Every year for as long as I can remember, I make a trip near Christmas time to see a production of The Nutcracker, the ballet by Peter Ilich Tschaikovsky. These days, I actually usually make three trips to the show - once to see all the girls and boys from my church, once to go to the production I've always gone to, and once to another company's performance for good measure.
Today I saw the production that all my church members are in. Because of my schedule this weekend, I had to go see one of the "school performances" during the day, where children from the area come to see the ballet as a field trip. I've done this before, and it is risky - hundreds of elementary school kids on a field trip aren't always in the mood to see a ballet.
But, happily, I had a great experience. The kids were so well-behaved, and it was fascinating to sort-of watch the ballet through their eyes. I was thinking of the part in Finding Neverland where J. M. Barrie invites the children from the orphanage to his opening of Peter Pan. Stodgy audience members can't help but delight in the play when they see the delighted reactions of the children watching the characters flying around on stage.
When I was little, I always loved the beginning of The Nutcracker, with the party scene, the mice and the soldiers. And I thought the pas de deux between the prince and the Sugar Plum Fairy was terribly terribly long and boring. But as I grew up, I started to think the party scene moved too slowly, and I couldn't wait for the pas de deux and the 'grown-up' dancing.
Today, sitting next to a class of first-graders, I got to experience the show as a young person again. The kids were at first not impressed by the scenery, but eventually oohed and aahed when the snow fell from the sky, and when Mother Ginger came out with her bon-bons, and when the dancing dolls appeared like magic from the box, and when the Mouse King was defeated by the prince. They were literally sitting on the edge of their seats. It was a real joy - seeing it again as I did long ago...