Arts & Theater

Capital Dance Project will bring on the dance, turn down the noise ... and the lights

Behind the Barre in 2015
Behind the Barre in 2015 Jason Sinn Photography

Attendees at Friday night’s performance by the Capital Dance Project will have access to items not typically available during a performance – stress balls, coloring stations and noise-canceling headphones.

CDP will kick off a weekend of dance performances at Sacramento’s Crest Theatre with the sensory-friendly evening, a one-night-only program created to make individuals with autism or other sensory-related disabilities feel comfortable in an environment that typically includes loud noises and bright lights. CDP performs its third annual Beyond the Barre on Saturday and Sunday.

Traditional theater rules will be relaxed and sound levels will be lowered during the 25-minute dance performance, said Alexandra Cunningham, a CDP dancer who is spearheading the sensory-friendly evening. CDP is a 3-year-old collective composed mainly of dancers with Sacramento Ballet.

Four behavioral therapists will be among the 15 volunteers at the theater before and during the performance to help ensure safety, she said.

“If kids want to get up and walk around the theater, that is allowed,” said Cunningham, who said she has wanted to bring the idea to Sacramento for several years. “We’ll have a safe zone in the lobby of the Crest with beanbags and coloring stations, and if they want to leave the auditorium in the middle of the performance and color, they can color.”

For the short performance on Friday evening, CDP chose three pieces from Behind the Barre, its full-length dance programs taking place on Saturday and Sunday. The program was then tailored to those with special needs.

“We will have no stage lighting at all that evening, but the theater won’t be dark. The normal lights will be on inside the Crest auditorium during the entire performance,” said Cunningham.

CDP has partnered with The Kings Foundation to bring the sensory-friendly event to Sacramento. As a result, tickets for the Friday performance are only $5, with no service fees.

“The Sacramento Kings already have an Autism Awareness Night so they wanted to participate immediately, and they connected us with KultureCity, which is this amazing charity dedicated to helping autistic children realize their potential,” said Cunningham. “They were invaluable in helping us plan the event.”

Although many rules of theater etiquette will be loosened, children will not be allowed on stage with the dancers, at least not this year.

“This first year will be a learning year for us, to see what works and what doesn’t,” said Cunningham.

Local dancers take advantage of the break in the Sacramento Ballet season to produce their own dance, art and music collaborations with local artists. The Capital Dance Project presents Behind the Barre Aug. 26 and 27. More info at capitaldancepro

Capital Dance Project’s sensory-friendly performance

When: Friday, 6 p.m.

Where: Crest Theatre, 1013 K St., Sacramento

Cost: $5; $25-$30 Behind the Barre 7 p.m. Saturday, 2 p.m. Sunday