Unique Nutcracker Performance Designed for Special-Needs Children

Cary, NC – Seeing “The Nutcracker” ballet is a Christmas tradition for many, but for children with special needs and their families, it can be difficult to make it to a performance. This weekend, Cary’s International Ballet Academy is bringing back their sensory-friendly Nutcracker, with these audiences in mind.


Sensory-Friendly Performance

For the second year, the International Ballet Academy will be holding its sensory-friendly Nutcracker on Sunday, December 10, 2017 at 1 PM. Christina Fanney, International Ballet Academy’s owner, said this free show has been changed in certain ways to be more accommodating.

“The lighting is not a complete blackout and the music is not as loud,” Fanney said. “It’s only a 40 minute show so the battle with the rat queen is cut out. It starts with the snowfall and then into the treats and the sugarplum fairy.”


But Fanney said the most important component is how the audience, dancers and organizers will all be understanding.

“If your kids clap or say out loud ‘Wow, that’s pretty’ or get up and walk around, everyone will understand and no one is judging. You don’t have to leave the show,” Fanney said. “And with these changes, you still get a taste of the Nutcracker.”

The show is free, though Fanney still asks that people reserve seats online so the International Ballet Academy can know how many people are coming. Tickets will still be available at the door for people who did not reserve in advance. Last year when the sensory-friendly show was first put on, there were 40 families in attendance.

“This year, we already have 350 seats reserved so it’s obviously grown,” Fanney said.


Making It To The Show

Fanney said the idea behind the sensory-friendly Nutcracker performance was inspired by Abilities Dance, a dance program for special-needs children, started by dancer Caroline Le when she was in high school. Abilities Dance uses studio space from International Ballet Academy and spurred Fanney and the entire ballet school to think about how they can better work with special-needs children.

“For a lot of families, it’s hard to go out to a show as a family. They either split up or they’re worried about disruption,” she said. “I’ve had parents come to me and say ‘If it weren’t for you, we wouldn’t be able to go as a family.'”

Through the Abilities Dance program, Fanney said she has also seen “tremendous growth” in the participating children’s ability to learn.

“They express their love of dance in a not-so-strucutured environment and we see the joy on the parents’ faces,” she said.


Event Details

The Nutcracker – Sensory-friendly Performance (free)

Sunday, December 10, 2017

1 PM

Cary Academy, 1500 N Harrison Ave.

There will also be a traditional performance of the Nutcracker on Saturday, December 9, 2017 at 2 and 7 PM, also at Cary Academy.


Story by Michael Papich. Photos courtesy of International Ballet Academy.