Category Archives: Nutcracker

You want me to do a “bluebird lift?” Seriously?

The first thing that came across my mind during today’s partnering class was: You’ve got to be kidding me.

I mentioned last week that it had been years since I’ve been in a partnering class. And even then, my experience is limited.

I’ve done one pas de deux in my life. And messed up.

And one to have one more shot at it.

Today, well, was a master class taught by one of the former teachers from the school who was back in town.

It was also led by a dancer with State Ballet, fresh off the Nutcracker.

The teacher from out of town, who was really good, had the pro dancer lead us through the Snow Pas de Deux from Nutcracker.

Did I mention this was only my second partnering class in eons?

We went through it in part. Boy, my promenades with my partner need work.

Near the end of the pas, there is a thing called the “Bluebird lift.”

At least in this pas.

I mentioned last week about my lack of confidence with lifts, and my lack of upper body strength in general.

I thought I would sit this part out.

“Scott, are you doing the bluebird lift?” the teacher who led the class asked.

Evidently, no was the wrong answer.

Thanks to a couple of spotters and a very trusting partner, an ancient soon to be 51-year-old not only caught a 100-pound woman, but lifted her in the air.

Much to my surprise.

“You’re really brave,” I told my partner when I lifted her back down to the ground.

“I trust you guys,” she said.

Did I mention ballerinas are fearless?

The get a bad rap. But try jumping into an aging guys arms and have him lift you above his shoulders.

I still amazed by their complete trust in their partners.

As for the regular class before, yeah, I struggled with barre again. It would help if my mind wouldn’t wander when the teacher explains the combination. Most were doable, but there are times when I wish my mind would move a little faster when remembering what step comes next.

I thought I fared well during the adagio combination. Maybe I can dance after all.

And petite allegro went OK for me. Sisonnes, how I’ve missed you.

And sense there were enough guys, we actually did a couple of men’s variations. It’s been a while since I’ve been in classes where that’s happened.

A tour-enlair? Now that’s a challenge for an old dude who hasn’t done it in a while.

But I think I did OK.

On the health front: My sugar count has dropped to its lowest level since I found out I was a type 2 diabetic.

Weighed in today after the back-to-back classes at 210.

That’s down 8 pounds since that dreaded checkup when the doctor informed me I was a diabetic, need to change my diet and exercise almost daily.

Which I do. I walk at least two miles a day on days that I don’t dance. Except Sunday. That’s the day between dance days.

My body does need a break now and then.

Thank you for putting up with the ramblings of an old dance dude few readers there are out there.

Till next time.

Theater week is here

Hard to believe we’re one day away from our performances.

Dress rehearsal is tonight. That’s after a spacing rehearsal on Sunday, Act II tech rehearsal Monday and Act I tech rehearsal last night.

I have to admit I’m always a little nervous when we hit the theater, but I think most of the butterflies went away during spacing rehearsal for Chinese on Sunday.

Monday was the most physical of the rehearsals, but the most fun. We ran through Chinese three times, and the finale. We also went over our Nutty Nutcracker finale dance a couple of times … aka the evolution of dance. I was beat when it was over, but it was fun.

Last night was brutal. Don’t get me wrong, loved rehearsing the party scene. But I am in a harness, moving the magical bed, during the battle scene. My knees took a pounding with all of the stopping of the music.

I slept in this morning rather than going to a 10 a.m. open class. My body needed the extra sleep to recover. Company warmup is at 6 tonight, followed by dress rehearsal, which is scheduled to last until 10:30 p.m.

Curtain is up at 9:30 tomorrow for the first of eight shows in four days, counting the Nutty Nutcracker performance Sunday night. What little free time I have this week is about to disappear.

I’ve included photos of the stage, my dressing room (it was empty Monday since I share the dressing room with the rest of the party dads, but I am the only one who is in Act II, and the only one with a costume change).

I’ve also included photos from our last week in the studio.

When Nutcracker tunes are stuck in your head …

One glance at the rehearsal schedule made me realize that what little down time I have over the next few weeks has disappeared.

Last Saturday, we had Act II rehearsal from 4:0-5:30. I worked split shifts to make it. It’s my favorite part, being in the Chinese dance the the finale waltz. I am by far the oldest dancer in Act II.

I was worn out when I walked out of work Saturday night around midnight. Two of my co-workers have quit. The workload on Saturday is usually a bear under normal circumstances. Now, it’s tough.

Sunday is normally an off day. But both people who quit worked on Sunday. We rehearsed the party scene for the first time (well, the children have already been rehearsing). But this was the first time the “parents” were thrown in.

So, I’ll strolled into the studio at 11:15 for a rehearsal that started at 11:30. Party scene rehearsal ended at 2 … and then for the next 90 minutes, it was time to practice my most brutal part … being “bed boy” during the battle scene.

What is “bed boy?” He’s the poor dancer under Clara’s bed, moving it across the stage making it appear to move like magic. Yeah, that’s me. It’s grunt work, too on the knees, very little vision, moving across the marley, making sure I’m aware of what part we’re at in the battle scene score (Got to be the longest in Nutcracker).

