Nutcracker- Part III

We did it. We went to


 thanks to my amazing church

family. We sat in what I felt were the best seats in the house, and I cried once.

Getting out the door to drive down to the opera house, park, and make sure everyone had eaten something before the 5:30 show was definitely a challenge. That week was probably the low point of my


, nauseated pregnancy so far. I was genuinely concerned that I might need to vomit during the performance. Thankfully, I have years of training under my belt in the "show must go on" category, so I sucked it up and faked wellness. In a way, it was a good distraction- not too much attention left for getting myself in an emotional tizzy over what we were headed to do.

The kids were really pretty golden. They were appreciative and in their own, age-appropriate ways understood the emotional gravity of the experience for me. They had been given the carrots of choosing 2014 ornaments from the gift shop and eating overpriced cookies ($30 for 3 cookies, an 8oz cold egg nog, and a small bottle of San Pellegrino!!!) at intermission if they behaved. They achieved both! They were very interested in understanding the story fully and asked lots of intelligent questions beforehand. Hazel asked insightful little questions that felt like those from a future dancer's mind (if I do say so...) like, "Why her shoes so noisy?" and "How does he do that spin?" The boys wanted mostly to know, "Is that a real sword!?!" every time a sword appeared on stage. By the middle of Act II, Hazel, almost 3 years old, was just trying to survive sitting still for another minute. My favorite thing Ezra, 6.5, did was hum along to all the songs... that he didn't really know. I kept telling him to cut it out, and he finally asked, "Why won't you let me sing?" "Because everyone here paid a lot of money to hear that orchestra... not you." He understood; Ez definitely can appreciate wanting to get one's money's worth. Ivo, 4.5, was considerably more emotional about the whole thing than the other two. He wanted to be close to me, and I think he was feeling sad for me. He kept asking me if I knew the different parts he was seeing and was adamant that I point out the exact moment in the show that I had been injured. I think Tchaikovsky's very emotional score got to him too as he is easily affected by melody and timber. He wasn't alone.

The overture had me holding my breath and my heart beating fast just like it did when I was 7 years old and waiting to be the first little girl on the stage and when I was 19 and a bit panic stricken that I would fall (and then did.) I think, though, that I successfully held both those emotional extremes in  my heart and tried to let them have their effect. I was really sad and really wistfully happy at the same time.

My overwhelming feeling in the party scene was that it was about as boring to watch as it was to do. It felt like it took forever, just like it always did on the other side of the orchestra pit. Too, it made me proud of the work we did at Lone Star Ballet. Our small city show was every bit as engaging; and, honestly, I think the Amarillo kids gave much better face and were more together... at least back in my day. These Seattle children don't get enough sunshine. I enjoyed watching the fight scene, though, and thought that all the little soldiers were adorable. I was never a soldier, nor did I ever want to be one. But, they sure added a lot to the scene.

The crying came during the first

pas de deux

. Different productions use the music for different things, but usually it's some kind of


for Clara or a Snow Queen. I cried because I had danced to it and because the memory of dancing to it was so, so sweet. What a blessing all those years at Lone Star Ballet dancing lead roles were! I would not have nearly the body of work in my memory had I not been given those opportunities. The dancers were beautiful too, and I appreciated seeing such talent. The dancer who performed as the Nutcracker Prince that night was a friend of mine (acquaintance?), and many nice stories of fun times with him and my other friends came to mind too. He danced with such cheery, generosity- just like he is in real life. I had fun later relating to the kids my story about him teaching me about arnica gel and giving me the last of his tube of it for a stress fracture in my metatarsal.

During the snow scene, my favorite to watch and to dance, I was so pleasantly surprised to see how very visible my spot felt. I realized that people really had seen me dance. TONS of people saw me dance. When you are dancing in the corps, it can feel like you are a bit hidden, and like your job is very secondary to the the principal and solo roles. But, I loved watching the corps dance, and no one was hidden. Almost certainly, people watched and appreciated the work I did, and that felt so nice to realize.

At intermission, I was SHOCKED by how insane the house was. SO MANY people go to this show! As a dancer, I don't think I ever realized just how willing people are to inconvenience themselves for this production. Nothing about it was convenient or cheap. I wish I had appreciated a bit more back then what a privilege it was to have that many people make that great an effort to watch us dance. What a pleasure to know that I added to so many people's holiday joy.

Second act went by quickly, for me not the kids, and I loved watching Flowers. I was happy again to see that it did matter that the girl dancing my old spot was there. I clapped long and hard at the end after mentally dancing every step of the finale- classic Stowell


 hip-wiggle and all. I had a teeny bit of sadness that the hip wiggle is going away, but I also felt really glad that PNB is doing a new production next year. It's time.

In the harried departure from the theater and then 40 minute wait to get out of the garage, my ability to fake wellness seriously flagged. I felt like crap the whole way home and was pretty miserable from overdoing it for a few days afterward. But, I felt so glad that we had made the effort and had been given such a special opportunity. I felt like a grown-up. I felt like I had done some maturing, and I'm thankful that bitterness had lifted. Am I eager to start a new


 watching tradition? Not at all. But, I'm glad I said hello to it as an audience member for the first time, and I'm glad my children got to see it too.

What It's Like Today

Nutcracker, Part II