Falling for Art

I took my 4-year-old son to Fall.ART.Live at Oregon Ballet Theatre this Saturday. It was one of those things where I had to go out of my way to make it happen. Saturdays have a tendency to feel like they’ve slipped by before we’ve even finished our first cup of coffee.

But this was important. First, because I really miss the fact that OBT is no longer hosting “OBT Exposed” and second, because I have long been looking for ways to introduce my son to professional dance.

I am a White Bird subscriber and during the season, as he watches me get ready to go to performances, he inevitably asks the question, “Can I come too?” I usually gently tell him that he can’t go because I don’t have a ticket for him. But the truth is that White Bird performances aren’t exactly kid-friendly. They are too late in the evening, too long, and too expensive to take a preschooler in the hopes that maybe he’ll enjoy it. One day, when he’s older, if he still really loves dance (and maybe even if he doesn’t), I will make sure I have a ticket for him.

In the meantime, I’m looking for interesting, short ways to introduce him to dance. Fall.ART.Live was perfect. We arrived and checked out the tables from a variety of arts organizations. Do Jump was onstage showing kids how to use their bodies to grow from a seed to a full flower. These kids were getting it! You could see that they weren’t just demonstrating the transformation; they were feeling it and living it.

We snuck inside and lingered in a studio doorway, watching the dancers warm up. Then we went back outside in time to catch four pieces from Northwest Dance Project. We sat on the side, a mere step away from some of the dancers. We could see their muscles, their sweat, their smiles to each other, and of course, some fabulous choreography.

I’ve taken joy in introducing my son to some really cool things: fireflies at night, dancing in a rainstorm, sunflowers taller than both of us, a boat ride on the ocean. But this was different. I was sharing something that I have been intensely passionate about all my life.

We had to leave soon after, and as we walked away to the strains of the Portland Opera’s “The Marriage of Figaro,” I asked which dancers he liked the best. He said, “Well, I liked the girls best, because I want to be able to dance like a girl. But I never saw boys dance like that before. It was pretty cool.”

We walked on, hand in hand, my heart full and happy. I looked down at my son and said to him, “I love the arts.” He squeezed my hand and said, “I love the arts too, Mama!”


MightyToyCannon said...

Jenny Wren, welcome to Culture Shock. What a lovely way to start out. As I was leaving the event, a woman and her little girl were crossing the street toward the stage as OBT dancers were on stage. The girl had such a look of excitement on her face to see them that close. The Fall.ART.Live event may not have been a display of great art (which is hard to do on an outdoor stage with Harley's roaring by), but it was a fine family affair.

Readers, welcome Jenny Wren to Culture Shock's author roll. Ms. Wren (JW?) is a friend and colleague, and I look forward to future posts.

culturejock said...

Yes, welcome Jenny Wren! And thank you for a great post.

Jenny Wren said...

Thank you! I'm glad to be on board.

5dogs said...

Such a sweet story. I want to hear more!

Jessica said...

Great event, great post. Hi Jenny!

Unknown said...


Telling stories is the greatest art.

Keep telling!

shobiz said...

What a great post, and welcome, Jenny! As a father to a five-year-old girl, I really appreciate arts-related posts from other parents of young'uns. I wish I had known what the Fall.ART.Live event was really about, because we would have gone. For exactly the reasons you described, I'm always looking for small, easy ways to introduce my daughter to the arts.

Miss Laura said...

Welcome, Jenny Wren. Lovely kick-off. Reminds me of taking my 11-year-old son to "The Nutcracker" last December, though he calls it by another rhyming name that starts with "B." Two little girls were sitting behind us with their parents. They were about 2 and 4 and wearing matching dark velvet dresses with big sashes. The show started and the opening where all the guests arrive for the party went on and on and on. There's no dancing in that part. The youngest girl sat right behind us on her dad's lap and kept saying through the binky in her mouth, "Wheh ah da ballaweenas? Wheh ah da ballaweenas?" My son and I looked at each other and snickered. Now every time I think of taking little kids to dance performances, that line runs through my head.

Jenny Wren said...

Miss Laura, I love it! As an introduction to dance, I think The (B)utcracker is rather long and the first half is too slow for little ones. It may work for some, but I suspect a lot of families walk away slightly disappointed with the experience.

David said...

I confess a special appreciation of the Balanchine party scene--how often do people my age get to be in a ballet?

For the smallest tykes in the audience, though, it's too bad Balanchine didn't slip the magic tree and the fight scene into the story a little earlier, just to grab the kiddies' attention.