Nutcracker Musings by Maureen HardegreeSome things in life surprise you. One surprise for me, as a former basketball player, was that I had produced a daughter who wanted to be a ballerina. I took ballet briefly, but my instructor who had a thick accent urged my mother to find me another outlet for my energy. That may be when I started with basketball. My daughter is different from me, though. She enjoys the discipline of classical ballet. She even squealed with delight at her first pointe shoe fitting. I don’t recall being similarly enamored of my Chuck Taylor high tops.
When it comes to dance, I suspect that Cynthia’s education and mine have been equal. I may not be able to do a pas-de-bourrée, but I now know what it is. I’ve also learned a whole lot of other things from being a Ballet Mom that come strictly from experience, things I never would have discovered on my own if it weren’t for my daughter’s love of ballet:
1. How to apply a thin bead of glue to false eyelashes and secure them right above the natural lashes.
2. How costumes don’t have to be perfect. Thread doesn’t have to match fabric. They’re costumes. I’m still learning this rule.
3. How to get from my house to the Civic Center where the dancers perform quickly.
4. How to scout out the cute array of gifts, like a blown glass Mouse King that I want to buy, while concurrently selling boutique items during Intermission.
5. How to love seeing The Nutcracker every year, every performance.
Why doesn’t it ever get old? Is it the story of the Nutcracker coming to life and whisking Clara off on an adventure that appeals to me so? Or is it seeing the girls I’ve watched grow up with my daughter learn new roles, new steps, new combinations?
I flip through the pictures in her scrapbook. In kindergarten, her toothless grin greets me as she poses in a red Arabian princess costume. In first grade, as a pochinelle, she leaps across the stage in front of Mother Ginger’s wide yellow skirts. In second grade, as a soldier with red felt cheeks, she marches in unison with her fellow soldiers, then battles with a mouse. In third grade, as a Dream Fairy, she glides in flowing gossamer sleeves, then stands still in Act II as a gold haloed angel holding a harp. And this year, fifth-grade, as a Party Boy, dressed in short pants and a cap, she throws imaginary snowballs and partners with a Party Girl in the party scene. In alternate performances, she’s a Candy Cane dressed in white satin striped with pink and green, and she dances, kicks, and jumps with a hoop.
I suspect the reason I love this ballet so much, year after year, is the joy lighting her dark eyes as she dances. It’s why I give up my time to help the company in whatever way I can, from sewing hooks on a fabric backdrop, to handing out programs to the audience, to driving the kids to photo shoots.
My daughter’s company, The Northeast Atlanta Ballet Ensemble, is celebrating their tenth year performing The Nutcracker. All around the country, from now until Christmas Day, other pre-professional troupes are putting on this holiday classic. Support the ballet and catch some of the spirit of the season. Can you hear the music?
Dum, da, da, dum, dum, dum, da, da
Dum, da,da, dum, dum, dum, da, da