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GDB and Oregon Ballet Theater: A Delightful Paw-de-Deux

Saturday April 08, 2023

Group photo of GDB puppy raising volunteers with guide dog puppies in training in a theater rotunda.

An important part of a guide dog puppy’s journey toward becoming a guide dog is to be exposed to all kinds of sights, sounds, and experiences. Recently, Oregon Ballet Theater (OBT) offered a group of local GDB puppy raisers the opportunity to bring the pups they are raising to a special performance at Portland’s Newmark Theater.

"We're really proud to host Guide Dogs for the Blind at our dress rehearsal of Firebird," said Robyn Ulibarri, OBT's Ballet Bridges Program Director and Teaching Artist. Her work with the ballet company involves community education and engagement and says teaming up with GDB is en pointe. "It's a natural partnership because OBT really wants everyone to know that dance is for them. Everyone can interact with the art form of movement, and this is a really natural fit."

The GDB volunteers and puppies had the chance to mingle with other guests in the theater’s rotunda before being seated for the performance. GDB's Community Outreach Specialist Jake Koch was also in attendance with his black Lab guide dog, Forli.

"The streets and public spaces are our classroom," Jake said. "Attending a performance such as this really helps the puppies become very confident with the different types of environments that they're going to have to navigate with someone who is blind."

Oregon Ballet Theater has a number of initiatives geared toward inclusive and accessible performances.

"We have at least two dates for every production that we do where we host audio description for performances," said Robyn. "We like to describe what's going on in our story ballets, but not overdo it, because we like to give enough space for people to enjoy the music and the other elements around them as well."

After the dazzling performance, several of the dancers came to meet the pups and chat with puppy raisers, to everyone's mutual delight. Thank you Oregon Ballet Theater for the wonderful opportunity. Here's to many more encore engagements!