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CARE Ballet dance mom shares her favorite part of a performance

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CARE Ballet presents “The Pied Piper” with public performances this weekend. On Friday, Grand Rapids area students get a sneak peek.
CARE Ballet dancers and students from Coit Creative Arts Academy pose as a Pied Piper character.

CARE Ballet dancers and students from Coit Creative Arts Academy pose as a Pied Piper character. /Yolanda Gonzalez

Rats are everywhere! Luckily, the Pied Piper is coming to town.

Join the Pied Piper as he rids Hamelin of rats by leading them through the town, across a bridge, and into the countryside. Cheer with the village children as they skip and dance to the Piper’s sweet music. Based on a poem by Robert Browning and choreographed by Artistic Director Judy Genson-Wadsworth, this tale will delight boys and girls of all ages!
  • Saturday, February 4, 2017, at 11:00 AM & 3:00 PM
  • Sunday, February 5, 2017, at 3:00 PM
Purchase tickets online at or call 616-464-3682.
Children & Student $10, Adults $15. All seats are reserved.
Performances are at East Grand Rapids Performing Arts Center, 2211 Lake Dr. SE, Grand Rapids, Michigan 49506
Anne King prepares students for the ballet.

Anne King prepares students for the ballet. /Yolanda Gonzalez

CARE dancers lead students during the rat scene.

CARE dancers lead students during the rat scene. /Yolanda Gonzalez

This weekend CARE Ballet brings to stage “The Pied Piper,” a family-friendly tale of a piper who rids the village of rats. CARE dancers have rehearsed for weeks. Seamstresses have altered costumes. Volunteer parents assembled sets at East Grand Rapids Performing Arts Center. All regular work of putting a production together. But what is less understood, and most important to me, is the work being done to bring two special audiences to see the show performed just for them. 
CARE Ballet, with the support of individuals and corporate sponsorship, will invite classrooms from Grand Rapids area schools to see “The Pied Piper” this Friday before the weekend public performances. Over a thousand children from schools who qualify for free or reduced lunches will soon be sitting silently in awe one moment, and then laughing and cheering the next, enjoying the art form of dance and storytelling. I wonder how many of these very enthusiastic children would ever enjoy a ballet if not for CARE. Not many, I think. And that experience is most important for the few kids who suddenly see themselves in the dancers. 
CARE goes even further to create a valuable experience. Anne King, CARE’s school specialist, dedicates many hours to coordinate the school performances. Additionally, she and a few CARE dancers, visit each school for a special assembly. I recently volunteered at one of these assemblies at Coit Creative Arts Academy in Grand Rapids. Ms. King described the story of “The Pied Piper” and prepared the children for the ballet. Two CARE dancers demonstrated parts of the show and invited some of the students to learn the dance with them. Giggles from classmates rose as these kids pretended to be rats led by the Pied Piper around the gym. CARE dancers helped the students understand what it’s like to be in a performance and tell a story silently through movement. Another important element taught during the assembly was proper audience etiquette. Ms. King prepared the students with what to do when the lights go down, and the auditorium goes pitch black. She also taught them appropriate times for clapping. This preparation will be evident during the actual performance on Friday.
This experience offers enrichment in the classroom as well. “One of our learning goals is the Common Core State Standard writing narrative,” a teacher wrote CARE after a recent school performance. “After seeing the ballet, my students wrote to answer prompts, like how did the dancers communicate their thoughts and ideas? We then went on to re-enact the whole story as we remembered it and spent much of the afternoon reliving the ballet experience. This was by far one of the best experiences my students have ever had.” At CARE Ballet, dancers, parents and production staff dedicate many hours to bring quality performances to families, but the work done for Grand Rapids area school children is my highlight. I look forward to Friday when I help usher in all the students and see them enjoy “The Pied Piper.”
To learn more about CARE Ballet and the School Performance Program visit Yolanda Gonzalez, CARE "dance mom" and volunteer wrote this article.

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