Orlando Ballet dancers teach children with special needs to dance

Program fundraising for expansion

ORLANDO, Fla. – Visions of sugar plums aren't just dancing inside the Orlando Ballet studio: The ballerinas are teaching children with special needs.

Anne-Marie Wurzel started the program Come Dance With Us after her daughter Reagan suffered a metabolic stroke due to a genetic disorder.

"It was very devastating," Wurzel sai as she remembered her daughter losing all the skills she gained in her first few years of life.

"As she continued to progress and she was walking, and I thought, well, I'd like to get her into ballet,and how can I do that? And I saw a news story on YouTube about a woman who did it with the New York City Ballet."

So she went to work connecting with a network in Orlando to provide the same program for children with disabilities. Wurzel called the Orlando Ballet to propose the idea, and leaders within the organization agreed, but wanted the guidance of medical professionals to ensure all the participants'safety.

"I'm just going to email everybody and say here's the link, and here's what I'd like to do, and they were very into it," Wurzel said.

Because her daughter had been treated at Nemours Children's Health, Wurzel was able to reach out to doctors and physical therapists there who volunteered to help. Not long after, more physical therapists from Orlando Health were on board.

The children participated in two 60-minute ballet workshops with principal dancers from the Orlando Ballet, and then had a performance for family and friends at the beginning of December.

"It's a fulfilling feeling, seeing these kids being able to do what we do, and it's a humbling experience," Taylor Sambola, Orlando Ballet dancer, said.

"This year's theme is 'The Nutcracker,' which is really special," Wurzel said.

The children are invited to “The Nutcracker” at the Dr. Phillips Performing Arts Center on the morning of Dec. 22 to watch their teachers perform, and then take a backstage tour.

After a successful second year, Wurzel said the goal is raise more funds to expand the program to potentially open year-round.

If you'd like to donate, visit the "Come Dance With Us" Facebook page

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