Monday, December 18, 2006
This Date in History...and Just Yesterday
The original cast from 1892
On this day in 1892, the ballet "The Nutcracker" premiered in St. Petersburg, Russia. And just yesterday, I went to a local production with Daughter #2.
Small Town has a dance studio owned and operated by the mother of Daughter #2's good friend who played Clara. We also have a little theater called, rightly enough, The Little Theater, where The Nutcracker has been performed by the students of the dance studio for years. The ballet had to relocated because The Little Theater came up with their own Christmas production of something or other. So, The Nutcracker was performed in the auditorium of the local branch of Kent State University. We Small Town folks are a resourceful bunch.
While I love the quaintness of The Little Theater, the auditorium at Kent was cozy enough to provide a good Small Town experience. Here was the setting: Daughter #2 bought tickets for the front row in a section with only four seats. We were just three or four feet from the stage, and of course, seated next to me was a five-year-old girl whose mother sat two rows behind--the woman had too many people in her party to all sit together. Anyway, this little girl had been prepared for the ballet and knew all the melodies. Knowing all the melodies, she sang them...all. At first, I thought it would be an extremely miserable experience, and I wanted to wring her cute little neck, even with her blond ringlets and red plaid and black velvet dress that made her look like a China doll. But her voice was so sweet and clear, and she sang so quietly, I had to love her for it. And her little bit of music in my ear only added to the total experience.
Not so sweet and clear was the balling up of phlegm from the impatient old man who sat behind us. He was some dancer's grandfather and was there out of obligation. And he had phlegm. Daughter #2 kept wiping the back of her head with her hand, thinking the guy had surely spewed something out of his grisly throat. Very nice. I'll take the singing cherub kid with the handful of fruit chews and kicky little brother.
All in all, it was one of the best performances this dance troop has ever performed. Each of the featured dancers was right on their mark, shoulders back, smiles on their faces, confidence in their steps. One thing I appreciate about small town productions of universal classics like The Nutcracker is that in a small town, almost anyone with gumption can participate. You can be a mediocre child dancer who is ten or twenty pounds over weight. You can not quite fit into the costume, and your bra strap can show, but you've got a part in the ballet. And you dance with all of your heart, and everyone applauds for you, and you go home with flowers. That's the way a small town performance should be.
Tchaikovsky's The Nutcracker has been done and redone almost as much as The Christmas Story--animations, comedies, swing versions, adulterated versions all mixed up with Swan Lake and Sleeping Beauty, The Nutcracker On Ice--but my favorite is the Small Town production with local kids on stage and piped in music, hands down.
at 8:46 AM