“This will help them to become more like household names, like Cinderella,” Middleton said.
The children who attended, most of whom were young girls, came with parents or grandparents and had the chance to dress up for the tea party, which was held in Van De Kamp Hall at the gardens.
Adults paid $75 for themselves and $60 for children to have a chance to watch abbreviated performances, take photos with dancers and enjoy gourmet food catered by Patina.
Proceeds will support the dance company, which is a nonprofit organization, Middleton said.
Children giggled as they met characters dressed as dolls and gingerbread cookies, then watched dances that got many viewers excited enough to participate in a ballet demonstration after the performances.
“She’s going to ‘The Nutcracker’ with her grandma in a few weeks,” said Scott Leviant, explaining why he brought his 3-year-old daughter, Amelie, to the affair. “We thought it might excite her more if she saw some of the characters at the tea.”
The party was not only a way to introduce Amelie to “The Nutcracker,” Leviant said, but it was also a chance to expose her to an unfamiliar art form.
“We think it’s important to give her an opportunity to see all different types of cultural events,” Leviant said.
One of the event’s major roles was to stimulate interest in ballet, which is a valuable dance form that deserves more attention from parents, Middleton said.
“It’s really good for [children],” Middleton said. “It’s good for their cultural enrichment in the arts. It gives them sophistication.”
Many of the children present were ballet students who took the chance to get a front-row seat to watch the graceful dancers.
“It’s a perfect showing of the talent,” said Madelyn Smith, whose 6-year-old granddaughter, Emma Clarke, is an aspiring ballerina who had seen the ballet last year. “When you’re sitting in a theater and watching from a distance, you can’t really see them up close. I just think they’re captivating.”
Smith’s 3-year-old grandson, one of the few boys in attendance, wasn’t nearly as excited about the event.
Asked if he liked ballet, the boy shook his head emphatically before turning his attention to a piece of candy.
“That’s for girls,” Jack Clarke said of the dance form.