The School Newspaper of Cherry Hill High School East


The School Newspaper of Cherry Hill High School East


The School Newspaper of Cherry Hill High School East


The Voorhees Ballet Theater turns toward accessibility

Alexis Rovner (’26)
Voorhees Ballet Theater dancers perform as snowflakes in “The Nutcracker.”

Lights up on sparkling snowflakes, dancing flowers and the unforgettable story of a young girl and her Christmas gift brought to life. For the 35th year, the Voorhees Ballet Theatre, a South Jersey student ballet company, staged “The Nutcracker” for the holidays. However, for the first time, the company also presented a sensory-friendly production of the ballet, allowing for more families to enjoy the Christmas classic.

The Voorhees Ballet Theatre’s production of The Nutcracker featured a cast of over 40 students, ranging from elementary school to high school. Performances were staged December 8 through December 10 at Voorhees Middle School, with the sensory-friendly production taking place at 11 a.m. on December 9.

While audiences were still delighted by the performances of Clara, the Mouse King, the Sugar Plum Fairy and more, several key changes were added to the sensory-friendly production to accommodate audience members who are on the autism spectrum or have other sensory-sensi-
tivities. For instance, unlike the traditional Nutcracker, this performance had a shortened runtime of approximately an hour.

Thus, scenes such as the battle between the Nutcracker and the Mouse King—a scene with many loud booms and bright flashes—have been reduced and cut to both avoid sensory discomfort and shorten the production.

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“We took out the parts where all the loud noises are, but then were able to put [the scene] together in a way that the story still gets conveyed,” said Alexis Rovner (‘26), who per-
formed in her ninth Nutcracker with the Voorhees Ballet Theatre this year. Along with the reduced runtime, house lights re- main dimmed, but not off, throughout the entire performance.

Furthermore, the sound and lighting levels were adjusted and reduced—modified to be less jarring or bothersome to those with sensory-processing needs. Moreover, traditional theatre rules were relaxed to allow audience members to talk, react and move about freely during the performance. In addition to accommodations within the performance, a designated quiet area was available in the lobby and gluten-free concessions were sold to ensure that there was food for everyone.

“Depending on how successful it is, [the company is] going to try to imple-
ment [sensory-friendly productions] in future shows,” said Rovner before the show. “I think it is going to draw more of an audience because people who can’t sit through the regular show will now have another option that’s more suitable for them.”

From opening night to the final curtain call, Voorhees Ballet Theatre’s latest production reflects a movement — locally and globally — to make live theater experiences more inclusive accessible and enjoyable to all types of people.

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About the Contributor
Sophia Liu
Sophia Liu, Eastside Editor-In-Chief
Sophia Liu is a senior and one of this year's Eastside Editor-in-Chiefs. When she's not chasing a story, Sophia can be found on the East tennis courts, running from one club meeting to another, or getting lost in a good book. She loves immersing herself in the communities around her, whether it's by volunteering, getting to know East one features story at a time, or adding on to her never-ending list of local restaurants to try. In addition to journalism, Sophia's interests include the intersection of STEM and the humanities, watercolor painting, the NYT Mini Crossword, and bubble tea.

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