Children’s Matinee at the American Dance Festival

In a classic case of quickly-fogetting-the-terrible-moments of parenting, when the American Dance Festival invited me and the kids to checkout their special round-up of Children’s Matinee at the Reynolds Industries Theater in Durham this past weekend, I said, YES! Of Course! I mean, why think twice about taking three kids under 5 to a live dance performance by myself. 

While Asha and I have been to a handful of productions together, I haven’t yet dared to take Arjun and Ajay because they are totally unpredictable and lack any ability to sit and be quiet. But I love a good challenge and ADF’s offer seemed like an ideal ice breaker for all three together because: 1) it was in the afternoon, and 2) it was about modern dance with lots of tumbling and jumping that kids can relate to.

So let me just say that my expectations were wayyyyy low. I was prepared for one to freakout while the other had a simultaneous blow-out on my dress. In fact I wasn’t even sure how to get them in the theater once they saw the ice-cream-spoon chandelier in the lobby. But I always operate on the “what’s the worst that can happen” principle, and in this case, the worst wasn’t really that scary and very much worth the payoff if all went well.

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Once we finally made it in and settled into our seats, Asha and Arjun immediately and loudly started asking for popcorn and snacks.  Thankfully, the dancing started soon and I think that’s when it clicked in their heads just what we were up to.

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The hour-long performance was divided into segments that rotated between an amazing performance by the dancers of Dayton Contemporary Dance Company (I want their abs and athleticism) and then an invitation for the kids to go on stage (or stand on the sidelines for those less sure) and learn a small routine from the dancers themselves. I loved the part when they pulled up the black curtains and exposed the innards, lights, and features of backstage, to show just how things worked.

And unlike a regular show, it was okay if the kids were a little chatty, which Arjun was, given that he gave a running commentary on whether or not he could do a particular move being performed at that very moment, and demonstrating it by his seat in the dark. For his sake, I was also glad that there were both male and female performers on the stage because we haven’t encountered that very much so far.

Ajay was a SUPER CHAMP and didn’t cry or get fussy. He wasn’t scared of the dark. And was more than happy to bounce on my knees and then applaud when the rest of the audience did.

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After the show, there were crafts, face-painting, fairy-hair, snacks, and music in the lobby (I was extra thankful for A/C and the ability to hang out indoors in a big but contained space…hehe). The band was also a big hit!

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I love the theater. I am not a snob who pretends to knows a lot about it (because I don’t), or someone who holds season tickets for shows (wish I did). I simply love the creativity and hard work that goes behind bringing a production to stage – lighting, stage design, costumes, the seemingly magical way things transform from scene to scene right in front of your eyes. I love it all, and try to experience it whenever time allows. It makes me extra happy when I get chances like these to then share those same experiences with Asha, Arjun, and Ajay and get their imagination going. It is never too early!

That afternoon, I walked away feeling very righteous! haha. It was the kind of thing that one always hopes to do as a parent but doesn’t always accomplish because of so many reasons.

Secretly, I might or might not have walked away dreaming of joining a dance company.

With all that good, I have to be honest and show you how we faired. After over 2-hours of a terrific time, I had someone take this picture to demonstrate that even with a great start, a great end is not guaranteed. ;)

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ADF has two more Children’s Matinee performances coming up on June 23rd with Pilobolus, and June 30th with Ronald K. Brown/Evidence. I really really hope all you local folks get to check it out. The festival itself runs till July 21st.