Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Everything Was Beautiful at the Ballet

Our whirlwind weekend is over now, Eric is back in NYC, and I have lots to share with you about my visitors and Kelley's graduation, but first...let's talk ballet.

(Side note: who can tell me what show/song/lyrics my post title comes from?)

Last night, Eric and I went to see George Balanchine's The Nutcracker performed by the New York City Ballet at Lincoln Center. And everything was beautiful at the ballet. But first, a little background and reminiscing. (Please bear with me! Reminiscing usually includes moderately embarrassing childhood photos of myself, so just look forward to that.)

I have always loved The Nutcracker. I remember going to see it performed by the Cleveland Ballet at Playhouse Square in Cleveland when I was a little girl. We would get all dressed up and I would go and watch in awe. I loved how Clara's nightgown flowed as she danced, I loved the mysterious Herr Drosselmeier, I loved the growing Christmas tree, I loved the beautiful dancers in the magical land, and I loved how the Nutcracker, back in his rightful place on the mantle at the end, took a bow as the curtain closed. It was all so magical. We also had several different versions of The Nutcracker on VHS, and my sister and friends and I would watch them over and over again, dressed up in our fanciest dress-up clothes, and dance along in my basement. My favorite was the Mikhail Baryshnikov version (which you can actually watch in its entirety on YouTube here), although I also particularly loved the "Arabian Dance" number from Nutcracker: The Motion Picture. Just wonderful!

Of course, my dream was to dance the part of Clara in The Nutcracker someday. I took ballet lessons for eight years as a child, starting at the age of four. To be honest, I really was not very good - I was (and still am) laughably inflexible and didn't care to put in the practice necessary to improve. But, I loved it all the same. My sister and I both took lessons at the Charlotte Braun Dance Studio in Parma Heights, Ohio, and I still remember it very well. I remember the stairway to the second floor, the cramped dressing room, my personalized ballet bag I carried my slippers in, the narrow hallway to the studio, the mirrored room with the pianist playing along in the corner. Charlotte Braun herself taught us to avoid "coat hangers" (flexed ankles) and "golf balls" (bent knees) while reminding us to suck our tummies to our backbones and pull in our derrières. Every two years the entire dance studio put on a recital, which meant beautiful sequined costumes and a performance on stage for our friends and family - a little girl's dream!

And now is when I give you a glimpse into my ballet days through the wonder of old scanned photographs. Here is a look at young ballerina me:

This is me on my fourth birthday, modeling a (way too big) tutu that was gifted to me. This bad boy went into the dress-up bin, but there were many more tutus in my future.

Ah, a better-fitting tutu! Here I am ready for my first ballet class at four years old, in 1986.

Jumping in ballet class, still in 1986. Pigtails!

This is me when I was five years old. My mother took us for professional portraits every five years, and for my five-year-old portraits, I remember really wanting to wear my ballet slippers. My mother obliged, and now we have this lovely portrait, complete with furry fake grass beneath my pink slippers.

Here I am in costume for my very first ballet recital, in 1988 (six years old). I am on the right and that's my friend Meghan (yes, really - way to be original, Mom) on the left. We sang "Ain't We Sweet" for that one.

This is me all done up for my second recital, when I was eight years old (I'm on the left in the second picture). We were "Junior Rockettes," and we danced the entire number in a line with our hands on each others' shoulders. We did a pinwheel (not unlike the real Rockettes in the Wooden Soldier Number, although on a much smaller scale) that I remember practicing and practicing and practicing to get it right. In fact, it was difficult to practice this number in the small ballet studio, so we actually went out into the building's parking lot to practice once or twice. I remember the blacktop being very hot on my feet through my thin ballet slippers.

Ah yes, and by this time, Heather was getting her show biz career up and running by joining in the ballet fun. For her first recital, she was an Eskimo and sat on an "ice cube" made by covering a square box with aluminum foil.

Back at the Charlotte Braun dance studio, perfecting my coat-hanger-less point. Also, I was rocking some giant glasses by this point.

This was my third and final ballet recital, when I was 10 years old. In this number we were maids or some such thing, and carried trays with a rose, newspaper and cup of coffee for the whole routine. Of course, everything was glued to the tray, but we had to keep the tray looking balanced. I liked having a prop. Also, my torso was ridiculously tiny (try to look past my World's Largest Glasses, if you can) - yikes.

And that is my ballet career in a nutshell. I gave up ballet lessons around the time we moved to Florida (I was 12 years old), but I still love to watch it, and when I do I often wish I still danced. Ah, childhood dreams fallen by the wayside.

Eric has been sweet enough to indulge my Nutcracker love three times now in our relationship: once in Gainesville, once in D.C. (they do a fabulous D.C.-oriented version), and now here in New York. It actually was on our NYC To-Do List to see a performance by the New York City Ballet, so I'm happy to have crossed that off.

Nutcracker sign on the side of Lincoln Center

The theater

Our seats were very high up, but in the center so we were still able to see very well. The ballet itself was just lovely. Clara (or rather, Marie in this case) and the Nutcracker Prince were played by children throughout (something I have never seen before), and the sets were just gorgeous. The second act started with an utterly charming dance by children dressed as angels, which I loved. I also particularly enjoyed the dances by the Arabian Coffee and the Marzipan Shepherdesses. But my absolute favorite was the pas de deux by the Sugarplum Fairy and her Cavalier. It was just breathtaking, so beautiful I nearly cried. I was just mesmerized. I loved every minute of it.

An old photo of the Sugarplum Fairy and her Cavalier, stolen from here

After the performance we spent some time in Lincoln Center, taking pictures and just enjoying the venue. Lincoln Center at night is one of my most favorite sights I have yet to discover in NYC. It's just gorgeous, and it was even prettier last night thanks to the holiday decor.

Outside after the show

I was feeling inspired! Look, I haven't totally lost my ballet skills!

Beautiful Lincoln Center

The tree at Lincoln Center

Sitting by the fountain

Nice shot of the illuminated steps - they say "welcome" in many different languages!

We also walked across the street to check out the pretty blue tree in the plaza there.

Looking up at the tree

View of Lincoln Center past the tree 

By then we were nearly freezing to death, so we made our way home, stopping to pick up a pizza from our favorite local place on the way. What a fabulous New York evening!


Tiffany said...

A Chorus Line is the play that the song lyrics come from. I would love to see the ballet in NYC. We go to the Nutcracker every year in DC but I bet it's wonderful in NYC.

moderndaywife said...

I also loved the Nutcracker and grew up dancing, I would love to see it for the holidays I bet it was amazing :-)

Anonymous said...

I never saw(or noticed) the picture of when you were 5 Meghan and wore your ballet slippers for the picture. Loved it and your reminiscing of your ballet career!
Aunt Rachel

Dad said...

Loved the post and the memories Meghan! (and the Chorus Line reference)