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Broomfield conservatory promotes ‘dance for all’ in performances

The conservatory aims to not only inspire, but include children and people with special needs in its performances of “The Nutcracker.”
The Colorado Conservatory of Dance, which is based in Broomfield, is inspiring inclusivity by changing the traditional audience relationship in its upcoming performances of “The Nutcracker.”

The Colorado Conservatory of Dance, which is based in Broomfield, inspires inclusivity each year by changing the traditional audience relationship in its performances of “The Nutcracker.”

Following each ballet performance in December — at the Pinnacle Charter School’s Performing Arts Complex in Denver — children are invited to learn choreography from the ballet and perform it onstage for their families, said Julia Wilkinson Manley, artistic director for the Colorado Conservatory of Dance.

“It’s easy and safe to get the kids from the audience up on stage, and they get to see what it’s like to look at the audience and see the bright lights, or look off into the wings and see how the stage is divided up, and then they get to hear the applause when their families cheer for them,” Wilkinson Manley said.

A special performance will also be held Dec.16 for people with special needs, she said. Unpredictable loud sounds will be eliminated from the performance, house lights will be left up to avoid total darkness, seating will be spacious and guests will be allowed to get up at any time and react to the performance in a way that feels right to them, she explained. Standard audience etiquette rules won’t apply.

“For families who have a child with special needs, those barriers — those rules that we learn — are not often something they can control,” Wilkinson Manley explained. “It creates a feeling of not being welcome.”

Creating that inclusive space for people of all backgrounds and abilities is part of the conservatory’s mission statement: ‘we unleash individual potential and invigorate community through dance.”

Broomfield provides a supportive network for the Colorado Conservatory of Dance and its goal of offering ‘dance for all,’ Wilkinson Manley said.

“Broomfield is such a lovely community and they are very generous,” she explained. “They really care about the arts and about making sure that their children have access to the arts, even for those Broomfielders who are not able to afford dance education.”

“The Nutcracker” performances will feature more than 50 student cast members, some of whom received financial aid scholarships, Wilkinson Manley said.

“A lot of our Broomfield residents help to support those scholarships.”

The conservatory provides nearly $90,000 in tuition assistance each year, she said.

The performances on Dec. 10 and 11 will feature Chisako Oga and Daniel Durrett of the Boston Ballet, who will perform the roles of the Sugar Plum Fairy and her Cavalier. Those roles will be performed by Ji Young Chae and Patrick Yocum, also of the Boston Ballet, on Dec. 17 and 18, Wilkinson Manley said. Local celebrity dancer Colby Foss will be performing the role of Snow King for all performances.

“The guest stars that we have coming aboard are just phenomenal world-class artists,” Wilkinson Manley explained. “It’s so much fun for our dancers to get to perform right alongside them and to get to know them. They are the famous dancers of our time.”

The performances are scheduled for Dec. 10, 11, 16, 17 and 18 at the Pinnacle Charter School Performing Arts Complex, 1001 W. 84th Ave., in Denver. Tickets for adults start at $48, and tickets for the sensory-friendly performance on Dec. 16 are $10.