I don't know when I have been so excited!
I got to take the Rabbit with me and we both enjoyed every second of it. She loved the dancing, the costumes, the music, the sets... So did I. But mostly I was lost in my memories of dancing in The Nutcracker myself when I was young.
This was a big part of my childhood. My family was heavily involved in the town ballet company in the 1980's, with my sister and I taking lessons, and my parents involved in various ways. There were several Decembers where my entire family lived and breathed Nutcracker. When I was really young, I watched while my sister danced, my mother worked backstage, and even my non-dancing brother got roped into being one of the boys in the party scene.
Finally, in 1987, I was old enough to be in it myself. Oh, I was so excited! Half my ballet class got cast as girls in the party scene and the other half, including me, got cast as handmaids to the Arabian dancer. I was a little wistful about not being a party scene girl, but I loved being in the Arabian dance. We wore these fun costumes with little vests and pointy-toed shoes. Oh, and the hats. Fabulous hats. We had to smear brown makeup all over ourselves to make our skin a bit darker. I had so much fun. I can still hear our director calling out the steps of the dance to us: "piqué, piqué... now scurry!" Here is a picture; I wish the quality was better. I am on the far left.
It occurs to me I was eight years old at this point, which is the Rabbit's age right now. I wish she could have had this experience!
For the next couple of years, our small ballet school wasn't able to pull off a Nutcracker production, but in 1990 we did it again. By this time, I was eleven and a half and beginning toe shoes. I had three parts, so I was heavily involved.
First, I was the tomboy in the party scene, which was a fun part our artistic director wrote in to make things a little more interesting. One of the girls in the party scene would rather be playing with the boys. When she is given a gift of a doll along with all the other girls, she tears the doll apart and storms off the stage. A few minutes later, she comes back onstage in her bloomers, trying to show that she can be just like the boys. Her horrified parents then escort her out. It was such a fun part for me to dance and pantomime. Here is a picture of me strutting onto the stage in my bloomers.
For my second part, I was a soldier in the battle scene. Some of the soldiers had wooden guns, others had hobby horses. I had a hobby horse. At one point, I collected the other hobby horses and put them together to make a "four-headed monster horse" which I then used to scare the mice. Our artistic director seemed to like to use me for these character parts, which of course was a blast for me.
In the second act, I was part of the Waltz of the Flowers. We had always had a corps of dancers in flower costumes holding garlands in our Nutcracker, but this was the first year our director used students who were en pointe for this group. So I got to be in toe shoes on stage. I felt like a real ballerina. My dad snapped this great photo at our dress rehearsal. I am the second from the right, and I am on my toes!
The older I get, the more I am grateful for these experiences of my childhood. To be able to learn to dance, gaining strength, control, and grace, did so much for me. To be able to be on stage was also a phenomenal growing experience-- and so much fun!
Now here I am with children of my own and I dream of them having experiences like this too. I now know how much parental time and money is involved in getting your kids to be able to do these sorts of things, and my gratitude to my parents knows no bounds.
My gratitude to my neighbor also knows no bounds. Those tickets meant the world to me. I haven't been to see The Nutcracker in forever. I still knew every measure of the music, and I was surprised at how much of the staging and choreography I remembered from those long-ago productions. They are a beloved part of my childhood memories and The Nutcracker will always have a special place in my heart.