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Choose your own adventure

Today, MYB’s dancers showed grace and grit when they took the stage twice to perform Peter and the Wolf for over 2000 first-grade students from Northeast Wisconsin. Part of a grant-funded project achieved with the support of collaborative partners including the Fox Cities Performing Arts Center, the Fox Valley Symphony Orchestra, and the Appleton Area School District, the production achieved all of the measures of success we envisioned when our Artistic Director Jeanette Makaroff took on the arduous tasks involved in selecting, choreographing, and producing a story ballet.

Beyond the outcomes we expected, though, I learned a great deal about what it means to see music in motion. When the dancers’ movements match the precise notes, there is an energy, something that blurs the boundaries between audience members’ imaginations and the sounds, sights, and motions, as if we are ineluctably caught up in the dance, participants in a choreography that we cannot resist.

And why resist it?

Classical ballet can—and should—be accessible to everyone. Feeling it in this intuitive, multisensory way made me want to leave my seat, to stretch like the cat on its “velvet paws” or to rush to the duck’s aid before the wolf could capture it. As an adult and a person who had early access to classical ballet (I saw Peter Pan very young, and the Nutcracker on multiple stages, with casts who shared the same story so many different ways, it felt like a choose-your-own-adventure book), I have always felt welcome to and interested in productions like this, but many children grow up without that access, without that privilege.

By making Peter and the Wolf a living, breathing, moving event that students could see without having to worry about transportation or ticket costs, and by alleviating the interpretive barrier with thoughtfully-crafted study guides made specifically for our production by AASD educators, MYB and our partners helped dismantle some stereotypes and show kids that when we learn and grow through the arts, we can find our way into the spotlights of our choosing.

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