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Ballet Talk for Dancers

Nutcracker mishap


Babsaroo

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DD's first "serious" ballet mishap happened today in Nutcracker. She's one of 8 Chinese Dancers who dance with ribbons on sticks. Her ribbon somehow came into contact with the ribbon of the dancer in front of her as they moved across the stage to begin the dance. The second ribbon stick cracked, broke in half causing the ribbon to attach to dd's ribbon. So basically had one dancer with no ribbon and another dancer (my dd) with a really, really long ribbon.

 

I was proud that the dancers didn't panic. DD said she held her breath and worked hard not to entrap the professional male dancer as he danced. She said it reminded her of a cowboy with a lasso. As she exited the stage, the artistic director was waiting and asked DD what happened. I'm proud again that she didn't buckle in tears and flee in fear. She calmly explained that it was her ribbon that caused the problem (I'm proud of that too). We have a very kind artistic director who I'm sure won't ban dd to Siberia.

 

When I met her at backstage pick up, she looked a little shell-shocked and I was afraid she'd been crying but she hadn't. She's embarassed that it happened and worries about a repeat mishap in the upcoming performances. I keep telling her that it wasn't intentional, no injuries and not as noticable to the audience as she thinks. She came home and wrote an apology email to the other dancer, artistic director and academy director.

 

This too will pass but I was wondering if any ballet parents have advice on how they've helped their dancers with stage mishaps?

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OH, Babsaroo - these kinds of things happen much more often than your daughter realizes and very often actually do cause some noticeable mishaps - but the show must go on!

 

I think it's touching that your daughter feels she needs to write these notes, but I hope she's not taking today's minor mishap too seriously. Nothing bad happened to anyone - it's not like she caught the danseur's foot in her lasso! :) Instead of feeling the need to write notes of apology - when she's already done that in person - I think she should be proud of herself for handling it all so professionally. :thumbsup:

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Those things do happen. Please don't let your DD feel like its a big deal.

 

The first time DD and I saw our current school's Nutcracker, Waltz of the Flowers was in full swing. All of the dancers were headed up stage, back corner for a line of "leaps". The first dancer in line did her preparation when her skirt dropped to her ankles. She very gracefully stepped out of it and continued into her leap. It was wonderful. (Don't worry, she was adequately covered.)

 

Last night we were visiting another local school's Nutcracker when their snow making devise fell out of the rafters into the middle of the stage about a minute and half before snow was over. I can't believe it didn't land on anyone.

 

Last year we saw another school's Nutcracker when no fewer than 4 angels hit the deck during their dance. The fog machine was so overactive that perhaps the stage was slick... I don't know. But during the dance four of them fell at different times, and as the fog was waist high, everytime they fell they completely disappeared from sight. DD and I joking called it the dance of the "fallen angels".

 

I do believe there is a whole thread on this topic. I hope DD doesn't take her mishap too seriously. :) It'll make a good story some day.

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Bless her heart. Dancing with props is always a challenge. Professional dancers have the same type of problem when props are in use. One of my daughters, dancing for a major company, caught her snow crown in the netting on the side of the stage when exiting and was impaled there on the netting and unable to exit. Jumping up and down eventually worked. (Doe in the headlights moment)

At one of our school performances ( a very well known school), the dancer under the bed in the dream scene got disoriented and dumped Marie, bed and all, into the audience. (Thank God we weren't using a live orchestra in the pit that day) There were no fatal injuries and the show eventually went on. Gives me a shiver of concern everytime I see that bed go round now. Kind of puts the ribbon issue into perspective, I think.

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I've seen many little and not so little (Fairy Godmother and Cinderella once) dancers get their crowns stuck together on stage when they lean towards each other in a gesture or hug. It's bound to happen. Most runs of Nutcracker will have at least one memorable mishap, if not more.

 

I'm glad your daughter didn't cry about it. As others have said, she will eventually get to laugh about this every single year when Christmas rolls around, be she a dancer or not.

 

There will be many other mishaps, some as visible, some not. Just remember: the audience's heart is won over by every single one.

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Guest 1SongGlory

*knock knock* Student here, with a story to share.

 

I was dancing in a local production of the musical "Brigadoon" once, and our stage was outdoors in the middle of the woods (a very very lovely place, actually). The orchestra pit is set lower than the stage, above a small stream. I hadn't quite gotten the feel for the dimensions of the stage, as I did a series of chainee turns right off the edge of the stage and into the stream.

 

The best thing to do with mishaps is to dance them off with a smile. Your daughter handled things very well, Babs. Congrats to her and congrats to you on teaching her how to handle them.

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One of my students (11) had the good fortune of being chosen to perform in the Nut with a professional company that casts a young boy in the second act Russian dance. The excitement of dancing onstage with some of the male dancers that the kids see in magazines, movies and performances was so exciting. I happily bought tickets in the 5th row (as I had promised) to watch this event. The 4 dancers 3 adults and the child dancer at the rear moved onto the stage behind a giant doll. During the entrance the doll, knocked down the upstage flat, that in turn knocked down the midstage flat that dominoed into the ds flat that landed inches away for Clara and the Nutcracker prince and nearly missed careening into the audience. The sets were obviously too big for the Theatre and the prop just did not make it through the wings and the flats were not secured properly. The child of course was sure that he must have caused it! They had to bring the curtain down house lights up and reset and start over. Poor kid, I was so worried that he would not remember what to do after that but the male company dancers assured him that absolutely nothing worse than that could happen and they all danced with much gusto including the child. I exited the Theatre and had a stiff drink! :sweating::thumbsup::)

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Guest justthedriver

These stories are so great, I'm printing them out - maybe reading them will quell my DS's stage nerves before HIS nutcracker perfs! The worst thing that's happened to him so far (and pretty minor too, thanks be) is that he "threw" a shoe during a performance (his first; ignorant mom, me that is, hadn't quite gotten the knack of sewing elastic on properly. Sigh.) So the dang thing went flying into the pit. He kept dancing though, clear to the exit.

