Bittersweet Ballet Recitals

A girl on stage in a ballet costume.

Bittersweet Ballet Recitals

My six-year-old daughter just wrapped up her second season of ballet lessons. The company holds an annual recital each spring. I have to admit, attending the recital is a bit bitter sweet for us. We love being there and supporting our little girl, but watching ballet dances isn’t exactly blind-friendly. But here’s what we do to try to get the most out of the recital.

For starters, the instructor reserves the front row for us and puts our daughter in line on that side so she is closer for us to see. This does nothing for Jesse who really doesn’t have much vision, but for me it allows me to kind of make out where she is. I’ve used either binoculars or a magnifier app on my phone to view the dance. I’ll admit that I feel a bit conspicuous watching with something like this, especially when I’m already sitting on the front row. I also have a little bit of a blindness philosophical battle going on inside, as some of my blindness training promotes “blending in” or not taking special privileges like front-row seating just because I am blind. But I’ve decided that if it helps and allows me to get more out of the situation, especially since this involves my child, I’m going to take advantage of it and not worry about what others think or say, whether it’s sighted people thinking I’m weird or blind people judging me.

I still don’t get a great visual of what is going on, but it’s something. I then describe what I’m seeing to Jesse, which engages him a bit more as well. This isn’t a strategy we use all the time though. For example, if we are attending a play or movie and there is an audio descriptive service or guide, we’ll use that instead as it would be more useful. But for a children’s dance recital, it works pretty well.

Sometime either prior to or after the recital, we have our daughter do a solo performance for us at home and show us her favorite moves or parts of her dance. She then describes what she is doing or will pose for us to feel how she is standing so we can learn some of the moves. She loves the attention and teaching moments. It also gives us a bit more insight into what she is learning and how well she is doing.

I think about all the things we’ll watch our children participate in the future: sports games, recitals, plays, etc. It’s always going to be a little bittersweet not being able to see them make that great shot, give that funny expression when they make a mistake, or perform that solo. Right now our children are young, and while they know we are blind, I don’t think they quite get that this means that we can’t see them when they are performing, but hopefully our presence, cheers, and support will make up for what we may not see. And who knows. When I die, maybe I’ll be able to review a heavenly video of my life and see these highlights in all their visual glory and technicolor while enjoying a jumbo bucket of calorie-free buttered popcorn.


Read more from Mary Jo at Making It on the Playground.