Watching The Nutcracker ballet is a magical event for me, and I really didn’t want to know how it all came together.
I just enjoyed getting dressed up and sitting in my comfortable seat, watching dancers float across the stage. This year, all three kids would take part. With all of the frequent rehearsals scheduled, I was worried that I would be sick of the whole thing when the performance came around. As a mom, I knew that my time would be spent watching and waiting.
We arrived for our first rehearsal on time-amazing since parking can be really tough. When we walked in, we found chaos. The front room was full of parents getting kids ready. In the back, company dancers were eating in the break room. There was no sign of health food, no organically grown veggies. However, there was a surprising amount of fast food fries and chicken nuggets-blowing my first stereotype. They wore a hodgepodge of exercise clothes, leotards, and warmers. Pointe shoes were smooth and clean, or raggedy and worn. All of the females had their hair in buns, men and women both wore bandana’s as well. Some had exotic makeup, others none at all.
Upstairs there are two studios. In the smaller studio, three female dancers were warming up. All were holding the barre, back arched, arms extended, fingers carefully spaced. They stood with their feet separated, heels turned inward, held one arm out to the side and rose up slow..slow…slow… until they were fully on the tips of their toes. Talking a mile a minute, they stood and held the position for an eternity. Finally, completely in sync, still chattering, they came back down…slow……slow….slow…until their heels rested on the floor. Smoothly, still in sync, they turned and repeated the exercise on the other side, just as slow and together.
Another dancer joined them to stretch. This girl laid flat on the floor, and proceeded to lift her leg, completely extended, high over her head. Her heel ended up around her ear. She did this alone, over and over, also very slowly. A male dancer stood across from her and began to warm up with a jazz combination; kicking and spinning to music only he could hear in his head.
In the hall, I watched a dancer preparing to put her pointe shoes on. When she took off her shoes and socks, I wanted to gently pat her poor feet and ask her if she was in pain. The joints above her toes were bony and hyperdeveloped; they looked like an arthritic old lady’s feet. She carefully packed the space between her toes with padding, then wrapped gauze strips around the end of her foot.
In the big studio, it didn’t seem like there was any organized activity; at least, until I really started watching. As the director was working with one group, the others were practicing their own roles. Each dancer had the ability to shut out what was occurring around them and focus on their own particular part. I realized there was a lot of concentration and a tremendous amount of personal discipline.
When he was finished explaining steps to new dancers, the director sat on a chair that was elevated so he could see the entire room. As I watched, the individual work gradually evolved into Scene One, with every dancer participating. I saw it happen, yet I don’t know how it happened. I heard instruction being given, but I observed dancers moving into position without direction. Even this early into rehearsals, the ballet was smoothly coming together.