I staggered out of the studio at 3:30. Back in the office at 4, cursing me ex-coworkers for the fact that I wasn’t done for the day. I strolled out of the office at midnight.

I had every intention of making the 9:30 open class. But I watched The Walking Dead before hitting the bed. I was still feeling the rehearsals (and still hearing the music) when I woke up. I had a college class at 11:30 that I normally race from ballet class to make.

But I felt my body needed the extra couple of hours sleep to recover.

I have an open class Wednesday, and just looked on the rehearsal schedule and was surprised to see we’re running Act 2 Complete on Friday night after I get off work.

And then, after company class from 10-11:30 on Saturday, it’s back at it with Act II from 11:30 to 1:30, and rehearsal for our Gone Wild performance before staggering back into the office for another eight hour shift.

I can say why God rested on the seventh day. But my rest won’t come on Sunday. Party scene is 11:30-1:30, followed by battle scene from 1:30-2:30.

And then there is work.

I’m not complaining. My girlfriend said “Well, you’ve signed up for this.”

I did not sign up for having two ex-coworkers quitting in addition to the regular work, college work and dance load.

I love ballet. I love performing in The Nutcracker, even if the music does rattle around in my head until February.

And there are no rehearsals again until at least Dec. 1, which will allow my body to recover.

And other styles of music to creep back in my head.

Nutcracker grande pas de deux

Just beautiful.

Sadness is an empty theater

My Nutcracker withdrawal this year began shortly after our final bow.

It hit even harder as I helped the tech crew take down the sets we put up what seemed like only a day before, but in reality was a little more than a week ago.

I took a couple of photos of how empty the place seemed without all the sets, the props, the dancers, the wardrobe and makeup crew, the volunteers, the parents and the crowds.

What an amazing week it was. I’ve said it before, but Nutcracker week is the one week that I get a little glimpse into what it’s like for a professional dancer. From last Saturday onward, the theater was my home until roughly about 5 this evening.

Set setup, long rehearsals, company warmups … multiple parts in multiple performances in a single day. We’ve just completed seven shows in four days. And since the school shows on Thursday and Friday were so early, I don’t know if I slept more than four hours a night until last night. Our show today wasn’t until 1, so I got to sleep in a little bit after leaving the theater at 10 last night (I was at the theater yesterday for 11 hours because of how our two Saturday shows were paced).

Performance-wise, it was an interesting week for me. One of my three roles was “bed boy,” which if you know anything about New York City Ballet’s Nutcrackers, you know there’s a poor unfortunate dancer under Clara’s (or Marie’s) bed transporting her around the stage at various times during the battle scene. They changed my path and added fog, which obscured my already limited vision.

I botched my exit because of it dress rehearsal night and for our Friday night show (nothing like flying blind as your backing off stage), but by our performances Saturday and today I was nailing the bed runs.

My favorite role, the Chinese Lion (or Dragon) went well. Got ahead of the music during the Saturday matinee performance because our wonderful orchestra (trust me that’s not sarcasm, they did a great job) for some reason slowed the music and had to make an adjustment. But my jumps got better and higher with each performance, as did my timing. I felt our last two performances were my best shows overall.

As for the party scene, I thought things went really well every performance. My very young party wife and I worked well together during our short dance, and she did a very good job staying in character the entire scene. She was a pro, and maybe the best party mom I’ve ever worked with (she took her role as “mom” seriously and was constantly fixing our “son’s” hair and making sure his little tie looked great).

There are some things I’ll never forget. I already mentioned the gift I got earlier this week. The Claras gave me a nice little red velvet cake in appreciation for my grunt work as “bed boy” during the battle scene. And I received several compliments for the multiple roles I had in the show.

Company warmups are always among my favorite things about production. Mr. and Mrs. O alternated leading them, and we do them to Christmas music. Nothing gets me more in the Christmas spirit.

Among the touching things this week was watching the company girls who are seniors in high school. It’s always an emotional week for them, but today was especially hard for a couple of them. They’re going to be going off to college and this was their last Nutcracker with the company (and maybe for good, I hope they don’t quit dancing when they go off to college, but many do).

We also had the first sold out public show that I can remember since I started performing a few years ago (the school shows are always sold out). We had the packed house for our Saturday evening show. We had great crowds all week.

And I believe we had our best performances as a company and school the last two days. Our cavalier and our two Sugar Plums were amazingly beautiful during our grand pas and coda the entire week.

There’s a lot more I could say, but I’m extremely tired. It seems the older I get, the faster the week goes, and this was the fastest I can remember.

The real world beckons tomorrow.

I’ve included a few photos of the empty theater, my Nutcracker “family” and one of us who made up the Chinese dance crew. I hope to have actual performance photos soon.ImageImageImageImage

Dancing on tired legs

If my legs could talk, they’d tell me to take the elevator tomorrow when I go to my second floor college class in the morning.

