Friday, April 16, 2010

A Night at the Ballet

It goes without saying that raising a son with autism has many challenges. We've documented some of them here, sometimes more eloquently than other times. We don't pretend to know all the answers and we know there's still so many unknowns ahead of us as Noe, our oldest son, grows up.

One of the things I always struggle with is whether or not I'm getting through to him. And I don't mean whether he follows my instructions or he knows he's being scolded for doing something wrong.

It's that deeper connection. The joy that comes from bonding over a shared experience with a loved one. The feeling that yes, he is experiencing an emotional or exciting moment he'll remember for the rest of his life.

We had one of those moments this week, courtesy of the Washington Ballet.

Because of my great affection for music, I always try to see if I can hit a nerve with Noe in this fashion. Last summer, I took him to a Bob Dylan concert, which he seemed to enjoy.

I've noticed over the last year or so, Noe reacts excitedly to the Ravel piece "Bolero." At first, it was just the music. I think he liked that it was repetitive, and that it got louder as the song reached its climax. But then one day, one of the cable access channels played this Maya Plisetskaya interpretation, which I immediately recorded and saved on our DVR. Again, he remembered the song and seemed to like the marriage of music and movement taking place. And I would play it for him from time to time.

During this year's Super Bowl, Coke used "Bolero" for one of its ads, which you can see below. No joke, he ran into the room to watch this, then made us rewind it a couple times.

Knowing all this, I heard on the radio that the Washington Ballet was performing "Bolero" this week. I saw tremendous opportunity to do something interesting with my son. But in the back of my mind there was also tremendous anxiety. What if he was tired, or having a bad day, or just not that interested? As Jen remarked, it would be a lot of money not well spent.

Only one way to find out: we put on our suits and headed downtown.

Of course, "Bolero" wasn't the only performance that night. We had to sit through three other pieces and two intermissions before we got to it. To Noe's great credit, he sat through all of it. In fact, he was very attentive. That was a relief.

As we waited for the second intermission to wind down, I was trying to explain to Noe that one of his favorite pieces of music was coming up. The lights dim, the curtain rises... and we see two dancers moving silently. Did the sound system break? Was this some kind of avant-garde thing? Meanwhile, Noe's looking at the dancers, then looking at me with a perturbed look on his face. It felt like an eternity that the couple danced quietly.

And then... the opening strains of "Bolero" began to play. I stole a glance, and I saw a knowing smile cross his face as he recognized the song. Noe was absolutely joyous! This one tiny moment alone made the evening worth it. He swayed gently and watched the dancers perform their routine, never missing a beat.

We bounded out of the hall happy and made our way home. We'll continue to have good days and bad days. But I know I will never forget this very good day. And based on his reaction, Noe probably feels the same way.


RCH said...

What a wonderful experience! :-)

Amy said...

I love the photo. Two dapper men!

Beth said...

This post totally made me cry. I don't know why... maybe it's because I have loved music all my life and truly believe there is so much in music that touches all of us in one way or another. What an amazing experience for you guys. How close did you sit? I sometimes wonder about taking T to see a show (even though I'm thinking he'll be better in at least another year or so), I'm just thinking I'll probably have to buy really good seats to keep him engaged (not the cheapo ones Adam and I get all the time).

Anonymous said...

I am inspired reading about Noe and his connection to music. I also know that the ballets he watched before Bolero were not intended for kids, so his attentiveness is impressive. Maybe he'd like to see some other ballets which are intended for young people. I'd like to invite your family to attend one of our family ballets as my guest. Please be in touch with me through our website (
Septime Webre
Artistic Director
The Washington Ballet

Kage said...

Way to go Washington Ballet, comping the Guzmans! you will not regret it, they are an awesome family.

Ed, loved reading it, and picturing his face...priceless.