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Betsy Block

Stories without recipes

Ballbuster -- I mean, Nutcracker

Ballbuster -- I mean, Nutcracker
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Five minutes into the Nutcracker, I realize its going to be a long night. Already time seems to have stopped; soon I realize that the big clock on the wall is working just fine. Its my brain thats off. After the very first scene, as the audience applauds, five-year-old P turns to me and asks, Is it over? Next, as one of the dancers pantomimes to Clara, P whispers, He should use his words. And then: Whens the show start?

P doesnt understand whats going on. Id explain it to her, but ballet is not exactly my thing, and I dont really understand The Nutcracker myself. Ive never quite been able to follow the dream sequences, and Ive always found those fake smiles plastered onto the young girls faces a bit creepy. I think P agrees.

Weve come to see a friend of ours whos playing one of the girl soldiers. This will be her dance debut, and her familys very excited, and  hey, I see her! Look, P, there she is! But P cant find her in the crowd, and then  shes gone. This girl, our raison detre for coming to this thing, was onstage for about 1 minute. Only 89 more to go  

Meanwhile, Bad Betsy cant help noticing with a smirk that these teen girls seem so very happy in their tutus. At their age she was engaged in illegal activities, eating junk, dressing in second-hand Army pants and acting sullen. (Isnt there a middle ground between being an angry teen and an excessively wholesome one?)

As for the men  well. The Nutcrackers face is covered by a huge mask, but hes dancing around in the tightest-possible white tights. Doesnt this guy have any friends who can take him aside and tell him the truth about this outfit? BD leans into me and says, What a package on that lead guy, eh? Buns of steel! and I realize this is why well stay married forever. Were both louts.

Fortunately, innocent little P doesnt notice any of this, and in fact, she even seems to have warmed up to the show. (Or is it just the chocolate soldiers speaking?) Shes clapping at the end of every performance, and even in-between. After a couple more numbers or movements or whatever you call the individual dances, though, she asks, Is dat de end? I want to tell her: Girlfriend, seriously! How much more of this buoyant clapping can we stand?

By intermission time, P has had enough. BD takes her out to the lobby, and they stay there for the entire second half, just the two of them and candy. Lots of candy. Meanwhile, E and I remain in the theater, watching an onslaught of fairies and children and lights and decorations, all blurring together into one tiresome festive scene after another, until suddenly, a shirtless man arrives onstage. Now this puts me in the holiday spirit: his rippling muscles, his naked fitness  then all too soon, the moment has passed, his dance is over and its back to the girls with the umbrellas and the bad smiles.

I wonder if there are any chocolate soldiers left at the snack bar.

As BD and I lay in bed later that night, slightly hung over from our gleeful yet brutal trashing of a sweet community dance recital, BD pointed out the one thing he knew would make me truly happy on what had been a somewhat difficult night: Well, he said, at least that takes care of P ever wanting to take ballet.