What Makes Sensory Friendly Nutcracker So Special?

Nutcracker | December 13 | Belk Theater

Charlotte Ballet’s SENSORY FRIENDLY NUTCRACKER performance is designed specifically for people with a range of additional support needs. Children, families and adults are invited to join us for this special opportunity to experience the magic and joy of Nutcracker in a tailored performance. Read more as our Director of Education & Community Engagement, BIANCA BONNER, shares why she thinks this performance is so special.

What made Charlotte Ballet want to create a sensory friendly performance?

Bianca Bonner: “One year, a mother brought her special needs child to one of the educational performances and they stood in the back. You could tell how excited her child was for the program. He had beads in his hands and kept throwing them around because he was so happy. The other children were taken back by his appreciation for the performance so we thought, why don’t we create a special performance for these families so they don’t feel like they are interrupting others? We saw a need for our organization to fill.”

What is one of your favorite memories of this performance?

BB: “There’s this one young lady who comes from a dance studio called A Chance to Dance. To just see her face light up… She was at the front of the stage, her little chin was up and she had her hands on her face. Just talking to her, she was so happy. And her mother was even more happy. Their entire family was extremely excited to have this experience.”

The child in Bianca’s story is the daughter of Jacqueline Whipple, who spoke to People magazine about her struggles to find places she can take her four kids. “All adopted, three of them are special needs. Eight-year-old Brady has prosthetic limbs and autism. Ava, also 8, is a little person. And Jessa, just 3, has spina bifida and gets around in a wheelchair.”

“It’s practically impossible to go anywhere special. We have so many different needs. Our kids are each very uniquely differentand it’s hard in general to take kids to events. You throw in curveballs like the various special needs we have and it becomes very improbable.”

Charlotte Ballet’s Sensory Friendly Nutcracker recognizes that all families should be able to experience the magic of the holidays. The Education and Community Engagement department has re-worked Nutcracker for this sensory friendly performance to provide a more comfortable, inviting and safe environment to enjoy ballet.

“We just want our kids to be part of something normal and this is something really special. My kids loved it. It was really phenomenal!” Jacqueline says.

What makes the performance “sensory friendly”?

1. Abbreviated performance length and extended intermission

2. House lights remain at the half brightness and sound is controlled through recorded music

3. Entry and exit to the theater is not restricted – you may come and go as you please

4. Designated quiet areas are available

5. Charlotte Ballet dancers, staff, ushers and volunteers receive training to ensure an excellent experience for your family

Why is the sensory friendly performance special for families?

BB: “It gives an opportunity for families to partake in the whole experience. They can enjoy it with loved ones, and its just for them. The lights are not as bright, the sound is not as loud and they can sit wherever they want. They can even sit on the floor or right in front of the stage and there is special front row wheel chair seating.

Who can enjoy a sensory friendly performance?

BB: “Right now we partner with three different organizations: Allegro Foundation…a Champion for Children with Disabilities, InReach and Autism Speaks. These are individuals sensitive to sensory and considered to be special needs children and adults.”