(Photo via Pittsburgh Ballet Theatre)
In 2013, Pittsburgh Ballet Theatre premiered a sensory-friendly performance of The Nutcracker. The production was designed to serve audience members with autism, or other sensory sensitivities. This year, the company will double its offering, performing The Nutcracker in December and Beauty and the Beast in February. In addition to Northwest Florida Ballet, which has performed a sensory-sensitive version of The Nutcracker for over 15 years, PBT is one of the few companies to offer this kind of performance.
A sensory-friendly performance is tailored to the audience in several specific ways: there are quiet areas outside of the theater, startling light and sound effects during the performance are minimized and the house rules are relaxed to allow families to stand up and move around when they need to.
PBT partnered with several local advocacy groups to make sure they were building the best possible experience for audience members with sensory-related special needs. In addition to sensory adjustments, PBT also offers audio descriptions, and large-print and braille programs for audience members who need additional support.
Congratulations to PBT (and Northwest Florida Ballet) for taking direct action to dismantle a barrier to accessibility. The company is giving that many more kids the chance to develop a love of ballet and dance.