Our 2017 Sensory-Friendly Nutcracker Show

On December 9, 2017 International Ballet Theater performed a Sensory-Friendly Nutcracker at the Fred P. Meagher Theatre of Neumann University. The charity show was called “perfect,” “heartwarming,” and “a complete success,” and brought happiness to audience and dancers alike.


Little Mice’s entrance before arrival of the Mouse King (left) and Little Soldiers before the battle scene (right)


TACA kids in the audience were excited to see kids their own age on stage, performing for them
“The shortened duration of the show, though more difficult for the dancers, was perfect for keeping the audiences enthralled. International Ballet Theater worked with autism experts to present a show better suited for special needs. Sometimes music, lights, and crowds of people can be overwhelming and these were important factors to consider while staging this production,”

explains 15 y.o. Rory Myers, IBT Company member and a Gaynor Girl.



Audience applause at the end of the show (left) and Rory Myers taking a bow (right). “The experience of seeing people's reactions was novel for me since the auditorium is usually dark, but I enjoyed it,” says Rory


Narrator Maddie Glinski: “On the day of the show, I found myself quite excited. This time I wasn’t a dancer but a narrator, which was something entirely new to me.”


“Prior to the sensory show, my knowledge of autism was very limited. I knew that people with autism communicate differently than an average person, but other than that, I was clueless,”

shares 15 y.o. Madeline Glinski, IBT Company member and the Russian Pointe Brand Ambassador.

“So, when I was asked to write the Nutcracker synopsis for our sensory show, I felt a great deal of responsibility. Editing the text multiple times to make it perfect for the audience I tried to put myself into the autistic world and see our ballet through their eyes and ears. It was incredibly eye-opening for me.“


Columbia University freshman and IBT Academy alumna Alison Tatsuoka came all the way from Manhattan to dance the part of the mysterious magician Drosselmeyer (left); 11 y.o. Lia Issakov dancing the part of Doll (right)


13 y.o. Alexia Dobrin as Harlequin Doll (left) and 13 y.o. Abby Wu partnered by Guest Artist Federico Marques from Forrest Academy of Ballet, NYC


From the Land of Snow come the Snowflakes: 11 y.o. Ally Mao, 13 y.o. Abbey Wu, and 13 y.o. Michelle Yu


IBT’s Ballet Mistress Natalia Bondar-Shelest in Mother Ginger (left) and 15 y.o. Gunar Daniels partnering 10 y.o. Raica Tarr in French (right)


14 y.o. Evelyn Zhao partnered by Guest Artist Federico Marques in Arabian (right); 13 y.o. Alexa Yang in Watz of the Flowers


13 y.o. Alexa Yang who danced Clara (left) posed with every TACA child who wanted a picture with a little ballerina and her impressive red Nutcracker doll (right)


15 y.o. Rory Myers dancing Sugar Plum Fairy (left) and posing with a grateful TACA family after the show (right)


Rory Myers:

“The highlight of the entire experience, for me, was the meet and greet after the performance. It was so rewarding to see how the dancers inspired the kids. I absolutely loved talking to everyone in the audience! A close friend of mine brought both of her brothers who have autism and it was touching to see how much they enjoyed the performance since the event was remarkably unique.”


Rory’s pointe shoes get examined by a curious TACA theater goer (left); with TACA PA coordinator Honey Rinicella and her twin sons Victor and Vincent


An excited TACA mom on stage photographing her twins with IBT’s Ballet Mistress Natalia Bondar-Shelest

Madeline Glinski:

“The environment on stage was incredible: everyone was talking, helping, and laughing as we celebrated what we had accomplished. After the show I found myself thinking about the experience and realizing how grateful I was to be a part of something that brought such joy to the autistic community. To me that’s the greatest reward possible.”

Rory Myers:

“To me, the most important part of ballet and being an artist is knowing how to connect with the audience. The Sensory-Friendly show gave a new meaning to this by using the meet and greet and the narration to really engage and reach out to those who sometimes struggle with relating to others. This experience was so rewarding and beneficial for both the audience and the dancers, I hope I get a chance to participate again next year.”
Alexa Yang and Rory Myers greeting TACA families on stage and taking pictures after the performance
Alexa Yang in Waltz of the Flowers (left) and posing on stage with another happy TACA family

Jaelyn Fellona, Director of IBT:

“Some of our IBT Academy students have autistic siblings so it felt really important for us as a ballet company to produce this Sensory-Friendly Nutcracker show in addition to our full-length Nutcrackers. It immediately became a very personal project for everyone at IBT. We worked closely with the autistic kids’ parents and sibling, re-staging and really tailoring the performance to the kids’ special needs. This is how a unique abridged version of The Nutcracker was born. The 2-hour long original ballet was shortened to 45 min, while retaining all of its storyline and the 2-act structure. The event was very well-received, and giving back to the community felt inspiring to all of the IBT dancers. We hope that next year in addition to a Sensory-Friendly Nutcracker we can also produce a Sensory-Friendly fairytale ballet for spring.”


IBT Director Jaelyn Fellona explaining some technical details of backstage activities (left); high-five to a ballerina for a job well done (right)


One last bow before the final curtain, while TACA PA coordinator Honey Rinicella thanks performers and the show organizers from a podium

Later, Mrs. Rinicella sent a touching Thank-You Note to IBT: 

“Yesterday’s Nutcracker was just so beautiful and heartwarming! The show was perfect and I melted when the children were allowed to take pictures with the cast on stage afterwards!
Jaelyn Fellona, we so appreciate your detailed efforts and all of your amazing dancers at International Ballet Theater. The fact that you all volunteered to perform at this special event ON TOP OF back to back weekends of sold out shows gives us a glimpse of your amazing heart.
Your first sensory-friendly Nutcracker was a complete success! On behalf of all special needs families thank you for blessing our children!”