Menlowe Ballet offers abbreviated It’s a Wonderful Nutcracker for children with special needs

by Linda Hubbard Gulker on December 6, 2018

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Here’s a feel good holiday story thanks to the folks at Menlowe Ballet, which will be offering It’s a Wonderful Nutcracker Dec. 14-16 and 21-23 at the Menlo Atherton Performing Arts Center. As they did last year, the company will be offering an abbreviated performance for children with special needs.

Emails Executive Director Lisa Shively: “In 2016, a woman brought her non-verbal daughter to the performance in a wheelchair. Her daughter LOVES ballerinas and was very excited to see the show, getting so excited that once the curtain raised she was unable to contain her enthusiasm. She made loud noises (of glee) that began to disturb other audience members.

“Being sensitive to this, the mother removed her daughter from the theater. We were aware of the situation as it unfolded and went down to meet the mother in the lobby. She was in tears because she wanted her daughter to be able to see more of the ballet but realized it was impacting other’s ability to enjoy the performance.

“Later that evening we met as a team and all became quite emotional about this. We decided that in 2017 we would launch an abridged production where children of all abilities would feel, and be, welcome. Thus, It’s a Suite Nutcracker was born!

“We are thrilled that Facebook shares our enthusiasm for this production and has invested resources so that we can continue to present this inclusive show to the community and provide complimentary tickets to families as needed.” The performance takes place on Dec. 16 at 11:30 am.

Michelle Higgins, VP for Community Outreach for the Palo Alto PTA Council and a member of the CAC for Special Education Executive Board, was thankful for the inaugural effort last year:  “I was so happy to be able to offer PAUSD families with children with special needs the opportunity to attend, free of charge, Menlowe Ballet’s sensory-friendly production of It’s a Suite Nutcracker.

“Our attendees included children with a wide range of disabilities, including Downs Syndrome, developmental and cognitive delays, social-emotional disregulation and Autism. It is notable that many would not be able to attend regular children’s theater productions of any sort due to their need to move and/or articulate during the performance. Being in a space where their children could just be themselves, without fear of being judged or scolded or embarrassed, is of enormous benefit.

“It was also extra special for these families to be able to attend not just with their special needs child, but their whole family, an experience that ‘regular’ families take for granted when it comes to outings and holiday traditions.”

Tickets for It’s a Wonderful Nutcracker and It’s a Suite Nutcracker are available online.

Pictured is Maricela and Alonso Valadez. Alonso is in 2nd grade at Walter Hays Elementary.

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