I took The Princess Little Person to see The Nutcracker for the first time last night. She’s the cheerleader of our family, so it’s not a huge surprise when she’s excited about something. New cereal? “Did you buy this for US?! YAY! I’ve wanted to try this cereal for all my life!!” Her dad gets a haircut? “You look WONDERFUL! I LOVE your hair!” Her brothers are playing Wii? “Woo hoo!! High score!!” She’s pumped about a trip to Costco, so I knew she’d show even more enthusiasm for a fun, new experience. I found a few videos on YouTube of Nutcracker scenes performed by different ballet companies and she watched enthralled, thrilled that she recognized several of the songs from Classical Baby and Little Einsteins.
However her elation waned a bit the night of the big performance. I had pulled several dresses out of her closet for her to choose an outfit for the evening. As she looked over her choices, she asked offhandedly, “Are you going up there with me?”
“What do you mean?” I asked.
“When I’m up on stage. Are you going to go up there with me?”
Wow. As gently as possible, I explained that we were just going to watch other ballerinas dance and that we hadn’t been invited to perform anything on this particular night. I should have seen this coming. She took ballet last year and after the dress rehearsal for her recital, she ran to me and asked, “Did you see me?! I was ON STAGE!” The night of the recital, she danced and smiled as if performing in front of hundreds of people was a nightly happening for her.
She listened to my explanation and when I asked her if she was disappointed she said, “Well, yeah. I thought you said I was going to get to dance. Can we at least get popcorn?”
Popcorn? I’m not a regular patron of the arts, but the few times I’ve been to performances, popcorn was not a refreshment option. I assured her that if there was popcorn, we would certainly buy some but that maybe she shouldn’t plan on it being offered to us at the ballet. I was glad when we arrived at the theatre that they were selling refreshments in the lobby. She never mentioned the popcorn again and I was glad to purchase a chocolate Nutcracker sucker and some bottled water.
After we’d found our seats, I gave her a brief synopsis of the story of The Nutcracker. She listened intently and fidgeted in her seat a little and asked at least a half dozen times, “So when’s this starting anyway?” When the curtain rose, she sat up straight with her eyes wide and bright and breathed, “Whoa..” The costumes were beautiful, and the graceful dancers took our breath away. During the performance, I think I watched her face more than the dancers.
About two songs in, she leaned into me and asked,”Isn’t anybody going to say anything? Is somebody going to sing?” Again, I realized I may not have adequately prepared her as I explained that instead of words, the dance told the story. She interjected several questions and comments throughout the performance, none of which gave me much pause until we came to the first scene of Act II. In this scene, several cherubs and angels heralded Clara and the Prince’s arrival to the Land of Sweets. When I explained that the dancers in the beautiful white costumes were angels, The Princess whispered, “So is Jesus in this thing?” No, I told her, Jesus would not be dancing in this particular version of the Nutcracker. She looked at me baffled, “Well, why not?” I told her that I didn’t really know but that maybe we should just watch the rest to see what happened next. The show continued without much ado and we clapped and clapped and clapped at the end.
On the way home, she asked me to turn on the radio and we listened to Christmas music all the way home. At one point I turned to look at her and her sleepy eyes were taking in the Christmas lights and decorations along the way and she had an enormous smile stretched from ear to ear. “Why are you smiling so big?” I asked her. She just gave a big sigh and breathed, “I just love this.” I didn’t have to ask if “this” was The Nutcracker or the Christmas songs on the radio or the beautiful lights or a girls’ night out with her Mom. It was all of the above. And I felt the same way.