By Jim Young
I found out about the program, “Ballet Class for Kids with Movement Disabilities”, while flipping through a brochure as I waited for my daughter at her ballet class.
I contacted the instructor Dr. Citlali Lopez-Ortiz, who has a Ph.D in Kinesiology and a Masters in Dance, to see if I could photograph the weekly class. A week later she said the parents and instructors agreed and I could join them on Sunday.
I met eight-year-old Samara Almanza, who was dressed perfectly in all pink; tutu, tights, ballet shoes and all.
She was all smiles as I introduced myself to her and her father. He has to hold her to keep her upright but says she loves the class and anxiously looks forward to it every week. Her grandmother arrived and was overjoyed to see her. The class uses a group setting so the children can be with their peers and use ballet as a creative outlet as they move; blending it with physical rehabilitation to improve posture and motor control, and by using live piano music to facilitate the movement.
Samara was helped into class by 4 instructors, one holding her head; the others helping to move her limbs to simulate walking.
It was a very energetic and physical class with constant interaction between the instructors and the students. Each child has two assistants and Lopez-Ortiz moved from child to child to ensure the proper technique and to motivate the class.
The children all have varying degrees of Cerebral Palsy but one thing is clear; there is a love of the class by the students and by the volunteers too. The class ended with them practicing their bows in the mirror. Laughing and smiling, its was just like watching my own daughter out there.
(View a slideshow of images here)