Monday, December 6, 2010

Nutcracker 2010

After much rehearsing and anticipation, the day of the Nutcracker Ballet performance finally arrived.  Both Georgia and Josie had roles this year, which was our family's fifth consecutive year of performing in the ballet.  Georgia is a first year student in the maroon division of ballet school, so she was a toy soldier in the battle scene and a candy cane in the second act.  Because of the whole half-day kindergarten thing, Josie is technically in the pink division, but since she danced that role (butterfly) last year, her teacher kindly let her join all the afternoon-kindergarten kids in the light blue division and be a polichinelle.  For all of you who are unfamiliar with The Nutcracker Ballet, the polichinelles are the children who come out from under Mother Ginger's skirt.  Josie was further honored, by being chosen to be the first child who comes out of the skirt and the last to go back in, at the end of the dance.  This is a plum role, because the last child to go back under the skirt gets to dance and blow kisses to the audience, while we all laugh and clap at their cuteness. 

Both girls had been rehearsing for weeks.  Georgia especially had been putting in the long hours at the dance studio.  At the beginning of the Nutcracker season, all the rehearsing and late night/weekend visits to ballet school are exciting, but by the end, it can be exhausting and kind of tedious.  They didn't complain, exactly, but the joy was no longer palpable.

Friday was the dress rehearsal, and in the days leading up to it, the dance director sent out various threatening emails to remind the parents to obey her many Dress Rehearsal and Performance rules.  Please note, that I said "the parents" and not "the students" because it is never the students who misbehave.  One of the dance director's main rules involves taking pictures and videos of the actual Nutcracker performance.  She is very, very clear that all photos and video are forbidden on the day of the recital.  She insists on this rule for two reasons -- the first is that it is very distracting to the children on stage to see flash bulbs going off while they are trying to dance and it is equally distracting to rule-following parents in the audience who have to stare at all those annoying blue video screens, while watching their child preform.  The other reason is that the dance director hires a videographer and sells the resulting video at $40 a DVD.  Many people grumble about this, but I think it's her perogative.  After all, you don't see any of us volunteering to teach attention-challenged, hyperactive, young children to dance each week.

Because of her no photo / video rule, it used to be that parents were allowed to attend the dress rehearsal to use up all all their photo-taking energy, but this year, the first email I got read, "parents are not allowed to attend the dress rehearsal."  I was worried about this, as I always attend and take photos, but since it was followed up by another email which informed us that, "all parents who DO insist on attending the dress rehearsal must help out by putting up the stage decorations," I decided that she was aware that we were all going to ignore rule number one.  Alas, rule number two worried me just as much, because I've volunteered for that job before and assembling those fake Christmas trees requires a masters degree that I obviously don't have.  Luckily, the next email I received let me off the Christmas Tree Assembling hook, because it said, "all those with young children must be at the dress rehearsal to help their children in and out of their costume."  As I have two young children (well, I can at least argue one), I figured I would be much too busy helping them with their costumes to be able to help with those Christmas trees, garlands and lights.  I could still attend the dress rehearsal, take my photos AND avoid having to help decorate without directly violating any rules.  In other words, I would be able to take advantage of the dance director's annual pre-Nutcracker breakdown by twisting her many email proclamations to my advantage.

Just to be on the safe side, I figured that I'd better not risk getting sucked into decorating by showing up early.  We arrived in time, but not early.  Once there, I used my time wisely by Helping My Young Children Assemble Their Costumes. 


Josie's costume was a pink, lacy tunic and matching pantaloons.  The one boy in her class was given a dashing, pirate-like costume to wear -- I guess, he objected to the pink.  Or maybe the lace.  Or maybe it was the frilly, pink, lace-trimmed hat. 


Georgia put on her toy soldier coat, pants and hat.  They did not rehearse with the plastic swords, but Georgia pretended that she had hers anyway to make the photo more authentic. 


Later, I was able to snap a photo of her in the middle of her candy cane rehearsal.  It was difficult, because I spent most of my time dodging the eyes of both the dance director and the mother in charge of the decorating.  I was afraid if any eye contact was made, I would be recognized and forced to interpret the Chinese instructions of the largest tree and that would be a disaster, both to the tree and me!


If you are wondering what Henry was doing,  here he is.  For the first half, he sat in the back of the theatre and sketched (fifth graders DO NOT color, so please do not call it that).  Later, two of his friends arrived and he was able to take advantage of their play stations and iphones. 



Here is a photo of Georgia and the battle scene sequence.  Usually, I do not post photos of other people's children, but most of these dancers are wearing masks and the others are obstructed, so I figured it was okay.  In any case, aren't the mouse costumes adorable?  During the performance, their eyes lit up which was a great touch.


The next day was the actual performance.  I brought the girls backstage and got a great photo of Georgia wearing her full toy soldier outfit.  This was before I put on her "stage make-up" which for us, consists of face powder and a little red lipstick.  I stopped applying eye shadow a few performances ago.  There is something way too tarty about a little girl in make-up.  Besides, my kids have a habit of licking off their lipstick, rubbing off their eye shadow and sweating off their face-powder.  And that's before the performance even begins.  Five years in, I've figured out most of the tricks.   Instead of leaving the make-up back stage where they can "reapply" or "touch up" before going on stage (you can imagine that disaster, can't you?), I now explain that their make-up is very permanent and even if they can't feel it on, it has left "an essence."  I'm good, aren't I?

Of course, I obeyed the no photo rule, so I don't have any photos to share of the actual performance.  I can't say the same for the family who sat in front of me.  To his credit, he did hold the video camera screen down a few inches after I tapped him on the shoulder and told him we couldn't see because of the bright light he was holding.  I guess some people REALLY twisted the director's rules to their advantage!


Nutcracker 2010 was a thrilling success.  Both girls did a fabulous job.  We now have a month vacation from ballet classes - a month where the poor Director gets to relax and forget her Miss Hanigan-style hatred for little girls.


As for us, we went home for a post-Nutcracker feast.  But before we did, Georgia and Josie agreed to pose with their adoring fans:  (l) Harvey, Henry, Gordy, Lois, Granny, Grandma, Grandfather & Grandpa.  The fans were extremely honored.

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