Little Wing adaptive ballet company set to take big stage in Milford
MILFORD — When the Little Wing Adaptive Ballet Company takes the stage at Parson’s Government Complex Friday there likely won’t be a dry eye in the house — or a face without a smile.
The company of talented dancers ages 6 to 33 years old with autism, Down syndrome and other varying abilities are expected under the direction of Deb Marchese to put on a spectacular version of the Nutcracker ballet — their own “Pine Forest Nutcracker,” that is part of Milford Recreation Department’s adaptive programming.
But most of all, parent Holly Firmender said, it’s as if the kids are getting to “live out their dream.”
“And not even a once in a lifetime dream because they get to do it again next year,” said Firmender, whose son, Marshall, 13, will play several roles. “It’s really kind of magical.”
Parent Sandi Lund, whose daughter Kate, 9, is in the company, said the production is “top notch,” and focuses “on the ability, not the disability.”
Lund said there can be a lot of “doom and gloom” in the daily lives of special needs families and the ballet company is a bright spot.
“When you watch them you forget they’re children with special needs,” Lund said.
Director and teacher Marchese, who has an adult son with autism, said the program is unique in the age and ability range it serves.
She’s been running the program for so many years that some of the older students with special needs serve as mentors to younger ones.
“It’s great because they are learning responsibility and it’s almost like job coaching,” Marchese said of the peer mentoring.
Marchese said, “There’s nothing better than seeing an older kid with a disability holding the hand of a younger kid.”
The program also includes a strong mentor team of experienced teenage dancers from area ballet companies.
The high school mentors have been so invested in their role through the years that the moms of many who graduated to go on to college, have remained to help Little Wing behind the scenes, including making costumes.
Firmender said her son recently danced the “Russian” dance from the Nutcracker to hip hop at a party with typical teens and before he knew it, people were on the dance floor doing it too, through his lead.
Dance is something that can bring everyone together, Marchese said.
Marchese credits the Milford Recreation Department for supporting the unique endeavor that brings so much joy to so many families who have their struggles.
Firmender said that aside from immediate family, Marshall’s teachers, camp counselors and neighbors will be at Friday’s performance, “and they’ll bring him flowers like they’re going to a show.”
The show begins at 7 p.m. and tickets are $5 at the door.