The theatre visit starts at home already, as of course the story of the performance needs telling beforehand, otherwise the little ones won’t understand a thing (so – read up on it yourself!) That’s a good job for breakfast time. Then get everyone dressed smartly. But be careful – comfy clothes and not too warm. Because they soon get overheated from all the excitement. And it’s also important that they’ve eaten something, as the performance is long and cries of hunger halfway through can really put a damper on things.
Then, once in the theatre, try to get one of those red cushions from the cloakroom so they can sit higher. But the attendants will only give you one if you bring your child along and they can see for themselves that they’re really little (it’s true!) But of course, there you are with no child because your daughter’s just gone to the toilet (also very important!)
So later you pay a second visit to the cloakroom and hope there are still some cushions left. But keep an eye on the little ones because they often run off in all the excitement and then you lose them. There goes the gong. Into the auditorium to find your seats. And just when you think everyone has a reasonable view of the stage, a six-foot man sits down right in front of you. Switch places quickly! Then the house lights fade.
That’s good – there are lots more children here, as there’s a real racket during the overture.
But if you imagine the parents get a bit of peace and quiet once the performance starts, you’ve got another think coming. The real work is only just starting! What do you do as a professional parent with the inevitable rocking on the seats, with that little body that’s dying to dance along, with the arms waving in the air like the conductor and with the barrage of questions (“Daddy, which one is the princess?”), while the nasty gentleman in front of you has already given you two warning looks after only ten minutes?
Today, I myself was one of those professional parents, with my four children at The Sleeping Beauty. And even though I think they behaved really well, there’s still a possibility that somebody was irritated by one of my kids today. Because some people do get annoyed by parents who take children to a ballet performance – something that you have to be able to listen to in silence and watch in concentration.
I’d like to tell these people about my own first visit to the theatre.
It was in the mid-seventies. Somebody must have had some extra tickets. So as a young boy I went with my mother by bus to see The Brabant Orchestra. I can still see them sitting there on the stage of what I remember as the enormous Casino (as the theatre in Den Bosch used to be called). They were playing Bolero – and I didn’t know what had hit me. For weeks afterwards, on a dilapidated record player, I played the classical records from the Readers Digest ‘Best of Classics’ selection (which I had no idea we had until then). My love affair didn’t last very long though, and Top Pop and Hilversum 3 soon took over my musical education again. Until later, many years later, I suddenly and totally unexpectedly (re)discovered classical music. And many years after that, I became an orchestra director. The rest is history.
I was reminded of it this afternoon, while my daughter jumped up and down next to me. On that rainy afternoon at The Brabant Orchestra, a seed must have been planted in me – a seed that only sprouted many years later and came into full bloom. How different my life would have been if I’d just gone to play football as usual that afternoon, instead of going to hear Bolero.
I think it’s a wonderful Christmas idea – that on this Boxing Day afternoon lots of little seeds have been planted again; seeds that will blossom later in one way or another. Beauty, aesthetics, harmony and purity have been sown – and the world can’t get enough of those qualities.