Roses to Legacy Repertory Company for bringing ballet to audiences who rarely get to see the fine arts performed live.
The Duham-based company, which features cast and crew members from throughout the Triangle, performed its latest ballet, “Cinderella,” three times last week, twice for general audiences and once for young people from group homes and others with special needs.
The latter performance reflects the company’s committment to making the arts – whether watching or performing – accessible to all. The Friday night special-needs performance was free to the audience, supported by donations. About 600 reservations had been made by mid-week, and all 20 wheelchair spaces were filled.
It's an opportunity few might otherwise get, says board president Alyssa Rodriguez-Finch, who has a daughter with high-functioning autism.
“Can you imagine 600 people articulating because they're affected by what they see?” Finch told us last year during a break in rehearsals for “Peter Pan.”
“It's a good thing, but it would be very distracting.”
The idea for the special-needs show came from another company that used to invite people with disabilities to their rehearsals.
“I thought this was a really good idea,” said artistic director Boleyn Willis-Zeger. “We’re trying to get in people who don't (normally) have access to the arts.”
Rodriguez-Finch said she saw early on how the arts affected her daughter Abigail, now a preteen.
“Music and movement were really some of the things that soothed her when she was younger,” she explained. “I took her to some performances, and she was just mesmerized.”
But it's hard to predict. Abigail also liked watching hockey on TV, but when her dad took her to an actual game, the excitement overwhelmed her.
“Oh, my gosh,” Rodriguez-Finch recalled. “It was horrible.”
For that reason, parents of special-needs children may sometimes hesitate about an evening out.
“You just never know exactly how it's going to go,” Finch said. “There’s a 50/50 chance you won't make it through the show. Shelling out money for a show is very, very difficult.”
The free show takes that worry away.
Last year one parent wrote Finch a letter, thankinng Legacy for the chance to see the upcoming “Peter Pan.”
“How excited we are at the prospect of going to the Carolina Theatre, sitting among peers and feeling the unbridled freedom of enjoying the performance,” she wrote.
“For my daughter, who is unable to speak it will likely means lots of smiles and wonder and enjoyment.”