It ain’t about you, kid…

[Apologies to any of my FB friends… this is an expanded version of my wall post from yesterday, so it’ll sound familiar.]

Dress rehearsal was yesterday. I’ll not go into great detail other than to say…

If I had a good rehearsal I’d be very nervous about the show; superstition leads me to believe the adage “bad dress rehearsal, good show.” If that holds true, the show should be excellent :/

Between getting there an hour late due to some baby-wrangling logistical snafus with my little niece, the sticky marley on stage, my bottom in conflict with my unforgiving Tea pants, and the regular choreographical brain farts, I eventually commenced my traditional backstage breakdown.

By this point in my life I know to anticipate the pre-show rage/tear mashup and I almost welcome it since it allows me to purge my demons before the big show. The worst part of this glitch in my makeup is that it’s embarassingly self-pitying. Thankfully, though, it’s not an uncommon glitch in the world of dance and you can always find a sympathetic shoulder. Then you go home, go to bed, wake up the next day and say to yourself que sera, sera.

But it can take that good night’s sleep to really put the demons to rest. I had gone out for a snack after rehearsal with some other dancers, one of whom was feeling similar discouragement. The “mom” of the group was admonishing us for our negativity.

If there’s anything you don’t feel like hearing when you’re having a good wallow in the depths of despair, it’s “think positive, it’ll be fine, you look great!” At the moment you want the luxury of grumping and any trite encouragement makes you want to offer up a kick in the teeth. You’d almost rather hear, “Yes, I saw it and it was absolute shit!” and then you can have a good rail about how bad it was. Leave me to my irrational complaints! I will be philosophical and mature tomorrow.

This is the mood I came home in.

As I was exiting my car I noticed a neighbor family going into the building. Seemed kind of late for them to be getting in since they have a young daughter, but didn’t think much of it. They saw me coming and held the elevator door for me. I felt like I needed to offer up an explanation for my disheveled get-up, particularly since I vaguely know the husband neighbor from some town meetings and the commuter bus. “Nutcracker rehearsal,” I said.

His wife got a look of excitement on her face. “Nutcracker? Where? When?” I told her. She shared a glance with her husband. He was holding their little girl and I noticed she had a Band-Aid on her chin. She looked at me warily, sleepily. The elevator stopped at their floor and they exited. “We’d love to come,” they said. “Our plans just changed for the weekend,” husband said, pointing to his daughter. “Someone just had to get stitches.” Oof. Poor kiddo. “We’d love something to do.”

Well, if that doesn’t put things into perspective.

I mean, here I am indulging in my stupid pity party about every little thing that went wrong. The pirouettes that didn’t land in a neat fifth. Not getting over my box on some really stupid-simple pointe stuff. My lack of willpower to lose the 5 lbs I wished away before the show.

And here is this mom bursting with excitement at the idea of being able to take her kid to the show to cheer her up after whatever misfortune led to stitches to the chin. I look at it from the eyes of her little one and think, to her she’s not going to care about whatever technical fallacies I, or anyone else, commits. She’s going to smile at the party scene, jump out of her seat when the cannon bursts in the battle, marvel at the snowflakes drifting down from the sky on snow scene, and indulge in the candy-coated confection of the divertissements.

Yup.

It’s not about you, Rori.

It’s not about any one individual in the show.

Of course we want to put on a great show with high quality dancing and scenery. We want to impress everyone who comes, not just the littles.

But why do we put this on every year? It’s not because it’s some great ballet that will showcase our technical prowess. It’s because it’s part of the holiday tradition for so many people, dancers and audience alike. It’s to bring us all together and suspend reality for a couple hours. It’s for those of us in the production to weave a little magic and comfort for those who come to see us.

Somehow that 30-second encounter on the elevator yesterday provided some clarity. Not just about why we do Nutcracker… but why we do this — performance — in general.

Nutcracker is not the answer to the world’s woes (and yes, the horrific events in Connecticut are on my mind as I write this). But community is. And that’s what this production is — a community of artists coming together to create something greater than the sum of its parts. In turn a community of audience members will come together to enjoy and experience something positive. Together we create this. Together we move forward.

I am having trouble putting this hazy thought into words, but somehow I feel that what we do as artists is part of the greater good.

I know that this is not my last pre-show meltdown and I’ll still be holding myself to inachievable technical and artistic standards. But for now it’s time to go put on my big-girl tights, bun up my hair and glue some false eyelashes to my face, head to the theatre and take a moment to enjoy the magic. I will give thanks for the dance family that has embraced me and given me the opportunity to dance on stage. And I will give thanks for the family and friends who will be in the audience to support me and share an experience with their loved ones.

Because THAT is what this is really all about.

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