Sunday, December 12, 2004

28th Annual Woodland Nutcracker

Is done! Some problems, but better than I expected. The crowd pleaser this year was the Pre-Show's "Carwash," featuring Antonio Casillas doing "The Worm", as Devan Zuniga acted as 'puppetmaster.' Kelly Challender's instructional influence was felt in the better-than-usual Hip-Hop dances. Some of the kids, like Cassandra Heredia, come from families where everyone break dances for fun anyway, so the kids seemed unusually well-prepared.

Unlike the late 90's, there was mercifully little shoulder strap tugging this year, but probably only because the group this year is very young, and thus there was less need to tug on shoulder straps. Clothes tugging can be very distracting to the audience. I remember one year, one of the dancers placed herself in the wing, where many in the audience could see her, then began a meticulous examination of some fabric flaw in her crotch: I wanted to scream "no!" but I was on-stage too, and I couldn't drop character.

The 'go team' small-town sports atmosphere that previous recitals have featured, which seems so strange for ballet, but perfectly suited for these shows, was quite subdued, but probably only because most of the kids haven't hit high school yet.

After seeing her in rehearsal, I was looking forward to the blithe insouciance of 4-year-old Savannah Arias, as one of the Act III Mother Goose clowns. She was a live wire early on Friday evening, but soon tired, and when she finally hit the stage, she was in full pouting diva mode. Sunday was a bit better, but she seemed unusually interested in her elastic clown collar, and spent most of her dance time wrapping it around her mouth. So, we'll have to wait a bit longer before we can see what she is capable of as a dancer!

One of the girls asked: "when will the orientation start?" (she meant intermission.) Big words can confuse the kids. When I was her age, I was in the vicinity of my birth hospital (Presbyterian Hospital in Albuquerque) when I saw a sign that read "Pedestrian Crossing," and I thought it read "Presbyterian Crossing," and I suddenly had reason to doubt my father's teaching that a person's religious beliefs reflected an exclusively interior state of being.

Notable moments:

  • Friday: Ruth Krabacher's plastic sword broke unexpectedly in her Act I fight with Cleigha Gama;
  • Friday: The "Waltz of the Flowers" threatened to dissolve into the "Parliament of the Flowers," over questions of timing and whether or not someone's foot should be turned out;
  • Friday: Sally got distracted and was late on her "Snowflake" entrance;
  • Sunday: A dancer's frantic stage whisper of 'Shit!' was a bit louder than it needed to be (if it needed to be at all) - loud enough, I suspect, to be heard in the audience;
  • Friday: a girl's warm and winning smile, when the curtain opened, froze quickly into a deer-in-the headlights stare when the music (as often happens in these shows) just didn't start as quickly as it should!
  • Friday: there was a moment of frozen indecision, when action stopped because no one remembered the next step. One of the dancers shrugged her shoulders in rhythm with the music. There was a sudden gasp, and everyone fell into a hasty circle, as their memories finally began working again.

Mistakes aside (and I certainly made more than my share, especially this year), we all had a lot of fun. I wonder if Sally is serious about this being the last Woodland Nutcracker?

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