KING FM's Guide to...Ballets for Families

Pacific Northwest Ballet performs Sleeping Beauty Jan. 31-Feb. 9 this season.

There’s something magical about a child’s first time attending “The Nutcracker.” Even before the performance starts, it’s exciting to dress up, to make the trip to Seattle Center and to catch that first glimpse of McCaw Hall’s magnificent entryway. Then, when the curtain rises, an astonishing visual and musical feast begins—the colorful costumes, the gasp-worthy special effects, the lively yet Romantic music of Tchaikovsky, and, of course, the extraordinary dancing.
One of the easiest ways to introduce children to classical music is to take them to ballet performances, because it quite literally brings the music to life. Dancers physically demonstrate the drama and beauty the composer created on the page, offering context and heightened excitement to what’s happening in the orchestra pit down below, and perhaps inspiring kids to dream up dances and other images when they listen to classical music at home or in a concert hall.
While some children can’t get enough of ballet and sit transfixed through each and every performance, others need an action-packed plot or jaunty, uplifting music to keep them interested. If you fear your children might nod off during “Giselle” or get fidgety during “A Midsummer Night's Dream,” think about taking them to the ballets we’ve featured below. The family-friendly “Sleeping Beauty” starts January 31, and the one-act "Pinocchio" in March will not only entertain kids but will also feature kids onstage. Plus, there's always the classic "Nutcracker," beginning the weekend after Thanksgiving. Other ballets kids love include the fairytale “Cinderella” and the wacky “Don Quixote.”

Click here for PNB's own guide to attending the ballet with children.


Watch PNB's youngest dancers rehearse for, and talk about, "Coppélia."

Watch the Flower Waltz from PNB's 2010 performance of "The Nutcracker," composed by Tchaikovsky and choreographed by Kent Stowell. PNB's elaborate sets were designed by the late Maurice Sendak, author of the famed children's book, "Where the Wild Things Are."

Watch two ballerinas rehearse crazy dressing, dancing and bragging antics as Cinderella's two stepsisters in last year's PNB production of Prokofiev's "Cinderella."

When PNB performers dance three roles in one night, they call it the "Triple Whammy." Watch a night in the life of Triple Wham-ster Jessika Anspach as she changes quickly and tries to find time to catch her breath between roles!


Hear an overview of things to come this fall at PNB from Artistic Director Peter Boal.

PNB Artistic Director Peter Boal talks about his double life, onstage as Dr. Coppelius and offstage as “the boss,” in performances of “Coppélia.” He also sheds light on why “Coppélia” is a favorite for ballet companies worldwide and how choreographer George Balanchine brought this and many other ballets back to life.

Peter Boal discusses some of the dancing highlights from “Coppélia,” as choreographed by George Balanchine, and the importance of individual expression. He also discusses what’s on tap for the 2012-13 season.

PNB’s Ballet Master Otto Neubert describes the work he does preserving the choreography of recurring ballets, his background as a soloist with the New York City Ballet, German and American cultural differences and that pesky onstage snow during a “Nutcracker” intermission with KING FM’s Peter Newman.

During intermission at a performance of “Don Quixote,” PNB’s Music Director Emil de Cou talks about settling into his new position and navigating the Seattle arts scene, the challenges of communicating between the stage and the orchestra pit, and the differences between symphony conducting and live dance conducting.

Emil de Cou discusses the relatively mysterious life and music of "Don Quixote" composer Ludwig Minkus, the unique Romantic-meets-Spanish flavor of the ballet’s music, and the prospect of conducting an orchestra and an onstage choir simultaneously during "Carmina Burana."

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