5 days ago
Thursday, December 11, 2008
This post was inspired by K.Lawson Gilbert's poem "Jo"
When I was a girl I took dance lessons. Ballet, tap, jazz. The usual mix. But it was ballet that captured my heart, and "dancer" was one of the first roles added to my self identity.
I took lessons seriously and became competent enough to be invited to join the local company's production of The Nutcracker. As a result, some of my fondest Christmas memories are associated with practices and rehearsals. The Nutcracker Suite is now strongly associated with Christmas in my brain. Just hearing the first few notes of the overture instantly puts me in a "preparing for a holiday party" mood.
And just because this video is entrancing, here is a unique version:
My most special Christmas present ever was the nutcracker that my parents gave me at the end of the closing performance the first year that I danced in the Nutcracker. I spent hours in my room dancing with that wooden soldier as if I were Clara. I still get teary every year when I pull it out of the box where it spends most of the year nestled with my small collection of nutcrackers. I remember feeling disappointed that it had a screw mechanism to crack nuts instead of the usual lever, but now I am glad for its uniqueness.
For several years I danced with the Candy Canes, then I graduated to the Russian Trepak. Here I am, probably at dress rehearsal when Mom could make me pose for the Polaroid.
Hearing those parts of the Nutcracker Suite evokes visceral reactions and sensory memories. The sound of the orchestra, the hushed voices waiting in the wings, the smell of rosin, the swish of tutus as dancers hurried backstage for costume changes. Even today, when I hear the ending notes of the dance of the reed flutes (or "Mirlitons", which preceded the Candy Canes)-- I feel the fluttering in my stomach.
The first notes of the Candy Cane dance or Russian Trepak would sing, and I would be transported-- I was no longer me. My arms and legs knew when to flex, when to stretch. I gracefully moved through the choreography, barely aware of each step as it flowed into the next. Rather, I felt the warmth of the stage lights, noticed the brightness of the costumes blurring by, and of course heard the music which fed my muscles.
I was no longer me-- I was a dancer.