Ballet 5:8’s 2019/20 Season work Butterfly tackles a heavy topic - the Holocaust. Though it is always great to expose our kids to the arts, is this ballet a good choice?
This is a common question we get at Ballet 5:8 and a good one - regardless of what the subject matter of the work is. Most of Ballet 5:8’s performances are not geared toward children specifically unless this is noted in the performance description. Nonetheless, our performances never contain inappropriate content and a typically, children ages seven years and older can enjoy them. This guideline does of course depend on the child’s background, temperament, and ability to sit through a two-hour performance - all of which is best judged by the parent or someone else who knows the child well. Some children may be ready at an older or even younger age - every child is different.
The Holocaust, History and Butterfly
Undoubtedly, the Holocaust is a difficult topic to broach with younger children. Most parents would also agree that tackling these kinds of difficult topics with our children is important, while also being hard. For those parents who are ready to broach this historical topic with their child, Butterfly could be a great conversation starter. Though the depiction in Butterfly of the Jews living in Terezin is quite sad and emotional, the ballet does this in a sensitive way.
The amount of concrete understanding that children will get from Butterfly will also vary depending on the child’s maturity and temperament. Younger children may understand that the ballet has sad moments, but may not fully comprehend or be as moved by it as an adult would be. As children get older, they may understand more, but this may also coincide with their readiness to be introduced the subject with the guidance of a caring adult.
When Butterfly May Be Too Much
Though Butterfly will generally be a good experience for children ages seven and older, some children may benefit from waiting until age ten or even their teenage years to attend. For some this could be simply because sitting in a seat for two hours is tough - kids can come with lots of energy! For others, the sounds and scenes portrayed in the Butterfly could be too overwhelming. Sound effects in the ballet include trains, and some snippets of historical recordings from the WWII era. Two characters also die in the Butterfly storyline - one of malnutrition, and one shot by Nazi soldiers. Again, these scenes are portrayed sensitively - and some similar potentially scary things are even portrayed in different contexts in popular kids’ movies - but every child will react differently.
One Final Note
One final thing to note about the Butterfly performances: the title work comes last, after the other works featured in each city’s program. If you are not 100% sure how your child will react but still want to give it a try, you will at minimum be able to enjoy the other works in program, even if you end up stepping out early because of your child’s response to Butterfly. We hope to see you there!