KANSAS CITY, MO (KCTV) -- On Friday night, a holiday tradition returns when the Kansas City Ballet opens its presentation of The Nutcracker, but this year will include a performance for a special audience.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention says one in 59 children have autism. A survey published Monday says that number is significantly higher.

That’s why it was so important for the Kansas City Ballet to put together a special sensory performance everyone could enjoy.

Leigh Reynolds’ 8-year-old son Wilson loves to dance.

“Watching the ballerinas is his favorite,” she said.

Wilson attends an adaptive dance class at the Kansas City Ballet. The class was designed for children with autism, Down syndrome and other special needs.

“We’ve seen him improve following direction, interacting with other kids and it’s been a real blessing,” Reynolds said.

This year, Wilson and his family are excited to see their first big performance of The Nutcracker together. It’s sensory friendly for kids like Wilson.

“To see kids that had different sort of functionality in the world and how joyful and how excited they were to see the show and to greet them while I was in my costume … I mean, it gives me goosebumps when I think about it,” Kansas City Ballet Artistic Director Devon Carney said.

Carney has 25 years of professional dance experience. He chooses performances, hires dancer from across the country and oversees the school.

“Broadway is doing it a lot, Lion King has sensory friendly performances, the Kennedy Center also does sensory friendly performances, and I know there are a multitude of ballet companies that are starting to take on this very important part of their mission,” Carney said.

Now, he’s bringing that experience to Kansas City.

Reynolds couldn’t be happier because her son struggles with big crowds.

“He’ll start to move around and make a lot of noise if he gets some sensory overload, and that’s when it’s hard sometimes to be at regular performances because he can’t really sit still,” she said.

This version of The Nutcracker will still be a fan favorite, just with slight changes. The lights in the house will be half way up so people can see everything around them to eliminate any anxiety of not knowing what’s nearby. The music will be softened slightly.

“One point in the battle scene with the mice fighting the Nutcracker prince and all the soldiers where one of the mice screams really loud for instance, that goes away because that would be surprising and shocking for even regular audiences it always surprises them,” Carney said.

For the first time, Reynolds believes her son will be able to sit through the entire two-hour performance.

“We’ve been in a lot of performances where we’ve had to take him out because you get the ugly stares, you get the uncomfortable looks people aren’t as accepting or understanding, and we don’t want to interrupt the performance,” she said.

And that means the world to her.

The sensory performance is Dec. 12 at the Kauffman Center. It fits 1,600 people, but they’ll only sell about 600 tickets to give families the extra space they need.


The Nutcracker

Nov. 30-Dec. 23, 2018 | Kauffman Center for the Performing Arts

Choreography: Devon Carney

Music: Peter I. Tchaikovsky performed by Kansas City Symphony

Sponsored by Bank of America

Fri., Nov. 30 10:30 a.m. (Student Matinee)

Fri., Nov. 30 7:30 p.m.

Sat., Dec. 1 2 p.m.* & 7:30 p.m.

Sun., Dec. 2 1 p.m.

Thurs. Dec 6 10:30 a.m. (Student Matinee)

Thurs. Dec 6 7:30 p.m.

Fri., Dec. 7 7:30 p.m.

Sat., Dec. 8 2 p.m. & 7:30 p.m.

Sun., Dec. 9 1 p.m. & 5 p.m.

Wed., Dec. 12 6 p.m. Sensory-Friendly Performance

Thurs., Dec. 13 7:30 p.m.

Fri., Dec. 14 10:30 a.m. (Student Matinee)

Fri., Dec. 14 7:30 p.m.

Sat., Dec. 15 2 p.m. & 7:30 p.m.

Sun., Dec. 16 1 p.m. & 5 p.m.

Thurs., Dec. 20 7:30 p.m.

Fri., Dec. 21 2 p.m. & 7:30 p.m.

Sat., Dec. 22 2 p.m. & 7:30 p.m.

Sun., Dec. 23 1 p.m. & 5 p.m.

(*) Sugar Plum Fairy Children’s Ball Luncheon

Copyright 2018 KCTV (Meredith Corp.) All rights reserved.

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