"Ballerina Dreams: A True Story" chronicles the story of five little girls with physical disabilities who dreamed of becoming ballerinas and dancing on stage — and did. Their inspiring story proves that dreams really do come true. Here's an excerpt:
When you wish upon a star
makes no difference who you are,
Anything your heart desires will come to you.
If your heart is in your dreams,
no request is too extreme.
When you wish upon a star as dreamers do …
“When You Wish Upon A Star”
Lyrics by Ned Washington
Once upon a time, there were five little girls who had a dream.
They dreamed of being ballerinas. They wanted to wear tutus and tiaras and dance onstage for the whole world to see. They wanted to dance just like other little girls. The girls had a dream, but they knew it wouldn’t be easy to make this dream come true. They had cerebral palsy or other muscle disorders, and their muscles wouldn’t move exactly the way they wanted them to.
Some had trouble raising their arms, or holding themselves upright. Some found it hard to keep their balance. Some used wheelchairs or walkers to get around. The girls knew that fulfilling their dream would take a lot of hard work. But they were ready to work hard. They knew that they might never move in the same way that the other ballerinas move. But they were eager to be the best ballerinas they could be. Once, there were five little girls who dreamed of being ballerinas. And they made their dream come true. Ballet class is about to start, and the girls are hurrying to get ready. They pull off their coats and shoes, and pull on their ballet slippers and tutus. They look forward to class all week long. They love dancing to the elegant music, and they love their teacher, Joann.
Joann loves this class, too. She hands out silver crowns and sparkling wands to all the dancers. She wants each girl — Nicole, Abbey, Monica, Shekinah, and Veronica — to feel like a ballerina princess. Today’s class is special. The girls have worked hard all year. Week after week, they have practiced positions and moves that were difficult for them until they weren’t so difficult anymore. Their bodies have gotten stronger. They have learned to reach farther and stand taller than ever. Now they are ready to show the world what they can do. Tomorrow, they will dance onstage in their own ballet recital. The recital will be called “Wishes and Dreams.” First, the girls warm up at the barre. They stretch their legs out behind them and their arms out in front. They bend their knees in plié. Then the girls move to the floor to rehearse for the recital one last time. They point one leg out front, in point tendu, and reach forward as far as they can. They hold their arms up high, sway from side to side, and turn. By the end of the class, the girls are squirming with excitement. The next time they dance together, they will be onstage.
As the girls get ready to leave, a few ask Joann, “What if I turn the wrong way? What if I drop my wand?” “Just smile and keep going,” she says. “That’s what ballerinas do.” The next morning, the girls gather backstage at the recital hall. The first dance will be from The Nutcracker, and they are all dressed as the Sugar Plum Fairy, with flowing pink and white ribbons. The helpers brush the girls’ hair smooth. They help the girls put on makeup — lots of glittery eye shadow, sparkling blusher, and shiny lipstick. The girls look in the mirror and are amazed. They look like prima ballerinas! The dancers peek from behind the curtain as the audience comes in. They see their parents and families sitting in the front rows. Their friends, neighbors, classmates, and teachers are there, too.
Some of the girls are excited and giggly. Some are quiet, hoping they remember the dance steps once they are onstage. Joann gathers everyone together. She reminds them to take a deep breath, be proud, and smile their ballerina smiles. “So, are we ready?” she asks. The girls shout, “YES!” It’s showtime! The dancers and their helpers take their places onstage. Then the music of The Nutcracker begins, and the curtains swing open as the audience cheers. The girls grin gleefully and start to dance. Soon, they’re all having too much fun to be nervous. And they dance beautifully. When the melody seems to rise and swirl, the girls raise their arms and turn, and their ribbons float in the air. Onstage, under the bright lights, they feel like real ballerinas at last. Before the girls know it, the music ends and the first part of the recital is over.
They hurry backstage to change costumes. The next dance is from Swan Lake. The girls chose the dance because they love the story about the princess who never gives up. And they love the idea of wearing feathers. Lots of feathers! Now, with their helpers’ assistance, they pull on white feathery tutus and white feathery crowns, and grab their white feathery fans. By the time the dancers are ready, feathers are floating everywhere. Back onstage, the music from Swan Lake begins. The dancers bend low, like sleeping swans, and then they rise as if they are taking off in flight. They open their fans, which sweep through the air like graceful wings. Backstage again, the girls change into blue tutus and sparkling tiaras for the show’s finale.
Then, one last time, they take their place onstage. The music begins to play, and the curtains are drawn open. This time, each helper holds up a shiny silver star. One by one, each girl reaches to take her star from her helper’s hand as she calls out her name for all to hear. Nicole. Abbey. Monica. Shekinah. Veronica. Their clear voices are full of pride. A voice sings with the music: “When you wish upon a star …” The ballerinas lift their stars high above their heads and sway. They turn gracefully one last time, and then the music ends. One of the girls yells, “Yea, we did it!” And the audience cheers.
Excerpted from “Ballerina Dreams” by Lauren Thompson. Copyright © 2007 by Lauren Thompson. Excerpted by permission of Feiwel and Friends. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.