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Sensory Friendly Nutcracker Spreads Holiday Cheer For All

By Aolani Donegan | December 19, 2018 | Corporate Citizenship

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Every parent has been there.

The kids are fussy and they won’t sit still. Suddenly, they discover the sound of their own voice in a store or somewhere really public – it’s loud. You laugh to keep from crying and smile because they are so proud of themselves. 

As you struggle to finish up your grocery store run or to get the kids off to school, you start to wonder why lights and noise bother your kid(s) so much. 

This is your crazy beautiful life, and it gets messy (and loud) sometimes. However, over time you become more aware that sometimes your kid(s) are really squirmy and you are totally exhausted.

Having a child diagnosed with sensory disorders, ADHD or Autism can be frustrating in the beginning. You do research, and you look for activities that will cause the least amount of stress for the entire family, but sometimes it can feel easier to stay at home for fear of another episode of uncontrollable behavior.

What’s even worse is seeing your child struggle to find words or struggle because the lights are too bright or the noise is too loud. If a grocery run feels like a marathon, then there is no way you would ever consider going to the theater or a movie. Right?

Photographer credit: Jeff Cravotta courtesy of Charlotte Ballet.

Well, Charlotte Ballet has made a classic holiday tradition more enjoyable and accessible by adding a sensory friendly performance of Nutcracker.

“Charlotte Ballet recognizes the importance of all people, including children and adults with sensory disorders, to have the opportunity to experience the performing arts in their own way,” said Bianca Bonner, Director of Education and Community Engagement. “Because of the amazingly positive response we’ve received from our sensory-friendly Nutcracker performances, we knew it was important to expand our reach to this segment of our community.”

We know that exposure to the arts at a young age is important for all children, but studies also show that the arts can help children with sensory issues by helping them grow in self-expression and self-esteem. Charlotte Ballet professional dancer, Jared Sutton, shared this with us about his own introduction to dance, “this (Charlotte Ballet) went on to be a massive part of my life and shaped me into the person I am today. Dancing has been a way for me to express myself through movement. It allows me to communicate thoughts and emotions in ways that I am unable to express in words.”

What makes the sensory friendly Nutcracker performance different?

  • Abbreviated performance length (one hour total runtime) and extended intermission (30 minutes)
  • House lights stay at half-brightness and sound is controlled through recorded music
  • Entry and exit to the theater is not restricted-patrons can come and go as they please
  • Designated quiet areas
  • Charlotte Ballet dancers, staff, ushers and volunteers receive training to make sure an inclusive experience for those attending

At Blue Cross and Blue Shield of North Carolina (Blue Cross NC), we know that many parents struggle with finding the right help for their children. That’s why we are so proud to partner with Charlotte Ballet to help make performing arts more accessible to every child.

Year-round programs that bring art and theater to children to bridge poverty and opportunity gaps is where art and artistry have their deepest impact on communities in North Carolina. We are proud to support a small part of the work that Charlotte Ballet is doing in our state. 

To find out more about performances, and community programs, visit Charlotte Ballet.