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Ballet Talk for Dancers

Nutcracker - the Positive Lessons Learned


Momof3darlings

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Given that this time of year casting emotions are high, I just wanted a chance to help keep things in perspective. With that said, what are the positive things your DK has learned from his/her participation in Nutcracker? What are the things they will take with them as lifetime learning? What will you as a parent miss when it's over?

 

vj

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I've learned, from years and years of exposure in all realms, quantities and qualities of Nutzes, that I positively want to produce Coppélia for Christmas!

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Well, thanks to her participation in several years' of holiday-season ballets, not just the Nut, DD has learned how the same curse word can be used as a noun, verb, adjective and adverb. (and I hasten to add, she didn't learn it from her mother...though, if she were a mind reader, she could have).

 

No, seriously, she seems to be learning a lot about time management -- how to balance out the things she wants to do (sleepovers, birthday parties, etc.) with the things she needs to do first (homework, sleep, etc.). She's even keeping her room cleaner now that Nut season has started! That alone is serious cause for a :D

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In all honesty, how a well placed move, super pointed foot, smile, or sneaky dance step, some forbidden glitter on a party girl hair bow, vaseline on your teeth or shiny bleached polichinelle gloves (to contrast with the others' dull, dirty ones), can steal any scene, any time! She's not disruptive, just eye catching! DD tries to turn any stage opportunity into a showcase. Is this bad? Well, not always. . . . It certainly has taught her that there are NO "bad" roles, just different chances to learn new parts. And, she's gracious about the littler ones who pull the same stuff on her. When she was snow queen and there was this snowflurry trying to steal the scene, during the part when the snowflurries crowd around her, she just took the kid by the hand and did a special step with her in the last show, saying to the AD later, well, she was trying SO hard, she deserved a little extra attention!

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dance1soccer1, oh my! I think my dds have learned that details are important - the way a crinoline fits, whether your socks are pulled up and your gloves are clean, and most importantly, if you remain in character the entire time you are on stage - even if you are just standing in the background, you are an important part of the production.

 

After having the girls in 2 different nuts, I learned that there is a huge difference between the way the professional nut and the school nut are run. This extends to casting, costuming and the way the children are treated. Ironically, the kids are treated with much more respect by the pro company staff and directors than they are by those who are paid to teach them. The professionalism really shows on stage.

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The lessons learned from Nuts are very long! Among them are:

 

 

-Every role has merit. There is a chance to shine ANY time you are on stage.

 

-Watching professionals warm up, rehearse and perform teaches much.

 

- All those endless tendus and the other drudgeries that make up ballet class really do pay off when you are onstage and the technique needed to do a part well is second nature, so that you can concentrate on the artistry the performance requires.

 

-Coming early and staying late and working hard are important keys to success. Seeing the stars' work ethic reinforces this concept.

 

-It is possible to do a school project on the floor in a hallway, with other dancers tripping over your work and supplies.

 

-Studying for finals while sitting in a tutu with a plume in the back (making it tricky to sit at all) can still yield decent grades.

 

-One can learn to conquer fears and the psychological games one plays with themselves and pull off those clean double pirouettes or fouette turns or whatever other tricky step that is easily botched when one steps onstage and the lights go up.

 

-Performing is hard and not quite so glamorous by about the 5th show of Nuts. But, amazingly, it is still fun and exhilerating and joyful when show #10, #20, etc. comes around.

 

-Signing an autograph for a little girl in the lobby, who looks up at you like you are a star, makes doing Nuts the only thing you can imagine doing during the month of December! :(

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Balletbooster! Those are very good lessons learned! I would have to agree with every single one of them.

 

Nutcracker is one of my favorite :) Though, I cannot pinpoint exactly why. :( It was not my first introduction to performing in a professional ballet production (I was cast and rehearsed by Agnes DeMille in her touring company of Rodeo). But, it has such wonderful memories, that every time I hear the music, there is always a memory to go with each certain piece of music. I remember the pros during our run calling it a nasty name, even the conductor got tired of it (Arthur Fiedler!), but I learned sooooooo much from those pros and musicians. I even got to tour with the pro company some years (I did Nutcracker all through my pre-teens, teens and into college years :wink: )

 

I think the thing that helped me the most was the my parents didn't complain (much, lol!) about all the schlepping into Boston during the cold, wintery weather (and the theater was in the infamous Combat Zone!). But, my parents figured out a schedule that worked for us, and pretty much kept their negative thoughts to themselves. Both my sister and I cringe when we watch Nut now, (hey, we have danced sooooo many of them, and we both now teach and rehearse it), but we also chuckle over some of the things that kids do and say during Nut.

 

It really is a magical time and a magical ballet. I hope that if my daughter goes down the Nutcracker snowy path that I, too, will keep the moaning to a minimum regarding the schedule!

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My dd has definitely learned a lot, from life lessons about accepting your role(s) with grace to the practical details, like you can never take enough vitamin C in December, and there is not such thing as too many hairpins when securing your headpiece. What will I as the mom miss when it's all over?

