Tuesday, December 21, 2010

the sugar plum fairy

The Nutcracker Ballet is an American Christmas tradition, one that was started by the San Francisco Ballet in 1944. In a combined fit of "getting into the holiday spirit"  and "we must take advantage of living in the city" I bought tickets when they first went on sale back in October. With the production looming, I checked the website for the time and location, not only discovered that the production is staged at the very lovely "War Memorial Opera House" and not at the Ballet itself, which saved me a panic attack on arriving at the wrong location, but I also noted the statement "Any child, who can quietly sit in their own seat and happily observe a two-hour performance without questions or talking, is welcome at San Francisco Ballet. To ensure an enjoyable and relaxed experience for everyone, SF Ballet recommends that children be at least 5 years-old to attend Nutcracker"

Since Geekygirl and Geekyboy are almost five and almost three, respectively I felt a knot of anxiety forming. Perhaps this wasn't such a good idea. I took the kids to the playground with a friend to run off some energy on the morning of the performance, but my anxiety was only heightened when my friend informed me that her little girl, also only 4, had been coached by her grandparents to tell the ballet ushers that she was five, since they were under the impression that under fives would be banished from the theatre.

We set off anyway with our underage companions. The children, prepped for several nights now with a lovely story book describing the plot of the ballet, and having enjoyed several evenings of dancing round the living room to the music, looked adorable and were full of anticipation. Geekydaddy and I also dressed for the occasion, and it felt so lovely to be all gussied up, in the glossy crowd of excited children and parents. There were plenty of under fives, so we didn't need to teach the children to fib. Of course, as seems to be the case in almost any major city, the fanciest theaters are steps away from the sketchiest neighbourhoods. We were faced with  puddles of human urine in the alley where we parked the car, and smiled shamefacedly at homeless people as we walked up the guilded steps. Ah San Francisco, city of contrasts.

The performance was magical. I'm glad we had read the storybook, mind you, as I'm not a ballet buff myself, so it helped me to understand what was going on. Geekygirl, ever the authority once she has even a scrap of knowledge on a subject, kindly, confidently and maybe a tad too loudly, explained to me what was happening. Geekyboy, kneeling on his plush seat was enraptured by the music and the dancing. However every five minutes he loudly whispered to me "Mummy. Is that the sugar plum fairy? Mummy. When is the sugar plum fairy coming?". Mindful of the age advice, I tried to keep him quiet out of consideration for the childless folk in the row in front, but when the lights came up for the interval they remarked on how sweet he was and how they used to bring their own, long grown up, kids to see this ballet. People can be so kind.

Here's a clip from the show (I didn't film it)

Still, during the second half Geekyboy wanted to dance along with the performers in the aisles, which I felt was pushing the tolerance of the more mature audience members so Geekydaddy extracted him. Geekydaddy wasn't all that impressed by it. He was reminded of the spoof scene in the movie "top secret", where the female dancer balances on the unfeasably large 'package' of the male in very tight tights! Geekygirl remained entranced though, and watched the entire performance through to its beautiful finale.

Now, every evening when we get home from preschool, Geekyboy wants to be the sugar plum fairy. Here he is in his sisters fairy dress, isn't he precious? I've taken a video too, to preserve these moments for posterity and to show to him when he's a linebacker on the football team. Or the lead in the all male version of swan lake.