As we recently announced, our next ballet for children will be Three Little Pigs, and for the first time ever we will be offering a Relaxed Performance of the production.
A Relaxed Performance is specifically aimed at people with learning disabilities and other sensory and communication disorders, providing a more relaxed and supportive atmosphere in order to reduce anxiety and allow those who might otherwise feel excluded the chance to experience live theatre.
Our first ballet for children Ugly Duckling has been really successful and enabled young children and their families to watch ballet for the first time in an informal environment, giving parents the confidence to introduce their children to live performance from an early age. However the parents of children with special needs, particularly those with learning disabilities or on the autistic spectrum, often find that the standard ‘rules’ in a theatre are too restrictive and that other audience members’ attitudes to noise prevents them from being able to enjoy a visit to the theatre. And so a Relaxed Performance offers an environment where the audience can make noise, they can go in and out of the auditorium if they need to, and they won’t be frowned upon if they react to the performance in an unconventional way.
In preparation for their visit, families will be sent information about the venue and the production so that children can familiarise themselves with what to expect when they arrive, there will be a chill-our area for those who may need a short break from the performance, extra space will be provided in the auditorium to allow children to move about and adjustments will be made to lighting and sound levels during the performance to ensure that children feel comfortable during the show.
Relaxed Performances are a fairly new initiative for theatres, and there is currently a pilot project being run by the Prince’s Foundation for Children & The Arts, The Society of London Theatre and the Theatrical Management Association to develop relaxed performances, which involves ten theatres nationwide including the Royal Shakespeare Company and the West Yorkshire Playhouse. While Northern Ballet isn’t part of the pilot project, we aim to make dance accessible to all and so are learning lessons from the project to enable us to open our performances to a new audience.
There has been some publicity about Relaxed Performances in the press lately with the Independent and BBC News highlighting the benefits of such performances to families of children with additional needs.