Dr. Suzi Tortora’s shares her joining Dréa’s Dream story

When I was first approached at the American Dance Therapy Association conference in October 2002 to apply for the job to be the first Dance/Movement Therapist (DMT) to start Dréa’s Dream programming, funded by the newly formed Andrea Rizzo Foundation, I thought, “How can I possibly fit this into my schedule?” I decided to sleep on it. I awoke the next morning with a very clear message, “How could I not find a way to fit this into my schedule! The mission of this foundation is so important. I must apply!”  I was offered the job in January 2003 and began the program in March. As soon as I began it was clear to me that I had made the best decision of my career. Working at Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center (MSKCC) continues to enrich all levels of DMT work. After the first few months at MSKCC I was compelled to write the following letter to Susan Rizzo Vincent and the Foundation.

Each day at MSKCC I am filled with awe at the children, the families, the staff.  The love and care and kindness in and of itself creates such an atmosphere of healing.  I feel embraced.  Everyone has welcomed my presence and the gift of dance therapy from The Andréa Rizzo Foundation.

My memories already are full – of the little Israeli girl who took me on a journey to the sun, the sky and the flowers through our dance, despite the language barrier. And- the 2 ½ year old who stood up on her bed and jumped and twirled and swayed with me, stepping and leaping over the tubes she was attached to sustaining our dancing journey for 20 minutes. 
Then there was the eight year old who adjusted her dancing style to each change of music, portraying a Spanish dancer, a tango partner and a peppy teenager, culminating her dance in a soft, warm embrace to herself – seeming to say in her silent gestures, that everything will be okay.  She had just lost her leg to cancer the week before.
Lastly, there was the teen, studying to be a professional dancer, who stood up and performed a dancer’s warm up with me and quietly allowed her tears to softly roll down her cheeks as her body remembered those moves that she hasn’t felt in 18 months. As my work begins here at MSKCC, it is I that must thank all of you.
Now, over eleven years later, the Dréa’s Dream Dance/Movement Therapy program at MSKCC is a thriving 30-hour a week program that continues to inspire every aspect of my being – from the families who come from around the world to receive our care, to the incredibly talented and compassionate medical team. I feel grateful each day to have been given this opportunity to build Dréa’s Dream.
For more stories like these, go to Dréa’s Dream Stories

To help us provide dance/movement therapy to more children

Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center
Dr. Suzi Tortora’s talents and dedication continue to touch many young lives. She has over 15 years of service to Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center and The Andréa Rizzo Foundation.
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