"... I think it was one of the most engaging programs that we’ve had here …" Jenny Spinak, Accessibility Manager Sydney Opera House
The Australian Ballet Access Program
In partnership with the Sydney Opera House
The Sydney Opera House shares The Australian Ballet’s commitment to breaking down barriers to participation in the arts and promoting broad access to their activities and for the past three year has partnered with the ballet on an access program for students with special needs.
A shared space
Jenny Spinak, Accessibility Manager believes that the Sydney Opera House is here for everyone, as is the ballet.
"[The Australian Ballet Education program] is also dispelling that idea that these performing arts experiences are not for people of all abilities, so I think it's important to bring it to a wide audience, especially people who may never have had the opportunity to see the ballet or take a dance class,” Jenny says.
The program gave students the opportunity to engage with the program on multiple levels. Students were able to explore dance movement through the workshops and experience a performance by The Australian Ballet’s Dance Education team. The aim is always to give students the opportunity to explore the world of the ballet in a safe, creative and supported environment.
An opportunity to shine
Penelope Earp, a teacher at Waiora Special needs school in Bondi highly valued the partnership between Sydney Opera House and The Australian Ballet, saying the program gives participants an opportunity to shine:
“[The Sydney Opera House] is iconic, there's something magical about it. Having it in a fantastic venue, that wasn't just a hall or a theatre, it is a spectacular building, it is spectacular to enter …
[For] those students who are non-communicative, [who] do not have expressive communication, it is a means of communicating yourself without needing to have language. So that is a major thing. It's so very accessible. And if nothing else, it's an experience. Particularly if you have a severe intellectual disability … it is hard to go out, it's hard to do things, so therefore you miss out on many experiences; your experiences might be limited to home and school.”
Introduction to the arts
From Jenny’s point of view, providing arts-based programs to people with special-education needs is about opening possibilities.
“I think that's really important because exposure to the arts and first-rate arts experiences break down barriers … they can be universally appreciated … It opens up possibilities for people …. it touches and moves people. I think it's something that also improves your quality of life, your feeling of connection to your community, broadens your horizons, and I think it cuts across disability (and) ability.”
Disability access and venue partnership
The Australian Ballet Education team partnered with the Sydney Opera ACCESS program to children with special education needs.
The workshops explored the choreography, costume, music and characters of the ballet followed by a 30-minute performance designed to be relaxed, fun, informal and accessible to all.