 

So much...

 

The thrill of seeing dk perform and the joy that it obviously brings her (I'll never forget the first time she had a small special part in Nuts and I went backstage at intermission to check on her. I asked if she was nervous and she said "no, just happy.")

 

The excitement of seeing all the dancers grow from year to year and from role to role.

 

The camaraderie of the parents during Nuts weekends. We've often joked we feel like we're at camp!

 

The children in the audience who are seeing their first ever Nutcracker, and their reactions, from awestruck faces to dancing in their seats to running commentary (they always ask good questions!) throughout the show.

 

And Balletbooster is right about the admiring little girls. After one performance, some of them caught sight of the dancers leaving the theatre. One of them exclaimed "REAL BALLERINAS!" and then they all began shouting "Bye bye, ballerinas!" Priceless. For everything else, there's Mastercard.

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I have to add...

 

Costumes, scenery and lighting. DD has learned that it takes the skill of many to pull off a Nutcracker season. It's a great rounded theater lesson.

 

the anxiety of auditions...fret of who will get what...only to be excited about ANY Nut part. And the grace of manners when you don't get the "too die for"role.

 

learning to see each cast role as an important part of the whole. When it comes together, it is magical.

 

caring dancing friends helping with last minute make up flaws, costume glitches and lost shoes.

 

company performers who are hospitable to the academy dancers who look up to them...and the company performers who are rude and distant (an excellent example of what not to be.)

 

families who adjust plans around Nut season. Dads and brothers who see the Nut over and over again.

 

purchasing tickets for family members can be like peace talks...a thread for another time. :wink:

 

Ballet mom support...helping all the dancers not just their own. I'm lucky to have a strong ballet mom group who look out for all. It takes a village of Nut moms... :)

 

heightened awareness of the cold/flu season is a Nutcracker art..I used to laugh at it...now I appreciate it.

 

I'm with Jacqueline on the Vitamin C...Air Borne and EmergenC are now basic items in dd's dance bag...and my purse.

 

the fun of unplanned hearing of Nut music in stores, elevators, internet. It is a fun season....I never get tired of the music. :(

 

Let the season begin!

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Delightful posts, Babsaroo! :( Really nice to hear all these things that validate what we think about having the children do these productions, especailly those with professional companies.

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Nutcracker is seeing all the wide-eyed little girls in their beautiful holiday dresses enjoying the Nutcracker and dreaming of one day being Clara in the Land of Sweets.

 

It is being a part of a professional production and listening as a principal dancer tells your daughter "I am honored to dance with you in this ballet". How wonderful could this woman be, to take the time to grace a child with these words?

 

Knowing that your child loves it so much that she said she would be happy to work backstage sweeping up the mess, if she doesn't get cast in a role.

 

The memory of all our children up on stage, truly believing that they are in this beautiful victorian dream.

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popballet, thanks for bringing up another wonderful aspect of Nutcrackers -- the older or professional performers who are encouraging and helpful to the aspiring ones. When my dd was Clara, the girl who performed Dewdrop told her after the show that it had been "a pleasure dancing for her." Now, is that a class act or what? Another time, my dd was having trouble with a step in the dress rehearsal and the guest artist who was the Sugarplum's Cavalier took her aside and gave her some help on it, and the next day, for the performance, it went perfectly. It just takes a little to make a younger dancer's day! Those are things that go down in my permanent memory book!

 

 

And to add to Babsaroo's mention of the dads and brothers who gamely attend the performance, I'd like to add special kudos to the dads who at one moment in life hadn't a clue about ballet, but now work backstage and have a ball doing it. Ours are known as the "Backstage Boyz" They have special T-shirts that say "Nutcracker Tour 200x" and wear them proudly.

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One of the most important lessons our dk learn from Nuts and other productions is how to gracefully handle disappointment. Every little girl cannot be Clara even though every one of them has the dream. My dd is auditioning for Clara once again and I asked how she would feel if she didn't get it -- she said 'I'll be bummed out, but I'll get over it. The Nutcracker will still be fun.'

 

and I think too this is a lesson the children teach us --- as parents we can sometimes be more disappointed than the kids! :)

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DD has learned how to hang up and return her own costume to wardrobe and how to care for costumes in general.

 

She has learned to be responsible about knowing and writing down her schedule: she's in charge of the calendar and we've yet to miss one show or rehearsal.

 

She's learned to pay attention at rehearsals and stagings and know how to hit her marks, on time every time.

 

She's learned what to do if she makes a mistake on stage (keep dancing).

 

She's learned to teach her parts to those having a tough time with some of the steps, taking time to help them rehearse after classes until they get it.

 

She's learned to get along with just about anyone, to be respectful of other people's things and also other people's feelings.

 

Best of all she's learned that doing Nutcracker means she gets a built in family for the holidays. Being an only child, this is a treat she looks forward to every year. Although I've seen it many many times, I too look forward to the Nutty time of year.

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