Today I shared The Nutcracker with my three year old son. For ease and change of pace, I decided to show this to him on television, thanks to PBS and our DVR. We enjoyed San Francisco Ballet’s version which aired on our PBS station last night. G-man sat through the entire ballet, only once asking when the dancers were going to talk, and repeatedly commenting that the Spanish dancers looked a little like his beloved action figure “Indiana Jones.” I think it must have been the hats.
When his dad asked his favorite part, he told him about the growing Christmas tree but at other parts of the day he talked to me about the snowflakes and the silly dancing bear. There was much of this ballet that I didn’t particularly love, but I was thrilled that my little man seemed to appreciate the entire thing. He’s seen plenty of dance, but less ballet than anything else. He has a passion for “Singin’ in the Rain” and regularly imitates Gene Kelly by swinging on the lamp in our living room and jumping in any puddle he can find on the driveway. While there is not the opportunity to sing along with the soundtrack, Tchaikovsky’s score, with its relative character themes keeps the action pushing forward when, for a three year old, the dancing blends from one scene to the next. Overall, I think he enjoyed it and I expect to see some new movement vocabulary in the coming days.
For me, Classical ballets have limited appeal. I loved them as a child because that was what I was exposed to and what my parents viewed as appropriate dance for a child to see. It was the only dance performance my mind could really grasp outside of recital dance. But even as a kid, I preferred less narrative driven dance with more unique movement potential, although it was harder to find, especially when my parents didn’t understand it and therefore didn’t really want to share it. Is this ballet’s advantage? Generally G-rated, accessible dance, with clear story and ‘safe’ characters and plot? Prescribed movement that audiences have seen in some capacity and can readily digest? Shape and line with little to interpret on an emotional or intellectual level? Maybe. Not to say that isn’t brilliant; it just isn’t usually my cup of tea.
- when I sit in the audience, the overture begins, and the curtains open to present the New York City Ballet in all of Balanchine’s genius and respect for a classical ballet that brings families together and sends goosebumps up and down my arms. I am captivated, awed, and flooded with all of the best sensations of being a kid again. My physical memory of falling in love with dance overwhelms me and puts me in my place. At heart, I am a fan and always will be. I am thankful for my Nutcracker foundation in viewing and valuing concert dance.
- when I share dance with my toddler son and remember how incredibly dance can communicate with all ages and both genders when given the chance.
- when I show the Mikhail Baryshnikov and Gelsey Kirkland version to my classes of high school students in a semi-urban setting, days before Winter break, and they actually watch it, ask questions, and bravely offer their reactions because even if they’ve only seen the Barbie (?!) version before, it is familiar.
One must love any kind of dance that can do all of that.