This past Saturday, my mother and I took Frances to see The Richmond Ballet’s “The Nutcracker.” Frances and I had gone last year and she loved it prompting my mother’s immediate request to join us for our second annual excursion. And by “loved it” last year, I mean that Frances sat mesmerized on my lap the entire first half and cried the second the curtain closed on Act I (we left at intermission—big mistake on my part). I honestly didn’t think she could sit through the entire ballet at three-years-old; but this year I knew better and planned ahead of time to stay for both Acts.
The Richmond Ballet puts on a wonderful show geared heavily towards children (little ones are not only in the “Party Scene” of Act I, but throughout Act II’s “Kingdom of the Sweets,” which is usually just company dancers). And although Frances loved watching the boys and girls, her favorite parts were the Snow Queen and the Dew Drop Fairy, whose costume was a butterfly and which garnered a *gasp* from the audience when she opened her wings for the first time – truly incredible.
The ballet was held at the refurbished Carpenter Theater in downtown Richmond where my mother used to go to watch movies as a child. It is beautiful and feels like you’re stepping into a fully decorated Easter egg when you enter:
To no one’s surprise (and yet I guess I’m always worried) Frances was in heaven. She remembered leaving early last year and at intermission she promptly turned to me with a big smile on her face and said, “We get to stay!” Plus, they were serving hot chocolate in the lobby that you could sip at your seat while watching Act II. Yes, I am not sure they could have geared this whole ballet experience towards Frances any more if they had tried.
As for me? I am likely in the minority of former ballet dancers that still gets chills watching “The Nutcracker.” I never once grew tired of dancing those roles and the sound of the Overture in the beginning will always stir those same feelings of nervous energy and excitement as it did fifteen years ago. I will never be able to watch the Snow Scene without thinking of the wonderful Mr. Bosman; watch "Waltz of the Flowers" without remembering Mr. Schneider’s incredible choreography (where I was lucky enough to don a butterfly costume); watch the party scene without dancing step-by-step in my head the tin soldier’s part from Nashville Ballet’s staging; or feel that nearly overwhelming breathlessness from Paul Vasterling’s choreography while watching Marzipan. And if some of my readers don’t know the people to which I am referring please understand that these are some of the greatest artists of the dance world—and I am lucky to say that I worked with all of them.
The lazy person's solution to scanning - just take a picture of the picture.
(And PS - I'm so disappointed I can't find more pictures of my dancing career.
They are around this house somewhere!)
The next morning, I found Frances dancing in our kitchen to the “March” from the party scene and the “Waltz of the Snowflakes.” She was hooked and that is exactly how I was and how I started dancing. I went to my first Nutcracker (at age 10), came home, danced what I now know were highly unskilled movements in our small living room, and begged my mother to sign me up for classes. These many years later I can’t believe my own daughter is as physically and passionately moved by the music, steps, and emotion of the art that changed my life forever. As trite as it sounds I felt like I had stepped back in time and was watching myself twist, turn and leap to that enchanted music.
Yes, the dance world was hard—so hard, in fact, that I left it too early. I often find myself wondering “what if” I just been able to stick it out. How far could I have gone? I do know that at 17, 18, 19-years-old (my first years in the company), I was not equipped with enough emotional maturity to handle the ups and downs of an art that is as focused on physical beauty as it is on talent. If my thirty-five-year-old (ugh) brain could have been implanted in my teenage body things may have turned out differently. However, looking back at my pictures and reading the stories on my blog is enough for me to simply say, “Thank goodness I failed at ballet;" I may have never met Will nor had the pleasure of raising my two children. To paraphrase one of my favorite cheesy country songs – some of God’s greatest gifts are unanswered prayers.
I have no idea if Frances will remain inspired by dance; I know I won’t push her into it if she loses interest. For now we will remain casual observers because I know if dance really is in her blood, then nothing will stop her from pursuing those dreams. And no doubt we will all be by her side, excited to see what road she leads us down. Even if it is just enjoying the magic from the sidelines.
Happy Monday, everyone!