougakos. “I wish more people had [programs like Dancing Dreams].”

Each winter, the dancers and their families gather at the Selfhelp Clearview Senior Center for a holiday performance. Over 200 guests crowded the room on Thursday, December 15 as the 43 dancers sat stretched out on the floor surrounded by their helpers, awaiting their turn to perform.

“Let me see your big ballerina smiles!” said Ferrara as she ushered the first group.

Noreen, at center stage, lit up instantly.