The ancient performance arts of dance, music and theater face stiff competition from new digital unrealities -- Xbox, Netflix and the strobe of CGI. But our old traditions wield a primal, visceral punch; the sweat and immediacy of live performances provide a depth of experience that flat-screen pastimes cannot. Walk your kids away from the Wii and watch their synapses light up when they witness how good live entertainment with no digital effects can be.
Here are some highlights for the 2012-13 season. For a complete list, see TheDailyPage.com/TheGuide.
Madison Children's Museum, Sept. 11 and following Tuesdays, 2 pm
This historical play will immerse our pint-sized pals in a tale concerning America's pioneers, their hearts soaring with the promise of the wide-open country even in the face of adversity on the hardscrabble plains.
Kids in the Rotunda
Overture Center, Saturdays, Sept. 29 through April 30, at 9:30 am, 11 am & 1 pm
Kids in the Rotunda has been entertaining tykes with free Saturday morning concerts since 1982. This year familiar faces like juggler Truly Remarkable Loon (Jan. 26) and songwriter Ken Lonnquist (April 6) will be joined by Mad Science's "Fire and Ice" science spectacular (Oct. 13) and the Gomers, with their invariably inspiring Rockstar Kiddyoke (Dec. 22).
Ballet Folklórico de México
Overture Hall, Oct. 9, 11 am
Amalia Hernández founded the Ballet Folklórico de México to preserve the spectacular native dances of her homeland. Warning: The vivid colors and dance maneuvers are sufficiently stimulating that napping may follow.
Fresh Beat Band
Overture Hall, Oct. 18, 6:30 pm
The Fresh Beat Band is Nickelodeon's preschool music group, pre-tween Monkees of the cable set. Get ready for Kiki, Shout, Marina and Twist performing "A Friend Like You," "Bananas" and "Just Like a Rockstar."
Live at Birdland
Overture Center's Capitol Theater, Oct. 23, 10 am
The Birdland Big Band re-creates a night at New York's Birdland, the jazz joint named after brilliant saxophonist Charlie Parker. Kids will thrill to high-octane brass runs over deep double bass and thumping drums. Live music rules.
A Madison Symphony Christmas
Overture Hall, Nov. 30 (7:30 pm), Dec. 1 (8 pm) & 2 (2:30 pm)
The family-oriented event has a knack for turning kids into classical music fans.
Overture Center's Capitol Theater, Nov. 26, 9:30 am & noon
A squirrel in a garbage dump, deep in the forest, finds a camera perched atop an expressive tripod. This machine wakes up to its environment and explores it, drawing us into its micro- and macroscopic observations.
Dance Wisconsin, MATC Mitby Theater, Dec. 7 (7:30 pm), 8 (2 & 7:30 pm) & 9 (2 pm)
Madison Ballet, Dec. 15-24, Overture Hall
Our midsize town has not one, but two productions of the ballet classic. Talk about a Christmas miracle.
A Christmas Carol
Children's Theatre of Madison, Overture Center's Capitol Theater, Dec. 14-23
The kids in the audience will see a cast of all ages, including some high-level talent -- Scrooge will be played by James Ridge of American Players Theatre -- enact Dickens' look into the black heart of a miser. In the spring, watch for CTM's Too Many Frogs!, based on the picture book by Sandy Asher (Feb. 16-24); And Then They Came for Me: Remembering the World of Anne Frank, a multimedia blend of actors, photographs and film (March 9-17); and Disney's Aladdin Dual Language Edition, in English and Spanish (May 3-19).
Jan. 27, Overture Center, noon-6 pm
This annual event offers great variety for kids and parents both. Music and dance performances change up frequently throughout the day. The tykes can experiment with world cuisine, and there's almost certainly going to be someone teaching them how to fold origami cranes. It's a win-win event -- and it's free.
Walk On: The Story of Rosa Parks
Overture Center's Capitol Theater, Jan. 30 (10 am & 12:30 pm) & 31 (10 am & 12:30 pm)
One tired and put-upon woman's courage led to a social movement. A critical moment in American history is explored through music and dramatic exposition.
The Little Prince
Overture Center's Capitol Theater, Feb. 4, 10 am & 12:30 pm
At once playful and intense, The Little Prince is a tale of keening love, painful loss and regeneration. The indelible imagery of the book's illustrations will be reimagined with an innovative stage set, puppets and live actors.
Golden Dragon Acrobats: Cirque Ziva!
Overture Hall, Feb. 25 (10 am) & 26 (10 am & 12:30 pm)
Golden Dragon Acrobats are crossing the globe to take Madison. Their Cirque Ziva! show hails from China, with a presentation of gymnastic prowess, flashy outfits and show-stopping athleticism.
The Velveteen Rabbit
Overture Center's Capitol Theater, March 18, 9:30 am & noon
The Enchantment Theatre Company will use masks, magic, music and oversized puppets to bring this childhood classic to life. "When a child loves you for a long, long time...then you become real."
Wondrous Tales of Old Japan
University Theater, UW Vilas Hall, April 5-7 & 13
David Furumoto is staging a play he wrote based on Japanese folk tales, including one about an old man who nurses an injured sparrow against the wishes of his grouchy wife. "Japanese folk tales contain lessons for both children and adults, and with the wonderful theatricality of Kabuki theater I am hoping that audiences will have a great time seeing the play," says Furumoto.
PSY: Mind Blowing Circus
Overture Center's Capitol Theater, April 20 (8 pm) & 21 (2 pm)
Les 7 Doigts de la Main blends modern Cirque du Soleil-style in-air acrobatics with the traditional derring-do of jugglers, tightrope walkers and operators of the always-popular teeterboard.