My life as a Nutcracker.

Okay, look. When kids are involved in performing arts, you have 2 choices. One, let them be kids, in which case they will fuck up, but the audience will say “Aww, look at the sweet little things expressing their creativity”. Two: run your production like a Nazi death camp. StepLadder belongs to a ballet school that subscribes to option 2. Srsly, we are in rehearsal or class at least 3 times a week for the duration. She thrives on it, though. Today, she was all, “look at this,” as she stuck her leg out perpendicular to her body. “Most of the girls in my class can only hold that for a couple seconds. I can do it for ages.” Which she proceeded to do.

I am happy that she is lapping this up, but it does make me into a ballet mom. Just saying. There will be dispatches.

I’ve written about the teacher before, and she really is awesome. Today, she was herding the 5 and 6 year olds who have the parts that last all of 30 seconds, but by gum, they are going to do it right. Srsly half of the rehearsal time is spent getting them to learn their “marks,” so that they are not wandering aimlessly all over the stage. The thing is, they are perfectly capable of getting it, which is a serious lesson in managing expectations. There are schoolteachers who need to learn this.

Generally, during rehearsal or class, I sit in the lobby and knit, which means people feel compelled to make conversation. Ballet parents are not all entirely snobby wankers, although there are a number of those. Mostly what they have in common is that they want their girls (again, I could be PC and say kids, but the gender ratio is like 100:3) to be exposed to music and “high culture” (those are air quotes) and physical activity. Knowing this about them makes them mostly tolerable. Hot topics this afternoon: why my knitting is not crochet, do you give your kid Tylenol for fever, and my that girl from our ballet school who is in So You Think You Can Dance, Canada, is talented, but why is she wasting her time on a show where they make her do a Hip Hop number and then criticize her for not grabbing her crotch hard enough.

The girls are so into The Nutcracker, they are great fun to watch. The ballet company of the school (that is, the core of dancers aged 9-19) make up the bulk of the cast, although they hire a professional dancer to be Cavalier, and then there are a few parents plus all the little kids under 8 in the party scene, and one dad gets to be Mother Ginger, lucky devil.

Because the whole company is doing the whole of the rest of the show, there is a lot less angst about who is Clara, which I find refreshing. They all throw themselves into whatever they are given, and the prized parts are often surprising. StepLadder is hugely delighted to be a soldier this year because “they have swords that look like real,” but the mice (played by older girls) have a better part: more jumping. “The jumping” has been her favourite part of ballet since she was three.

Nutcracker also inspires a lot of the children for the graft that is the rest of the year in ballet, and it gives all of them a rare gift in 21st Century North America where most kids are raised as Speshul Snowflakes who are praised and ego-massaged within an inch of their lives – it lets them experience the satisfaction of working hard in order to do a good job.

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