Dance Matters: Dialing Down a Classic

PBT presents a Nutcracker geared to children with autism disorders.

 

“This is a performance where families can come as they are and be who they are,” says Alyssa Herzog Melby, Pittsburgh Ballet Theatre’s education director, about the company’s first autism-friendly performance of The Nutcracker, which she championed. The troupe, directed by Terrence Orr, follows the lead of the Theatre Development Fund’s Autism Theatre Initiative, which facilitates performances of Broadway productions for sensory-sensitive audiences. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, autism spectrum disorders affect 1 in 88 children nationally.

 

Christine Schwaner in Pittsburgh Ballet Theatre's Nutcracker. Photo by Rich Sofranko, Courtesy PBT

 

Working with several local autism support organizations, PBT assembled a 10-member panel that scrutinized a DVD of the company’s The Nutcracker. Participants suggested removing the flares from Drosselmeyer’s magic tricks and reducing the volume of the recorded Tchaikovsky score for the ballet’s two-hour duration. Orr’s choreography remains unchanged, but lighting adjustments may be necessary.

PBT, which has worked closely with the Pittsburgh Cultural Trust throughout the process, assembled a pictorial pre-visit guide as an introduction to the theatergoing experience, and will offer a real-time opportunity to explore the Benedum Center, where the ballet will be performed. Designated quiet and activity stations will be made available, along with more than 50 education and health care volunteers. Ushering staff, who were trained for an autism-friendly performance of Disney’s The Lion King, staged in September at the Benedum, are working the house. A clinical advisor prepared the troupe’s 29 artists for potential distractions during the December 27 matinee, which will be performed with dim house lighting.

 

Ensemble member Stephen Hadala, a veteran Drosselmeyer, is excited to reach an audience new to The Nutcracker.  “We, as an organization, can set the standard for ballet companies in other cities. This experience is something I will treasure forever.”

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The Dance Community Wants You to Get Out the Vote

Without the regular bustle of the fall performance season, much of the dance community has a rare amount of free time on its hands—and it's being put to good use. Many artists and organizations are redirecting their energy from the rehearsal studio to an extremely important cause: urging the community to vote. And, of course, they're doing it with a signature dance flair.

Here are just a few of the get-out-the-vote efforts and events happening online and across the country. For more arts-related resources about voting, including the deadline to register in your state, check out Dance/USA's November 2020 Election Toolkit.

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