They are sore … the good sore … and with good reason.

Three classes, two long Nutcracker rehearsals, all since Saturday morning.

Saturday, we worked on Act II finale waltz (which was fairly easy). But Sunday was the bear, Act I complete. I rehearsed my role as party dad (really easy). But the guest artist from the Rock School who is performing soldier doll and lead Russian has not arrived yet.

So I performed soldier doll twice. My timing is much better, but note to self: where warmups and tights next time because doing pirouettes in blue jeans is a killer. And do plies, stretch and warm up next time. Lesson learned.

And I did the dreaded Nutcracker bed (under a bed, in a harness, pulling a 50-75 pound Clara) twice during battle scene run throughs.

And then, I went to two ballet classes today. Pretty crazy, right?

They were both fun and challenging. Mr. O stayed in stamina building mode. Combinations were fairly simple. And, despite the tired legs, I was pretty consistent with my pirouettes. They’re getting there.

Dawn C’s classes continue to be the hardest for me, in part because we do combinations I’m still not as familiar with. I’m working on those pique-arabesque turns. Eventually, they’ll come.

Love her therapeutic barre at the beginning of class. For tired legs, it’s what the doctor ordered.

She also had us do a grande allegro combination that really rocked (chasse pas de bouree’ assemble’ right, chasse three times, assemble left, chasse tour jete’ three times). I think that was my best combination of the night.

I really am beginning to appreciate the way she teaches. She is more formal, more strict. And she will call the entire class out if we’re not performing the combination correctly,

My tired legs will now get somewhat of a break.

There is no class tomorrow. I’ve got Mr. O’s open advanced class on Wednesday, then no dancing until Mrs. O’s Saturday morning class, which will be followed by Act II complete rehearsal. It will be my first rehearsal to dance Chinese full out.

We’ll rehearse Act I again on Sunday, followed by two classes on Monday again.

If tradition holds, we’ll break for Thanksgiving the rest of the week before returning for an intense rehearsal on Sunday.

Tech week is rapidly approaching.

First party scene rehearsal = chaos

I think the more than 10,000 people who will see us perform the Nutcracker in about a month would totally be surprised if they saw our first party scene rehearsal each year.

Our first rehearsal with all of the parts (children, parents, maids, Drosselmeyer and the Stahlbaums, but no dolls) was yesterday, and boy, it was a doozy.

It always looks messy the first time we run it, and this year, moreso.

There aren’t as many “party parent” veterans this year, so everything had to be completely broken down and run through quite a few times, and that’s just with one cast. Because they’ve redone some of the costumes (which have to be shared when it’s double-casted), there was a quite a bit of shuffling around with which party parents go with which children.

For the rookies, it was a crash course. And it will continue to be so for the next couple of weeks. One huge difference this year? With the exception of a teacher who also dances with the company, and one other lady, the vast majority of the party moms are either company members or senior students at the school instead of recreational adult dancers or mothers of dancers.

The reason? New fancy dresses were designed this year, and the girls fit them. The party scene for them is actually somewhat new, although some of them danced roles as children or danced as dolls,

There are about three or four of us party dads who were basically the only veterans, and even we were moved from roles we’ve been doing for years.

It was a painstakingly slow rehearsal of which only one cast got to rehearse. Next Sunday, we’re going to have to try to get the other half of the cast done, along with adding the battle scene.

It’ll be fun. I’ll be rehearsing all three of my parts this weekend, with Chinese on Saturday and both my parts in the party scene and battle scene on Sunday (before going to my final Sunday work day). I’ll be sweaty and sore when it’s over, especially when you consider I also have company class on Saturday.

On a humorous note, I believe I have now covered just about every age group imaginable when it comes to party wives I’ve performed with. Three of my first four years as a party dad, my
wives” were my age. The lone exception was a modern-salsa dancer/teacher in her mid 20s.

My last two years, my “wives” have been older than me, in their upper 50s-60s (and three of the most amazing recreational dancers you’d want to meet).

This year, my two rotating wives (I’ll also rotate with another party dad) are … 18!

Fortunately for me, I take classes with both (and performed in quite a few shows with one of them). They are both good natured girls.

Class-wise, because of the holiday, I didn’t get to dance today. I may take a makeup class in company class tomorrow.

That’s after coming off one of my better weeks of classes.

Saturday, my turns weren’t there like I’d prefer, but I was able to do some tricky petite and grande allegro combinations.

And I seem to be on the verge of a breakthrough with a step I’d convinced myself I’d never be able to do: Ton be couple jete’ (sort of a leap coming out of a turn).

“You’ve got the steps, you just need to work on the timing,” Mrs. O told me Saturday.

From her, that’s praise.

And speaking to timing, I did perform soldier doll during party scene rehearsal. I did the steps of the dance OK, but somehow managed to get ahead of the music (don’t know if I started too early, or rushed it like I do when I get nervous).

If I’m asked to do it again this week, I’m confident I’ll do a much better job with the music.