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Mid-Columbia Ballet's sensory-friendly shows making the arts accessible to all

Mid-Columbia Ballet's sensory-friendly shows making the arts accessible to all

RICHLAND, Wash. — When Mid-Columbia Ballet takes the stage for the Jungle Book this week, the dancers might not be the only ones in the room with great lighting.

Dancer Francesca Tedischi said the dance company's sensory friendly performances have helped her to grow-- both as a dancer and as a member of her community.

"You don't think about things like that and I was like, 'Oh my gosh, that's a great idea'," Tedeschi said.

The company's Artistic Assistant Rebecca Rogo grew up dancing and went on to get her Masters in Special Education.

She said many people with disabilities have sensory sensitivities that make it hard for them, and by proxy their families, to attend events like the ballet.

That's why she said she introduced the idea of hosting a "Sensory-Friendly Matinee".

"Families can come and enjoy the performance in their own way. They're free to make some noise or move around if they need to," Rogo said.

She said her team adjusts a few elements of the show to make it more enjoyable for everyone.

"We make sure our house lights don't go down all the way," Rogo said. "They stay up about halfway. We also adjust our sound levels to make sure it's not too loud."

She said Mid-Columbia Ballet's Sensory-Friedly shows are following in the footsteps of the Kennedy Center and The National Theater in London.

Still, she said it seems many dance companies still haven't heard of the idea.

"We're really excited to be able to forge that path, and raise awareness within the dance world," Rogo explained. "This is something that every dance company should be doing in every community."

She said the company's most recent Sensory-Friendly performance of The Nutcracker drew a crowd of more than 500 people.

Rogo told Action News it was so popular they plan to host the it yearly, hoping families will make a tradition out of it.

"That's something we have a lot of pride in, and why we take this so seriously," Rogo added. "Because we're the only game in town for these kind of programs."

The Sensory-Friendly performance of The Jungle Book is at 4 p.m. Saturday, March 17 at Richland high school, 930 Long Ave., Richland, Wash.

Admission is free but you need a ticket; pre-registration available on their website.

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