Look Forward to Giving Back
Published November 4, 2022
Look Forward to Giving Back
As the resident ballet company of the Pioneer Center for the Performing Arts and the largest ballet company in the region, A.V.A. Ballet Theatre has always believed it is important to give back to the community who supports its productions. For over seventeen years, the company has donated tickets to its shows at the Pioneer Center to deserving families and seniors who may not be able to afford the tickets.
Throughout their ballet season, hundreds of tickets from each production are donated to this worthy cause. Achieving this good will can be quite a juggling act as A.V.A. Ballet Theatre is a non-profit. The company must balance ticket sales with community giving. They allocate tickets to the performances they know will have unsold seats available.
In 2010 and again in 2019, it became clear to the A.V.A. Ballet Theatre Board of Directors that demand for their performances, The Nutcracker in particular, was going to hinder the ability to donate a sizable number of tickets. In response, they increased the number of presentations and will stage five The Nutcracker shows this December. This allows the ballet company to continue to expose the performing arts to those who may not otherwise have the opportunity to see a ballet and still sell tickets to the general public.
In the past, A.V.A. Ballet Theatre has coordinated this donation of tickets with the Community Services Agency and its Head Start programs, Catholic Charities with a focus on seniors, the Boys and Girls Club, the Eddy House, the Children’s Cabinet, and the Empowerment Center—focusing on at-risk women. Yvette Myers is the Director of Community Development for the Empowerment Center and is also a board member for A.V.A. Ballet Theatre. She coordinates the distribution of the tickets with the various charities and says they all greatly appreciate the donation of tickets.
“Each year we have over 500 new three, four, and five-year old children whose parents have a hard time keeping a roof over their heads and food on the table,” Myers said. “Each year we bring these families the joy of art — the beauty of ballet.”
A few years ago, A.V.A. Ballet Theatre thought it would be nice to create a Family Guide for the children to assist them with their first ballet experience. Their grant writer, Paula Cassino, created the Family Guide as a way to explain the theater experience and let the families know what they might expect when attending one of their performances. A.V.A. Ballet Theatre’s Family Guide includes materials for education and activities for children to learn about the performance prior to attending the ballet. They encourage teachers and families to use this guide before and after the performance to familiarize the children with their ballets and with ballet as an art form. Prior to seeing a performance, the children are given the Family Guide—whether it be The Nutcracker, Sleeping Beauty or Peter Pan. After the shows, the teachers and counselors ask the students to write a letter to A.V.A. Ballet Theatre or create an art project that depicts their favorite parts of the ballets.
The feedback A.V.A. Ballet Theatre receives from these children reveals true joy and revelation and is quite heartwarming.
You see, most of these kids have never been in a theater, have never heard a live orchestra, and certainly have never seen a ballet performance. From the letters received after the shows, they can tell they have made a huge impact on their lives (I get choked up just thinking about this). They see statements like, “I want to go to school and learn how to dance or play a musical instrument.” Often, the letters are written in Spanish as the children are just learning to speak English as their second language. Regardless the language of the letters, a sense of appreciation comes through.
The letters from seniors are equally heartwarming.
“Being given these tickets allowed me to spend time with my granddaughter,” one woman wrote. “The performance was truly magical and the hours I spent with her are something I will always cherish.”
“It’s moving to read these letters,” said Alexander Van Alstyne, the artistic director for A.V.A. Ballet Theatre. “I love that we are making an impact on their lives and allowing them to experience something new.”
Before each production, I like to go to the areas of the Pioneer Center where I know many of these families are sitting. Their parents have the children dressed up in their best Sunday clothes and the excitement on their faces is unmistakable.
The educational component of this program is important to many of the foundations who donate money to A.V.A. Ballet Theatre. They tell the foundations who generously award them money that they are actually giving to three good causes: A.V.A. Ballet Theatre, the Reno Phil, and the disadvantaged children and seniors who receive tickets to their shows.
The next two months, when you purchase a ticket to A.V.A. Ballet Theatre and the Reno Phil’s The Nutcracker at the Pioneer Center, know that a good portion of that ticket price goes to helping the less privileged in northern Nevada experience a special holiday treat.
Steve Trounday is a board member at A.V.A. Ballet Theatre, the resident ballet company of the Pioneer Center. A.V.A. Ballet Theatre will be performing The Nutcracker December 9-11 at the Pioneer with the Reno Phil.
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