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Clara Bergs: Dancing Coppélia

By Julye Huggins
Autistic girl with DiGeorge Syndrome memorized Coppelia Ballet!!!!!!

Ten-year-old Clara Bergs has become a YouTube phenomenon for her performance of the lead role in Coppélia. While her parents thought she was simply practicing steps learned in ballet class, her therapists soon discovered that her choreography resembled those seen on Bergs’ Coppélia DVD, a gift which she frequently watches. Lo and behold, she has memorized nearly the entire evening-length ballet. In this video - with over 520, 000 views since being posted last month - we see her dancing the intricate steps of Swanilda’s masquerade. As Bergs dances entirely from memory, we see the Australian Ballet Company superimposed, featuring Lisa Pavane as Swanilda and Colin Peasley as Dr. Coppelius. Bergs was diagnosed with a combination of autism and DiGeorge syndrome, a genetic disorder that can affect learning and cause facial deformity. She spent her first sixteen months in hospital, couldn’t walk until she was four, was unable to form words until she was six and is fed with a gastrointestinal tube. Her diseases inhibit her movement, speech and comprehension. Bergs is thriving in the Intensive Multi Treatment Intervention program, based in Toronto. While she demonstrates kinaesthetic intelligence, it is also noted that her remarkable memory and musicality may be indicative of an autistic savant.
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