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Tuesday, March 26, 2013


Steve Cole muses about ballet.

During December, I surprised Leanna with a birthday present: tickets to see The Nutcracker, which the local ballet company puts on every year. The Lone Star Ballet puts on a show that is far larger and more elaborate than many much larger cities, costing well over a million dollars. Leanna had always wanted to go, and I decided that it wouldn't kill me and besides I needed to do something for her birthday.

I know very little about ballet. There are, apparently, two of them, one of which has ducks. The Nutcracker had no ducks so it must be the other one, although it had so many things in it that it seems to me they could just add some ducks and eliminate any need for a second ballet.

I have never seen The Nutcracker (at least, not that I remember, maybe mother took me as a child) but I knew the music. When I was growing up in the 60s every family had a record player (not a stereo) and a copy of The Nutcracker Suite as a long-playing vinyl album. With only three TV stations we often had entire evenings with nothing we wanted to watch so playing records was one way of filling the evening (often while reading a book). For this reason, much of the music was very familiar.

The presentation seriously needed a narrator who could speak a few lines now and then and explain what the heck is going on. I had to go online the next day and read up on this to find out what was happening.

The show begins with Doctor Who (I guess that's who it was from the way he was dressed) packing dolls into a sack and helping a robot girl get dressed. (One has to wonder what he was doing with the robot girl before she got dressed. Why would you ever need your robot girl to be undressed?) Apparently, some rich guy was throwing a big Christmas party and (for some reason) invited Doctor Who to show up instead of Santa Claus. Doctor Who gives every girl a doll and every boy a toy sword and gives Clara, the daughter of the rich guy, a nutcracker dressed up like a toy soldier. (Everybody told me that Clara was the star of the show but she frankly doesn't seem to do much, and does almost nothing in the second inning.) He also has some other presents, which seem to be more robots or something. There was also a bear, which might or might not have been another robot.
The party winds down, the guests all go home, and the family goes to bed. Clara comes back downstairs to play with her toy nutcracker again. (One has to wonder if she's going to make a good wife for someone a decade later, given her preference in toys.) Anyway, she falls asleep and has an elaborate dream, which constitutes the second half of the first inning and all of the second. (Fortunately, there were only two innings.) If these are the dreams of a twelve-year-old girl, she needs to seriously cut back on the crystal meth.

Her dreams include some kind of war between toy soldiers (who seem to be Russian hussars) and some animals (maybe giant gerbils, only one of whom could afford to buy a sword). The Russians eventually win (having more swords and a big cannon), and tie up the gerbils. Then the nutcracker turns into Prince William. Then Clara's dream goes outside and we see some lady in a tiara dancing with a bunch of other people. Clara and Prince William then mount some kind of magic sleigh (no reindeer? Maybe it's Doctor Who's sleigh?) and fly off.

Then we have an intermission, during which I (and several other husbands) tried to make a break for the gun show in the other end of the civic center but I got caught by Leanna and taken back to my seat. At the start of the second inning, the giant gerbil attacked the conductor with his scimitar right in front of my seat, but the conductor pulled out a light saber. Doctor Who broke up the fight before it got interesting. (Leanna's bad vision got us seats on the right end of the front row.)

The synopsis of the second inning seems to be "everybody's grandkid gets to do something" as it seems a random collection of dances by Bo Peep, some German girls with pan flutes, baby ballerinas, grown-up ballerinas, Chinese girls, Arab girls, and a crazy lady with leprechauns under her skirt. (You'd think with all of that, they could have had some ducks.) Then two grownups danced onto the stage and hogged it for longer than the other groups combined. I read later in the program book that these were out-of-town ringers brought in for some reason I have yet to fathom. (Note to the guy: if you're going to wear white pants that tight, cut back on the Viagra. It was really embarrassing.) Then all of the dancers came back on the stage and it become obvious that we were close to the end (but still, no ducks). I gathered up my coat and when the final curtain when down, Leanna made a run for the exit and I followed. I read later that the producers get mad if you don't stay until the cast comes back out and bows several times. Oops. Anyway, it was Leanna who wanted to leave, because she was tired.