PHILADELPHIA (CBS) — Living with an HIV diagnosis is tough. So Wednesday, patients from a North Philadelphia recovery house got the chance to put their diagnosis aside and experience the beauty of dance.
They pliéd, bowed and turned. Then they did it again.
And for an hour these members of the Comhar Community Living Room were ballet dancers.
“I’m moving muscles I didn’t know I had,” says Barbara Manire, who goes to Comhar for support in her recovery.
Comhar helps individuals battling HIV and a history of drug addiction or mental illness. Manire kicked a drug addiction 14 years ago and is battling an HIV diagnosis and the recent death of her husband.
But today, she’s getting a leg up and for a few minutes- she was a kid again.
“It’s fun,” she says, “I like it. I should have took this when I was younger. I love to dance.”
In the past year, they’ve helped more than 45,000 people access area museums, ballet and other arts organizations and events.
“They get to experience what is part of the city and arts is such a big part of Philadelphia,” says Rashad Lovett-Scott, director of Comhar’s Community Living Room program. “It shows that they are valuable and worthy to be a part.”
“We give them a class and then we give them a chance to watch a rehearsal,” says Sarah Cooper, director of Community Outreach for the Pennsylvania Ballet.
She says they work with a number of organizations to provide a behind the scenes, up close view of the ballet.
“Anyone that we can invite into our home and provide and have them see what we do is a win,” she says.
The experience culminates next week, when the Comhar members attend the ballet’s performance of The Nutcraker at the Academy of Arts.
“It was very interesting and very exciting,” says Willie Norris, a Comhar Member.
He’s spent the past two years in recovery at the organization.
A former boxer, he says watching the dancers was eye-opening.
“They keep training their bodies, searching for perfection,” he says, “if I want to be in recovery, I have to keep doing the same thing over and over and being better at life.”
For Manire, she says her first time seeing The Nutcracker will help her forget.
“It’s a sad time of the year for me,” she says, “but this- it’s like Christmas. It’s like Christmas.”