Dancers Take Steps Against a Childhood Illness
It’s every parent’s nightmare – a devastating
disease affecting their child. But for the parents of 5-year-old
Francesca Genereux, there is a cruelly ironic twist to the story.
This daughter of a world-famous dance couple suffers from Rett Syndrome, a rare neurological condition that leads to loss
of motor skills and, eventually, the inability to move at all. That’s
why Mark and Dawna Nocera, owners of Studio 665 in Woburn and friends
of the sick girl’s family, are holding a dance to benefit
medical research toward a cure on behalf of the Francesca Foundation
on Saturday, April 3.
The story of Jean-Marc Genereux and France Mousseau,
Canadian dance champions, starts out like a fairy tale. It was love
at first sight for Jean-Marc, who met France when they were both
nine years old. Unfortunately, she didn’t return his interest,
so he pursued her in the only way he knew how. Jean-Marc learned
that France took dance classes and got permission to enroll in the
same dance school. Luckily for the rest of the world, Jean-Marc
soon fell in love with dance as well. And after several years of
ignoring her persistent suitor, France finally began dancing with
Jean-Marc when they were both 14.
By 24, they were married – and winning every title in sight.
During their 21-year competitive career, Jean-Marc and France established
themselves as one of the best ballroom and Latin dance couples in
the world – and one of the most entertaining. Fans of the
PBS show Championship Ballroom Dancing looked forward to seeing
this French-Canadian couple with their innovative choreography.
Along the way, they won such titles as 10 times undefeated Canadian
Latin Champions, 4-times undefeated North American Champions, and
2-time Asian-Pacific Champions, as well as finishing in third place
in the World 10-dance Champions.
The couple retired from competitive dancing in 1998, two years
after their first child, a boy named Jean-Francis, was born. And
when their second child, a girl, was born in 1999, Jean-Marc and
France thought their happiness was complete. Francesca was a beautiful
little girl, seemingly perfect. Her mother, France, was the first
to notice that something was wrong. After several consultations
with pediatricians, the diagnosis came: Rett’s Syndrome, a
disease which strikes 1 in 15,000 girls and robs them of movement
and of independence.
In most cases, the child begins to develop normal motor skills
– the ability to lift her head, turn over, and grasp objects
– and then, inexplicably, begins to lose them. The hands that
were able to hold a bottle suddenly are unable to manage it; the
toddler who could pull herself up no longer can stand. It’s
a terrifying backward slide that parents can only watch helplessly
– because so far, there is no cure for Rett’s Syndrome.
That’s where Mark and Dawna Nocera, former US Representatives
to the World Dance Championships, decided to come in. The Noceras
had become friends with the Genereux family during their years on
the competitive circuit. Now the owners of a ballroom and performing
arts dance studio in Woburn – and parents of two school-age
children – Mark and Dawna decided to help raise money the
best way they knew how: by putting on a dance show. Last year’s
benefit show raised $2,500, an amount that was then doubled by an
anonymous benefactor for a total of $5,000. This year, the staff
of Studio 665 hopes to do even better.
Doors to the dance party will open at 8:30 PM. After an hour of
general dancing, the internationally renowned staff of Studio 665,
joined by Jean-Marc Genereux and France Mousseau, will put on a
spectacular show of ballroom and Latin dancing. Tickets to the event
are $12 general admission, $8 for college students and seniors over
60, and may be reserved by calling the studio. A special raffle
will also be held for a private dance lesson with Jean-Marc for
one lucky student.
Amazingly, Jean-Marc and France feel no bitterness over the unhappy
turn their once fairy-tale story has taken. They say that they no
longer wonder why Francesca is disabled. Instead, Jean-Marc and
France believe that God chose their family because they are able
to use their fame to speak out against this disease and to help
make life better for the thousands of little girls who are afflicted.
They ask that you help them with their work toward awareness and
hope for Rett’s Syndrome by attending this special benefit
party and show on Saturday, April 3 at Studio 665, 17 Campbell Street,
Woburn. Further information and directions to the studio may be
found on the web site at www.studio665.com or by calling 781-9-DANCER