Wednesday, December 14, 2016

The Nutcracker 2016: Mommy's Little Soldier

Syd earned a promotion this year at her Nutcracker audition. No longer an angel, bringing light back to the world, this year she joined the ranks of the tin soldiers who fight in the Nutcracker Prince's army in the battle against the mice.

Not only did this mean more stage time, but it's also a more interesting role, with varied choreography and an actual plot to uphold and interaction with the adult dancers. It was a lot more responsibility, but a really fun role for a kid.

Never one to slack off in her preparation, Syd soon developed a background for her character, who she decided is a hardened veteran of many battles against the mice:

Just between us, the soldier's costume is also MUCH cuter than the angel costume, even with its wings and halo. Soldiers wear navy shirts, white pants with suspenders, black spandex leggings that they pull up over their pants to look like boots, navy jackets with gold details, and cardboard hats with straps under the chin and shiny silver starbursts on the front:

during the fitting in the costume shop

and in the dressing room, waiting for the call! I'm about to fix her leggings so they match.

I also took a more active role this year. Last year, there was a sexual assault case concerning the college student dancers and one of their dance instructors that occurred during Nutcracker rehearsals, and although it didn't go anywhere near the world of the child dancers, it opened my eyes to the vulnerable position of children in the performance industry, relinquished by their parents for hours at a time, weeks at a time, during rehearsals. Whatever else I know about myself, I know for sure that I can keep track of multiple kids for as long as I need to, and get them ready to go and where they need to be exactly when they need to be there, so whenever I wasn't at fencing or watching the show, myself, I volunteered backstage with the soldiers, knew where all of them were at all times, forced them all to go pee before their call time, hairsprayed all of their fly-aways into perfectly neat soldier buns, fixed all of their little jackets so that the gold stripes lined up just so, refused to let them sit down after they'd put on their white trousers, let the most nervous among them dry off her clammy hands on my T-shirt seconds before showtime, and, surprisingly, really, really, really enjoyed myself quite a lot. I have no desire to dance onstage, myself, but I can see why Syd likes it!

Will and I share fencing, so volunteering backstage is my chance to share Syd's world, and enjoy it with her.

Ballet dancers have a lot of crap! You've got your costume, your hair stuff, your street clothes, tons of food, a book or two, and card games. Lots of card games. There were MANY Uno and Spot It! tournaments during the long waits backstage, fulfilling the stereotype of soldiers and their card games.
Here Syd is, reading Wonder for the billionth time. This is also my only good photo of her soldier bun, which is just like the angel bun, only it has to be on the smack top of one's head.

 But what do you think the little dancers like doing most of all?
Watching the livestream of the show! It always began about 35 minutes before our own call time, and as soon as the curtain opened, all the soldiers would crowd around to watch. And yes, they danced along, because they're just that adorable.
 One of the cutest parts of the show, however--and there are MANY cute parts--is that during intermission, some of the costumed children are chosen to mill around the lobby for photo ops. I prepped my soldiers by telling them that it was going to be like being Mickey Mouse at Disney World, and it was seriously adorable to watch people mobbing them for photos:

Syd, of course, had a wonderful time, danced her heart out, enjoyed the hours of downtime spent with her friends, liked having me there, and got so much of value from the experience. And I have to say that I, too, had a wonderful time. I loved watching Syd dance her heart out from the darkness, just a few feet away (while keeping a weather eye out for that one curtain that had a lot of potential to clock a soldier in the top of the head as it fell). I took pleasure in watching her play around with her friends and eavesdropping on all of their kid conversations. I could not have been more thrilled to finally get to see her up close in her costume and take pictures to my heart's content, even if they were on my crappy camera phone. I came home absolutely exhausted from the stress and the human interaction and all the running around every single night, but that chance to spend time with Syd in her world?

Totally worth it.

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