Live Performances: Opportunities For Family Bonding

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My daughter moved into a dorm this last August. She was my youngest, my baby. I’m not quite sure where the years went, but they sure flew by.

When I think about her growing up, it isn’t the daily reminders to do her homework or to pick up her dirty laundry that I recall. Nor is it the times we spent together sitting side by side watching TV, or reading together on the couch.

I do have those memories packed away in my head, but they blend seamlessly into one long scenario, not specific instances.

What I remember more clearly are special moments we spent together. The images that easily pop into my head when I think about my daughter’s first 18 years are those of her high school graduation, shopping for her prom dress, playing in the sand while at the coast, and visiting Disneyland.

Some of my fondest memories are those of what we did together here in our little suburban town of Chico. We went to live performances … lots and lots of them. Ever since my daughter was 3, we hit up the local ballet school’s performances, performances by local children’s theaters, live performances at local school gymnasiums, and giant performances in a big auditorium at the local university’s campus.

I remember taking my daughter to see a ballet. She was enraptured, with big, round, 3-year-old eyes looking at the young ballerinas onstage. With her dad next to her, and me on the other side, she got caught up in the magical energy that’s only present at live performances: the electricity between performers and audience.

This happened for us repeatedly, with the astonishing talent of the Peking Acrobats, the uplifting musical Annie (my daughter sang “The Sun Will Come Out Tomorrow” forever after that), the hip-hop skills of a local dance company, the ridiculous antics of Comedy Pet Theatre (she came home after and tried to train our Jack Russell terrier), and with the world rhythms of a local kids’ drum corps.

As someone whose work is centered on presenting live entertainment, I cannot stress enough the importance of families attending performances together. In my 17 years in this field, I have seen hundreds and hundreds of families attend live performances. And in my 22 years as a parent, I myself have attended, with my kids, thousands of live performances. Something special always happens. At the conclusion of these events, energy radiates, kids are engaged, and families seem closer.

When a family attends live performances, many factors come into play. Most importantly, the children realize their parents are making an effort to spend time together outside the family’s daily routines; that alone can have a big impact on a child.

Additionally, when attending live performances together, the family unit is focused on the same thing, not divided. How many times have we caught ourselves spending time at home with the kids, but separately … one watching TV, one on the computer, another texting? Families who attend live performances together engage in a common experience in a shared space, a bonding experience in itself!

Attendance at live performances broadens a child’s universe. Exposure to multiple forms of live entertainment brings new aspects of the world into a child’s personal arena and fosters new perspectives. Attending an acrobatic performance or an animal show can bring up discussions about balance, agility, training, relationships between humans and animals, and a variety of other topics, while  attending a musical performance might spark a discussion about playing an instrument. Attending any type of dance performance may create an interest in movement. Having a child’s parents there, ready to engage and discuss what the family has experienced together, is vital to a child’s development.

Live performances are “real” experiences, a concept that’s getting harder to discern in today’s wired, downloaded and streamed world. A good portion of a child’s world during their first 10 years now exists on a digital screen. From infancy on, children are exposed to screens of all types: computer screens, tablet screens, phone screens, television screens and movie screens.

The importance of a family’s taking the time away from all those screens and to experience something “live” is paramount. The magical energy of live performances I talked about earlier does not emanate from a screen.

Families that attend live performances really do experience a bonding … a bonding of the family unit, but also with the experience itself as participants. Energy flows from the performers to the audience, and back to the performers from the audience. Sometimes the energy fairly crackles in the air, and can take you to a place that feels divine. Families experiencing this feeling together create a memory and share something a screen can never give them.

Live performances are everywhere. You don’t have to travel far or spend a lot of money to find something to experience together as a family. I bet, right in your own town, there are puppet shows, school choral and band performances, local dance company recitals, plays by kids for kids, free outdoor concerts, street musicians at festivals and events, talent shows, and lots of other things that constitute “live” performances.

If someone is singing, dancing, playing an instrument or telling a story, it’s live entertainment – try to get out there as a family to experience it! You won’t be sorry you did, and your child, as well as your family, will benefit from the experience. 

Daran Goodsell
About Daran Goodsell

Daran Goodsell is marketing director of Chico Performances at CSU, Chico. Chico Performances is presenting 13 family-friendly events during their 2013-2014 season. For information visit www.chicoperformances.com and click on “For the Kids.”

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