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The Nutcracker Through The Eyes Of Children And One Grown-Up Ballet Abstainer

This year, my family created a new Christmas tradition

Before last weekend, I’d never been to a real ballet.

And to be honest, I’ve never been that much of a fan. Too long, too boring, too many people, too much traffic… you know what I mean.

I couldn’t understand why people would actually go to see The Nutcracker every single year and make it a holiday tradition.

My two oldest daughters, though – Sadie, age 8 and Josie, age 7 – are big fans. So to kick off the holiday season, my mother-in-law took the three of us to see The Joffrey Ballet’s version at Playhouse Square.

None of us (besides Grandma) had seen The Nutcracker before. The girls donned their new Christmas dresses (they’re always looking for a reason to dress up), and we headed downtown. There were several events going on, so it was really busy and very crowded with other holiday merry-makers.

After we saw the lights at Public Square and the decorations at what used to be Higbee’s, we finally found a parking spot and made our way through the crowds to the theatres.

Once inside, we marveled at the beauty of the State Theatre. Decorated for Christmas and with a gigantic beautiful tree right in the lobby, the theatre immediately evoked festivity and Christmas-y-ness. I began to realize how lucky we are to have such a place (and cultural events like the ballet and The Cleveland Orchestra) nearby.  

We pushed our way past the Bavarian pretzels and hot cocoa carts with little time to spare. As we made a desperate last-minute trip to the potty (we didn’t want to miss anything!) and found our seats, the excitement kept building. “Is it time? How much longer? Is it time yet? Did you see that? I think the curtain moved!”

When the lights finally dimmed and we saw the first set, a gorgeous Victorian parlor decorated for Christmas, I realized that this was no ordinary ballet. The scenery was incredible. From the growing candlelit tree to the life-sized white horse to the candy forest, the whole thing was a feast for the eyes.

At certain points, it was almost too beautiful to look at. I know it sounds silly, but I actually found myself having trouble catching my breath.

I was almost unable to believe what I was seeing. If you’ve seen The Nutcracker, or at least a great production of it, you’ll know the part I’m talking about – with the glittering white wood sprites and the waltz of the snowflakes and the swelling music of Tchaikovsky and the snow falling; it literally took my breath away and brought tears to my eyes.

When I was able to tear my eyes away from the stage, though, what I saw was just as beautiful to me. My two girls, not fidgeting, not talking, not whispering or saying that they’re hungry or that they have to go to the bathroom – no, my two girls, staring, wide-eyed, rapt, craning their heads from their little theater-issued booster seats, not wanting to miss a single solitary second. Eyes riveted. Mouths in perfect little O’s.

It was, simply put, magical.

Afterward, I asked what they liked best (I liked the giant teapot and the Chinese Tea Dance.) Josie, without hesitating, said, “I liked it when the nutcracker doll turned into a real guy! Poof! First he’s a doll, then there’s some smoke and he’s a guy! How do they DO that? And then I liked the giant doll lady (Mother Ginger) with all the kids running out from under her skirt!”

Sadie, though, said she couldn’t pick a favorite part. My dreamy-eyed, ballet-loving 8-year-old said, “I loved it all. Every minute of it. Every second.”

Now I understand. It’s really no wonder that people make it a holiday tradition.

Traffic was terrible. Parking was terrible. The crowds were terrible.

But the ballet – the ballet was magnificent.

Sarah P December 16, 2012 at 02:47 PM
Your story made me cry at our breakfast counter. I was yelling at my son to run through 'Russian' one more time ... He's 11 & it's his first solo. His performance is today at 3, at our little theater, and I was so exasperated. Thank you for giving me a Christmas miracle! :) I think I'll go give him a big hug now. Thanks again.
Lisa Pitsenbarger December 17, 2012 at 04:45 AM
That is so sweet! I'm so glad you & the girls had such a great time. I was supposed to see The Nutcracker when I was 9 but i came down with, I kid you not, scarlet fever. Who gets scarlet fever?! And because I was on antibiotics the doctor told my mom she could take me. So I got all dressed up, head to toe rash & all....then passed out on my bed. Never did get to see it! I hope you make it a tradition for you & the girls :o)
Donna Milnes December 17, 2012 at 02:07 PM
Devone so glad you all enjoyed the ballet. When my girls were that age we went for the first time. We had lunch downtown and took in all the Christmas lights and it is a memory we will always cherish. I love the picture of you and the girls all dressed up. Merry Christmas to you and your family!
gail gorby December 17, 2012 at 06:16 PM
Aaah!!! Merry Christmas!
Devone January 22, 2013 at 05:10 AM
Donna, it was so wonderful - I hope we can do it again next year when my youngest daughter is old enough.
Devone January 22, 2013 at 05:11 AM
Scarlet fever!? Who gets that?! That's sad :( Maybe next year you can come with us! I know the boys won't be interested so we can just make it a special girls' date. :)
Devone January 22, 2013 at 05:13 AM
Sarah, thank you so much for sharing that with me! It made me feel like my writing made a difference to someone :) I hope your son had a great time and did well on his performance. I know you loved watching him :) I hope you all had a wonderful Christmas - thanks for reading.
Sharon March 19, 2013 at 04:44 AM
What a beautiful experience! I hope you can make it a Christmas season tradition!

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