This past weekend we had the second ballet in our season subscription to The Washington Ballet to attend. Since every time my daughters and I attend the ballet it creates a minor child care crisis for our family, my husband and I spent some time discussing logistics of how this would work out. In the end, we decided to bring the whole family along on an excursion to D.C.!
While investigating options for things for my husband and son to do while we attended the ballet, I came across a wonderful event at the Smithsonian called “Or-KID-eas,” with a whole day devoted to a new exhibit on orchids, including hands-on activities for kids. We couldn’t pass that up so we put some extra time in our schedule to make the orchid event before the ballet.
It was a rainy and gray Saturday and the most wonderful treat to walk into the museum exhibit gallery to see a room packed floor to ceiling with different types of orchids!
Each child was able to pot an orchid to take home with the help of volunteers from the U.S. Botanic Garden.
My child named this one “Butterfly.”
Orchids are endangered due to loss of their native habitat. But orchids are especially endangered in the hands of exuberant 4-year-olds who don’t pay attention while crossing the street.
We were walking along to the theatre when my 4-year-old looked down and said, “Oh-oh! Where’s Butterfly?” We looked in her little pot and all that was there was a little soil. We then went on a desperate rescue mission looking for Butterfly. Retracing our steps, we found her!
“Poor Butterfly” Smashed in the middle of 8th Street! We scooped her up and put her back in the pot the best we could. Butterfly is now recuperating on our kitchen counter.
After our orchid adventure, we had a wonderful time at the ballet. Septime Weber, the Artistic Director, never disappoints in these children-oriented performances. He makes sure to walk out on stage at the beginning and talk to the children. My children always raise their hand when he asks “Who is attending their very first ballet?” Of course, they aren’t attending their first ballet but they just like to raise their hands so they can interact with him. It’s like their way of saying “Hi!”
This time, they were in for a very special treat! After the first performance, an excerpt from Swan Lake, Septime Weber came back on stage to talk to the children about choreography. He gave a definition of choreography that I just love:
Then, he invited the children on stage to take part in an impromptu choreography session! Mr. Weber took suggestions from the audience about what people did first thing in the morning and then choreographed movements on the spot for the children. The kids LOVED it. They even “performed” for us at the end with lights and music (“Gangnam Style,” which got a great laugh from the audience).
It was so cool for the adults to watch such a great mind in action. It was fascinating to see how excellent short-term memory is vital for a dancer. Mr. Weber put together 4 movements in about 10 minutes for the children and he remembered every single one of those movements down to the smallest detail, even though it was the first time he had devised those particular movements and he was on stage in view of hundreds of people!
The rest of the ballet program was an excellent mix of excerpts from classical and modern ballet. We saw a wonderful South-American inspired pas de deux, Cor Perdut, with very quick and smooth spinning lifts. We saw Septime Weber’s choreography for The Great Gatsby, with all men performing acrobatic-almost Broadway-inspired lifts. Le Corsaire was a classical pas de deux where the female lead had to dance the first part with a heavy veil obscuring her vision. Blue Until June (Suite) was modern balletic choreography to the music of Etta James and it was so moving and fabulous! Finally, the Pas de Trois with two male dancers and one female, showcased outstanding talent with incredible jumps and spins and solos. Brooklyn Mack did not disappoint!
At intermission, my children enjoyed red velvet cupcakes in the glass-enclosed reception area that looks right out over F Street. A grandmother came up to me and gave us the honor of a very nice compliment. You see, you have to remember that Washington, D.C. has one of the highest concentrations of highly educated people in the entire country. The brainpower of our region is often intimidating. So this kind woman walks up to me, motions to my younger daughter and asks me if I am familiar with Renoir’s “Girl with a Watering Can.” We then had a great conversation about how, yes, I was familiar and that yes, her dress was based on that painting for a Halloween costume for my eldest daughter a few years ago. The woman smiled and told me that when my daughter was on stage during the choreography session with Septime Weber, that she couldn’t take her eyes off my daughter because of the resemblance. This woman did D.C. proud with her subtle show of intelligence. It made us remember that we have to work hard to keep up with this crowd!
The second act featured George Balanchine’s Stars and Stripes set to the music of John Philip Sousa. The costumes were amazing. The women were in marching band–type jackets with bright pink and purple tutus. The men in navy marching-band uniforms. Maki Onuki performed the final pas de deux and she just steals the show. She is such a bright, energetic and youthful presence on stage. She looks like she can’t be older than 18, even though she is likely in her mid-twenties.
You can see some of the performance yourself from The Washington Ballet’s YouTube channel.
It has been such a treat to attend the Family Series at The Washington Ballet. The arts aren’t always kind to children in the audience but The Washington Ballet has embraced them with open arms. Not only is this a nice perk for families but also a smart business decision as they are raising their season ticket subscribers of the future! Their 2013-2014 season is now accepting subscriptions for anyone interested.
After all visits to “the big city,” we feel invigorated as well as a bit exhausted afterward. The children slept all the way home in the car and my husband and I were happy to have given them such a wonderful taste of the city.
*I am not affiliated with the Smithsonian or The Washington Ballet.