Sunday, December 15, 2013

The Nutcracker for the Uninitiated: 5 Easy Ways to Understand Ballet

“Real men don't lift weights, they lift women.”
― Every male ballet dancer

I am what you might call a novice when it comes to understanding and appreciating ballet.  I was never the cute little girl in pink tights and a tight bun.  I didn't carry one of those little pink ballet bags to school and I was never asked the question (by anyone):  "So, where are you 'taking?"  ("Taking" is that term for the ones who belong.  They take a class at Miss Suzy Q's Elite Ballet School for Tiny Princesses and, therefore, are "taking."  The "ballet" at the end is not required. Duh.) I don't know if they never asked me because of the obvious absence of the pink bag or because of the fact that I had a tendency to fall down and/or knock things over on a regular basis.  Girls who "take" aren't generally walking disasters.  They glide.  Gracefully.  With long necks.  Like giraffes with leg warmers.

So, I had the "opportunity" to see my second ever Nutcracker performance over the weekend.  Don't get me wrong, I was THRILLED to see my beautiful (and graceful...because, you see, she "takes") goddaughter fulfill a lifelong dream of performing the role of Clara and my other gorgeous firecracker of a goddaughter play the role of a mischievous little mouse.  I really was thrilled to watch the two of them.  But, you see, this performance lasts a couple of hours.  Hours.  Of people dancing.

All I can think of when I see people balancing on the tips of their toes is "ouch, that must HURT" and "Good Lord, that's completely unnatural what they're doing up there" and "WHY is that guy wearing WHITE TIGHTS?"

I realize that if I ever want to become a cultured and somewhat respectable human being I should enjoy attending The Ballet and The Opera and The Plastic Surgeon.  But, I just...don't.  It's mostly because I don't GET it and, quite honestly, I think it just LOOKS a little funny.   When I watched one of the fairies (I don't know if was Sugar Plum or Diamond or Tooth) tiptoe across the stage in these tiny stutter steps with the skin on her arms jiggling (and, trust me on this, it was NOT's just that human beings shouldn't MOVE like that), I just thought it was...weird.

But, I think I finally have the storyline down.  AND, if there are any people like me left out there who just don't quite "get" the whole ballet thing, I have a checklist here of things to do PRIOR to attending a Nutcracker performance this Christmas season:

  1. Have a drink beforehand.  Or, if you're into it, possibly some hallucinogenic drugs.  I'll bet you could have an amazing experience tripping through the dance of the Sugar Plum Fairy.  Of course, when the Giant Rat King comes out, your horrified screaming of "OH, THE HUMANITY!" might get you thrown out on your kiester.  So, careful on that one.
  2. Understand the story BEFORE you go.  I had no idea what was happening on the stage because THEY DON'T SPEAK.  I didn't know until three hours AFTER the performance that Clara spent all of Act II dancing with the Nutcracker COME TO LIFE!  WTF?  The wooden nutcracker became a Real Boy?  Did someone tell Pinocchio about this?  
  3.  Prepare yourself to not laugh at the men/boys in white tights.  It's inappropriate.  And juvenile.  (But I totally have the giggles right now just thinking about it.  I mean, seriously, have they LOOKED in the mirror?  Are white tights really necessary?)
  4. Understand that the second act is all about the dancing.  The exciting stuff happens in the first act.  There's some magic.  And some ballroom stuff.  And some little kids.  And someone dressed as a fancy cat.  And a sword fight.  So, you're sitting there (falsely) lulled into thinking that you might could get into this ballet thing.  And then the second act opens and they start dancing.  Like, "We Are the World" dancing.  You have dancers who maybe the Ukrainian Dancer, the Norwegian Dancer, the Nicaraguan Dancer or something like that.  I don't know if they change countries all the time or if they always stay the same.  There may have been some sort of dedication to Imelda Marcos in there somewhere but I lost count at some point. In between, they sprinkle fairy dust.  
  5. Spoiler: Know that, at the end, it's all a dream.  I think.  I really wasn't following it.  But Clara was great.  And the mouse was pretty terrific, too.  That's all that really mattered to me to begin with.
Go to the Nutcracker.  I'm sure you'll love it.  Most people are a lot more refined than I.  Or less honest.  :)

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1 comment:

  1. Bwah ha ha... I would post a more refined comment, but I'm too busy laughing. Snort.