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It always bring a smile to my face when a headpiece falls off (I know, I'm a bit sadistic!) The girls are so creative in how they manage to get it off stage before someone trips on it. Last year I watched as a dancer leap a bit farther so that she would land next to the flower headpiece on the stage, and gave it a quick kick off stage. Other than the moms that had seen it fly off and know the steps, nobody else even noticed. The young dancer even managed to have it on her head before she entered again from the wings.

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Our favorite Nutcracker mishap was when Mother Ginger fell flat on her face. The actor playing Mother Ginger's upper had decided he would use his own belt instead of the costume belt. As the contraption upon which he stood was wheeled into place, his belt permitted the skirt to droop. As the cart was moved forwarded, the skirt got caught under the wheel and was pulled further under as the cart progressed. When the pages opened the doors to reveal Mother Ginger, "she" fell forward in slow motion until she was flat on her face! The actor never broke character! (He was the best Mother Ginger ever!). The audience of school children roared with laughter! We parents, etc, were stunned! We were all concerned about how many little Ponchilles (sp) were smushed under the skirt! Luckly, none---they had abandoned ship (er, skirt). I can't remember if any of them came out to dance, but I seem to think not.

 

Mother Ginger continued her outrageous facial expressions and exaggerated hand movements, the pages shut the doors, and the stage hands struggled to right her. No one has ever dared to use their own belt since. The children's cast that year played the video of that performance at each successive performance for themselves and just howled! It is quite a sight!

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Many thanks for the smiles and giggles...very therapeutic for mom and daughter.

 

I shared the posts that were written last night with DD. It truly made her feel better.

 

It is so nice to be able to come to a group who are empathetic and understand what dancers and their moms may go through. I appreciate all of you.

 

Babsaroo

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I must share two personal stories :)

 

As a child in Nutcracker, I was in the party scene. We wore ribbons on our shoes. We also wore beautiful, heavy dresses. I was kneeling during the 'lullaby' and stood to rise. Stepped on my dress and ripped it at the seam of the waist. My mother had insisted that I wear an undershirt under the costume (yes, I am that old that it is an undershirt, not a camisole, lol!), and the undershirt was sticking out! :blushing: I am sure that it was not noticable, but in my mind it was just *hanging* there! Then, we start the father/daughter dance, and my ribbon rips off of my shoe! I was devastated. :green: Thankfully, the director of Boston Ballet at the time, E. Virginia Williams, was incredibly kind to me, and explained to me that this stuff happens all the time, and it is not WHAT happens, but how you react and deal with it. It was THE best advice I have ever received. Not just in ballet, but in life also.

 

A few seasons later, during the Grand Pas of Nut, the sugar plum fairy and her cavalier were doing the inside pirouette into the fish dive 3x. The first time was shaky, the second was even shakier, and the third time, they fell right on top of each other!!! Yes, indeed, both dancers, right on top of each other. Again, it was not WHAT happened, but how they reacted to it that was important. And, can I add that those two dancers (who were, and still are married) went on to become very well known in the dance world. One is now a General Manager of a top company.

 

The key to explain and teach the children is...this stuff happens. When it is unintentional and really, unavoidable, it is not what happens, but how you handle it.

 

Sounds like your daughter is a very stand-up sort of person. I have a feeling she will go far in life with good values. I think you deserve a pat on the back for raising her to be such a person. :)

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... it is not WHAT happens, but how you react and deal with it.  It was THE best advice I have ever received.  Not just in ballet, but in life also.

 

Absolutely! :)

 

The 10-year-olds I teach (in regular school) are forever trying to assign blame or deny their responsibility for mishaps. I am forever urging them to clean it up (or whatever) and move on. Most times, mishaps truly ARE accidents. It doesn't serve any purpose to dwell on them. And it certainly helps when the adults who are around recognize this and maintain a positive demeanor!

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Guest unsoccer-mom

Just adding to the Nut disaster stories.

 

My daughter was a party girl several years ago in a well known professional Nutcracker. The dresses were fastened in the back at different intervals for different size dancers. One night the wardobe person in the dressing room had fastened my daughter's dress too tightly. By the time she got upstairs to the wings, she could barely breath let alone move. She asked the final wardobe checker to re-fasten her dress. Well, she must have been in a terrible hurry because half-way through the party scene my daughter's dress came completely undone. She kept the dress from falling off by dancing with her shoulders held close to her neck. At some point Herr Drosselmeyer escorted her behind the Christmas Tree and re-fastened her dress. Her friends could not believe she had such a "close brush" as that night Clara's father was being danced by the handsome young principal of the Company.

 

Later on in her dance "career", she was dancing in Tea as was your daughter, Babsaroo. In this production, they twirled paper Chinese parasols. One young lady had about 20 members of her extended family in the front row that night. Shortly, after coming on stage her parasol came apart. The next dancer in line quickly picked it up and tossed it off stage while the first young lady danced with a lovely smile all the while twirling a stick.

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There's nothing quite like being a Drosselmeyer on the first tech rehearsal of the transition scene in Act I where he appears on top of the clock. I had been assured that the setpiece had been properly counterweighted, but the laws of leverage took over, and the clock came down, face first - and so did I. Wham! Splat! ---->(skid on chest) I don't recall what I did after that, but I came to while they were nailing the clock to two stout stage-braces.

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