I did it, folks. I survived performing in my very first Nutcracker. Better late than never, I say!
What a long weekend. I was smart enough to take the Friday and Monday off from work to get ready & recoup respectively.
Dress rehearsal was appropriately abominable. I’ve heard that’s good luck. Or is it that a good dress rehearsal is bad luck? Regardless, yeah, it was bad. Particularly Snow. That piece marked the first time I’ve performed on stage en pointe in over 15 years. And the first time I’ve ever performed on stage in an active (albeit fake) snowstorm. Ter.Ri.Fy.Ing. My brain went on strike on top of it all, I felt disoriented and completely missed one of my entrances, the entire corps ended up in the wrong place at the end of the piece. It was a hot mess. As was I afterwards. There may or may not have been some tears on my part accompanied by fear that the director was going to come find me and throw me out on my ear (really, no one did well on this run, but I wasn’t feeling entirely rational at that moment). The rest of it went okay, but it was a stressful evening nonetheless.
Saturday morning it was off to the theater for warm up class. I love warm up class. There we are on the stage using chairs with backs that are far too short as barres, the lighting is dim, there are no mirrors and everyone is bundled up in 15 layers to fight off the cold. We are pliéing away to some random, non-ballet music (I think there may have been some Elvis) and for whatever reason it feels awfully zen and terribly professional. Invariably there are a few younger children who haven’t reached the level to participate in warm-up class yet who are scattered throughout the audience watching (and often jumping in line when we do grand allegro). It’s nice. The warm up class was cut short so we flakes could run through our piece one more time to get our timing and places right. Thankfully it went much better this time around and put us in a better frame of mind for the real show.
1pm, curtain’s up. Save for the few flakes who are also cast in the party scene, the rest of us are hanging out waiting, listening to the audio blaring over the speakers to judge when we need to start getting ready. If you looked in you’d see a room full of people in various layers of sweatpants and hoodies with fake eyelashes, crazy eye makeup, and tiaras. Quite the fashion statement. Gradually the tape and toe pads come out. Some people even go so far as to put on their pointe shoes. The music indicates that the party scene is winding down and we start to get our costumes off the rack and help one another get hooked in. Bobby pins are refastened, tulle is straightened, pointe shoe ribbons are hairsprayed and about midway through the battle scene we make our way upstairs to the stage. We crowd around the rosin box dipping toes in and grabbing pinches of rosin to rub on the heels of our tights. The last piece of cheese has been thrown, the soldiers have fired the cannon, and the mouse king is dead. The curtain closes behind Clara and the Nutcracker and while Drosselmeyer turns the Nutcracker into a prince frantic preparations take place behind the curtain. The tree is dropped and moved offstage, the backdrop is lowered and stagehands (and some snowflakes) quickly untie the strings on the forest backdrop and it is raised back up. In the span of a minute or two the stage has magically transformed from a living room into a snow-covered forest. The curtain opens and the snow queen and her cavalier are welcoming Clara and the prince to the forest and the flakes start to fall. Backstage there are 12 snowflakes trembling in their pointe shoes. After the snow pas de deux, it’s our turn to go flake about onstage. I won’t lie, the first show wasn’t great… I ended winded and exhausted, relieved to have it over with. But by the evening show and the following day’s matinee I finally started to find some joy in it. You start to feel the magic… and realize that you’re living the dreams of many a younger (and even older) student whose hopes and dreams are pinned on one day being able to perform as a snowflake. I didn’t have a single show where I “nailed it” but, then again, I don’t think any of us did. But we made it through, no major errors, no snowflakes ended up sitting on their derrières in the middle of a snowdrift. I count that as a success!
Then it was off to get ready for the land of sweets. Off with the tiaras (and hopefully most of the snowflakes that clung to our shellacked noggins… I’m still finding flakes in my car, my dance bag, etc.). I replaced mine with a big blue jewel in the middle of my forehead. The romantic tutu from flakes is traded for a midriff-baring blue velvet top and blue harem pants. The pointe shoes (hallelujah!) are traded for soft slippers. After the Spanish hot chocolate dancers finish we’re on. The dance was probably the easiest (and the shortest) of my three, plus I didn’t have to paste on a big grin. Less stress for me! Other that the fact that my two Arabian children who were supposed to stand in front of me never seemed to end up in the right place until the final show, all went well there.
Then it’s off to switch out the blue jeweled headpiece for a flower in my bun and I’m back into a romantic tutu in pink. Run back upstairs and wait for the gingerbread cookies to finish up (so damned cute!) and back out onstage as a flower. Other than one section where I and two of my fellow dancers have to haul ass to get to our spots on time (and try to suppress our giggles while doing so) it went well. We did have one exploding dragonfly headpiece incident which led to beads on the stage which was terrifying for all of us, particularly knowing that our Dewdrop was heading out to do her fouette turns, but thankfully tragedy was avoided.
As is the way with these things, the shows seemed to get progressively better and by the time it starts to get fun and you want to do it a million more times it’s over. Ah well. An enjoyable experience overall. While I feel like Nut is way overdone and would love to see us put on a different kind of Christmas show (as a kid I danced with a studio that did The Little Matchgirl once… that was cool), it is nice to finally be able to say that I’ve performed in it. A rite of passage, of sorts.
I came, I saw (did), and I got the t-shirt. Literally. And now I enjoy the holiday break! And try to finish up Christmas prep!