Saturday, December 12, 2015

Ballet Moms Unite Around the Nutcracker

All of you Ballet Moms out there know what season it is...Nutcracker season! Whether your son or daughter still dances or if they have gone into retirement and graciously hung up their pointe shoes, you are still a Ballet Mom. 

You hear the Overture to the Nutcracker Suite, the Russian Dance, or the Dance of the Sugar Plum Fairy, and you are immediately drawn into the Nutcracker. You cannot help it. You are a seasoned Ballet Mom who has lived through a Nutcracker or five.

I lived and breathed the Nutcracker for seven years while my daughter Anna was dancing with a ballet company in St. Paul. She worked her way up the ranks from Cheese Mouse to Rat to Chinese dancer to a Friend of Clara. Despite many tears about not making it to a Reed Flute, we are both happy she retired.

Anna and I, along with all of the other Ballet Moms, will never again watch or listen to a Nutcracker as a normal guest in the audience. Why? Because we know what goes on backstage. As the music of the Nutcracker Suite begins, we know what is happening behind the scenes. 

Auditions and rehearsals start in September, costumes are pulled out for repair in October, lessons and tips on hair and makeup abound, and costume fitting is over Thanksgiving weekend followed by more costume repairs. Rehearsal time at the studio ramps up until you feel like you should just move in or buy a condo in downtown St. Paul. Finally everything moves to the big stage at the Nutcracker venue.

More rehearsals the entire week leading up to the show, the costume shop in the basement under the stage is buzzing and a place of frenzy and terror as dancers and instructors search for costumes and props, dancers and their stuff are everywhere, angel wings, candle batteries, rat masks, Chinese umbrellas, Madame Ginger, Clara in her nightgown, toy soldiers with their red dot cheeks, getting everyone on and off stage for grand bows. Seven big shows and usually at least one major snowstorm thrown in for fun and all right before Christmas. The dancers love it; the Ballet Moms are in survival mode.

I cannot say that I look back on the Nutcracker season with fond memories. Nostalgic perhaps. Those lasting bonds of Ballet Moms working backstage and making the shows happen will never be forgotten. Looking back on seven incredible years backstage at the Nutcracker with all of the Ballet Moms I do have to wonder how we pulled it off for all of those shows. Here's to all of the Ballet Moms out there...break a leg and have a glass of wine afterward!

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