NYC Ballet & Weinberg Family CP Center Team Up for Workshops

Dr. David Roye, Dr. Joseph Dutkowsky, and Natalia Armoza, a mother to a patient at Weinberg Family Cerebral Palsy Center, helped organize a ballet workshop for CP patients at the world-famous NYC Ballet.

Why the NYC Ballet

Armoza wanted to put the workshop together for her daughter, Pearl, and other children who have cerebral palsy because she didn’t want them to be singled out in a regular workshop. She wrote to the New York City Ballet in December 2013 to propose a workshop for children with cerebral palsy.

“It would mean so much to my daughter and children like her to be able to take part in an NYC Ballet workshop, and for one day, feel like they too could become ballerinas,” she wrote.

She received a warm response in March to put together the workshop.

“I personally am very interested in your idea and I would like to schedule a meeting with you and the Director of the Weinberg Family Cerebral Palsy Center at Columbia University Medical Center in order to learn more and discuss the possibilities,” the assistant director of education at the NYC Ballet wrote.

Putting It All Together

Dr. Roye, the executive director at the Weinberg Family Cerebral Palsy Center, and Dr. Dutkowsky later joined Armoza in constructing the program. The team put together a workshop along with a medical fellow in orthopedics and the education department of NYC Ballet. The Ballet provided two volunteer dancers for the workshops and Columbia provided a medical assistant for each ballet student. Dr. Dutkowsky trained each dancer in how to train children with disabilities.

“One of the instructors from the New York City ballet ran up to me after the first lesson “Dr. D, you’re right – they’re just kids,” Dr. Dutkowsky said. “Because the minute you get to know the individual with cerebral palsy, you get to realize they’re a human being. They’re just like you.”

The goal of the program is to help instill independence in children with CP. Armoza’s daughter, Pearl, spent 10 weeks in a body cast after having hip surgery at age 3. Her mom knows she’s a “tough cookie” who loves to sing and high-fives everyone around her.

“The whole drive to Lincoln Center she kept saying, ‘Who wants to go to dance class? Me!'” Armoza told TODAY. “She was really excited when she saw her dance clothes. That was really a big moment for her.”

The NYC Ballet is currently planning dates for workshops to take place in 2016.

To watch the UpWorthy video of the workshop, click here.