Hip, hip hooray for the gentle ballet
Let us turn the page — for a moment, at least — from our recent focus and consider the coming holidays. After an epic election season, families now face the hopefully happier prospect of gathering together and giving thanks.
Recently, we’ve learned of a truly marvelous opportunity for hundreds of families often excluded from a holiday tradition most of us take for granted: A gentle production of Tchaikovsky’s timeless ballet, “The Nutcracker.” (Mark the calendar: Nov. 23, at the Macky Auditorium on the University of Colorado Campus in Boulder. Doors open at 1:15 p.m. for the 2 p.m. show. Tickets are $20.)
Working with advocates for children, teenagers and adults with autism and special needs, the Boulder Ballet and the Boulder Philharmonic Orchestra are staging a pilot presentation of the famous ballet meant to be as welcoming as it is inspiring — and just plain fun. The “sensory friendly” performance offers families with special-needs members a chance to enjoy a version of the ballet tailored and held just for them.
“No shushing. No judging. And no apologizing,” as autism advocate Julie Marshall tells us.
House lights will be set at 35 percent throughout the production, and attendees will be free to experience the music, the dancing and the visuals as they choose. Need to clap with the music? Need to make noise? Need to spin or dance along? Need to just move around? No problem. Live it up! There’s even a chance after the show to meet dancers in costume who helped make the magic happen.
“When I am enjoying music so immensely, it often tends to stimulate me,” the production’s emcee, Benjamin Tarasewicz, 22, tells us. “It’s amazing how music changes people’s lives, including mine. If I’m having a bad day or something, listening to music just changes my mindset altogether and it feeds my soul.”
But often those with autism, like Tarasewicz, find themselves given the stink eye at concerts and other public gatherings. Families and their children are made to feel shame for outbursts of joy that depart from expected social norms. Mel Persion tells us she felt she had to give up trying to take her autistic daughter to concerts to avoid the humiliation.
No doubt, those are challenges for symphony orchestras, ballets and their fans. So we give thanks for Boulder’s musicians and dancers and the boards that worked to make this experiment a reality. They in turn point to the help from Imagine! Behavioral Health Services, Imagine! Daypring, BrainSong, Autism Society of Colorado and the Association for Community Living.
What a grand idea to find a way to create community for a community too often excluded. What a great gift that that community has the chance to experience talented performers together.