By Amanda Fowler ~
Whether you’re attending NUTCRACKER for the first time as a family, or coming back for your holiday tradition, everyone shares a common goal: make it memorable, meaningful and fun. Easier said than done? Not at all! With planning and preparation plus a few practical tips, each member of your family can discover the magic of Charlotte Ballet’s Nutcracker, and enjoy an experience with lasting memories.
DO A BIT OF HOMEWORK
Familiarizing yourself and your family with the story will enhance the experience for everyone, and build excitement and anticipation for the performance. Otherwise, you’ll likely be peppered with questions, desperately trying to consult your program and whispering, “Shh, just watch!” (which you might still have to say, but less often).
Check out a book. There are many available through the library or retailers, some more detailed than others and targeted for different ages.
Make the most of family time in the car and try an audio version. Many are accessible though the CHARLOTTE MECKLENBURG LIBRARY’S partner app – Hoopla, or can be purchased and downloaded on AUDIBLE.COM. Several incorporate excerpts of Tchaikovsky’s music, while others offer more of an “in a nutshell” take.
Susan Jeffers’ version is ideal for younger children, plus signed copies are available at the Nutcracker Boutique!
GO BEYOND THE STORY – BEFORE AND DURING
The dancers. The choreography. The music and musicians in the orchestra pit. The sets. The costumes. The Belk Theater itself. These elements combined create a magical experience. But younger ones taking it all in at once may not readily pick up on each individual detail.
Give a general “briefing” in advance. While you don’t want to giveaway too much, this helps children know what to look for, and can add extra moments of wonder and recognition during the performance. In addition to talking about it in advance, take advantage of the BEHIND-THE-SCENES INTERVIEWS and videos produced by the Charlotte Ballet.
Ask strategic questions. If during the performance your child get restless, quietly whisper a question to draw him or her back in. Can you count the number of dancers on stage? How many different sweets are pictured in the set? Who do you think will appear next? Hopefully they’ll remember to use their quiet voices if they choose to respond!
Asking your child questions during the show helps keep them focused. Learn about costumes before arriving.
CAPTURE YOUR EXPERIENCE
Capturing your experience and reflecting on it together can be as much fun as the excitement leading up to it.
Take advantage of photo opportunities. Find our Nutcracker-themed backdrops in the lobby for photos. Or, take a selfie with our Nutcracker Snapchat filter for a special look from your experience.
Make memories. Pick out an ornament, a doll, a book or other item from the Nutcracker Boutique to take home and enjoy.
And while not tangible, a family conversation at the end of the day about favorite Nutcracker characters, scenes, costumes or moments is an ideal way to complete your experience, and perhaps be the first of many meaningful and memorable tradition for years to come.
A FEW PRACTICAL TIPS:
- The earlier you purchase tickets the better. PURCHASE TICKETS NOW to get the best seats at the best prices.
- Discuss theater etiquette with your child in advance, but also be understanding of the questions and excitement that may be difficult to contain during the performance.
- Check for your tickets and review directions and PARKING INFO in advance to avoid scrambling or any last-minute issues.
- Whether your child prefers to dress up or dress down, what’s most important is to choose something comfortable to wear and sit in.
- Find your seats early enough to have time to review the program and look around, but not so early that your child is required to sit too long before the performance starts.
- Be mindful of your child’s view. Help find the best angle. Fold your coat(s) and use as a cushion/booster seat, or offer up your lap if feasible for younger ones.
- Use the intermission wisely! Visit the restroom, stretch, get a snack or drink, stretch again.
- Be prepared to visit the Nutcracker Boutique before, during intermission or after the performance. Run by Charlotte Ballet Parent Guild with proceeds benefiting the Charlotte Ballet Academy, the Boutique offers an impressive assortment of nutcrackers and related items. Fun to browse and hard to resist!
The Nutcracker performances at the Belk Theater December 7-23. Please see the website for dates and times.
(This article was originally published in a slightly different form at CharlotteBallet.org)