I’ve been seeing The Nutcracker with Boston Ballet almost every Christmas season since I was four years old. I can’t say that I remember the first time I saw The Nutcracker, other than random small details that made the day into a grander affair like wearing whatever special holiday dress my family had picked out for the occasion and likely having a nice dinner before or after the ballet (nice in terms of what you’d take a four-year-old to, I guess).
Like much of the audience at any performance of The Nutcracker I’m sure, I began taking ballet classes when I was five. My first dance class was a combination ballet and tap class, and while the entire instruction was obviously very basic given the age group, the tap part immediately stuck out as my favorite. Throughout my childhood and into my teens though, I stuck with ballet (along with tap, jazz, and all the rest) to keep up with all of the reasons why most non-professional dancers continue to take ballet, technique, posture, discipline, etc…
By the time I was 15, I had 10 years of ballet experience under my belt, but other than learning the skills necessary to make jazz and tap more doable I was starting to lose interest. Not necessarily in ballet in general, but in my own abilities. I enjoyed going to class, and I enjoyed the entire concept of it, but actually performing the choreography on stage was just no longer my thing. I feel like I was an oddly mature 15-year-old to have come to such a conclusion like this on my own.
In any case, I continued taking ballet minus the recital aspect until I graduated high school. I missed ballet, or dance in general, in college but my workload between school, part-time jobs, and freelancing really left no time for it. I went to yoga on a somewhat regular basis and made it to Planet Fitness whenever I could, but the thought of keeping up with a dance class and being able to go enough to learn choreography would have terrified me in college.
The one ballet-related constant I’ve had throughout life has been seeing The Nutcracker. It’s been a tradition each holiday season for all of those years, and although I haven’t done ballet myself in almost 10 years seeing The Nutcracker each year gives me that same sort of rush that being on stage myself did when I was younger. Even though it’s been so many years since I’ve practiced ballet (and I’m sure there are plenty of other former dancers in the audience who can also relate), I remember the technicalities of it enough to get some small sense of what the dancers are feeling being onstage, and there aren’t many other comparable events where I’d say I feel that.
I was able to attend opening night of this year’s performance of The Nutcracker (find all of my favorite things about this season’s performance on Castle Party here), and even more excited was that I had an opportunity to participate in a backstage tour! The Boston Opera House is my favorite theater in Boston- the architectural details here are just stunning and I love seeing any production here just for a chance to be in the space.
Moreover, the chance to go onstage and see the theater from an entirely different perspective made it feel as though my journey with dance had come full circle. I’m sure most people feel some sort of remorse toward stopping something they loved doing as a kid, and while I’ve taken sporadic tap classes in my adult life, it certainly doesn’t compare to how the days and weeks would blend together between school and lots of time focused on dance as a kid.
I may not be performing any aspect of ballet myself anymore, but writing about it is an entirely new spin on one of my favorite art forms, and it’s thrilling to be contributing to something like The Nutcracker in my own sort of way. I think if my 15-year-old self who grappled a bit with the decision to focus on other things when ballet still felt important could know that her adult self would not only still be attending performances of The Nutcracker, but also writing about it, she’d be pretty impressed.
Of course, I can’t recommend enough that you make seeing The Nutcracker part of your holiday tradition, whether it’s with Boston Ballet, your local ballet company, or even that err… interesting Disney movie’s take on the story. It’s really a classic holiday tale and with so many different ways to experience it you can always find a way to work it into your winter traditions.
If you’re local or visiting Boston, tickets for Boston Ballet’s The Nutcracker start at just $37 and performances run through December 29, 2019. Tickets are available online at bostonballet.org (get yours soon, they may go quick!), and if you happen to be reading this before 11:59 pm on December 2, you can use promo code CYBERWKNDd to get 40% off tickets for select performances of The Nutcracker and spring ballets- grab those discounted tickets here.