I remember the first ballet production that I attended when I was a child. My mother took me to the “The Nutcracker” at the local theater. I was dazzled by the music, the graceful movements, and the many characters such as the Mouse King, the Sugar Plum Fairy, and the waltzing flowers.
We had seats on the top left balcony and I remember wishing to be closer to the center stage so I could see all the vivid details. Over the years, I've been fortunate enough to see "The Nutcracker" many more times and now I take my children to it during the holiday season.
When you take your child to a ballet performance, you're introducing them to a world of music, dance, costumes, stage design, and excitement. As soon as the curtain goes up, the ballet weaves its magic and tells a story through acting, mime, and large group scenes. Here are some suggestions to help you take your kids to the ballet.
“The Nutcracker” is probably the most-loved of all the fairy tale ballets. The music was composed by Peter Ilyich Tchaikovsky and its first performance was in 1892. It’s a timeless ballet classic that has become a festive holiday tradition for families around the world.
The story comes from a tale by German storyteller E.T.A. Hoffman. Set on Christmas Eve, the story focuses on a young girl, Clara, who receives a nutcracker from her Uncle. The nutcracker later becomes a prince who takes Clara to an enchanted land of magical dreams. The music and melodies are incredible and combined with the dance it is a magical story that everyone enjoys.
“The Sleeping Beauty” with music by Tchaikovsky is another enchanting fairy tale ballet. It has beautiful, soaring music and tells the story of Princess Aurora who pricks her finger on a spinning wheel and falls asleep for 100 years. Other fairy tale ballets are “Cinderella” with music composed by Sergei Prokofiev and “Coppelia” with music by Leo Delibes.
If you plan to attend a ballet, help your child enjoy the production beforehand by introducing them to the story. This will help them understand how the acts are connected and also recognize the main dancers and see the costumes and set designs. One excellent book to read is “The Illustrated Book of Ballet Stories” by Barbara Newman. This book outlines five of the world’s best-loved ballets including “The Sleeping Beauty,” “Swan Lake,” and “Giselle.”
Familiarize your child with the ballet by playing a recording of the music. The more your child listens to the music, the more he will enjoy the performance. Encourage your child to move and dance freely while listening to the music.
If you're listening to “The Nutcracker,” pretend to be a flower in the “Waltz of the Flowers,” or a fluttering snowflake in the “Waltz of the Snowflakes.” Or march around the room while keeping the beat to the “March of the Toy Soldiers.”
If you're unable to attend a live performance of "The Nutcracker," don’t dismay! Watching a DVD of the ballet can be just as rewarding an experience. Whether a live theatrical performance or watching on the screen, the music comes alive when seeing the dancers in costume, and the beautiful set designs add further excitement.
By exploring the world of ballet, your child will receive an enriching experience that will enhance their dance and music appreciation.