Our Nutcracker wooden figure carries a weight of memories. Early memories are of my sister, Christina’s Sugar Plum Fairy solo for Saint Aidan Parish talent program, Mom’s appreciation of performance of Swan Lake in her pre-child past, a friend of my Mom was a former dancer who taught Christina ballet. Hanging quietly, these memories swirl around the Nutcrackers open maw.
Ten years ago we observed New Years Day 2009 in the lobby of Winthrop Medical Center, Mineola, New York waiting for the outcome of Mom’s hip replacement surgery grateful the head of Orthopedics was performing the surgery. That year saw large changes played out in the last four years of her life, she never returned to her home of 52 years.
From then on her winters were spent with her daughter Diane in Mesa, Arizona. Mom would call us, amused at the sight of neighbors walking by in 50 degree weather in winter parkas. She was well known in Albertson for her habit of walking everywhere, it was fortunate she never needed to learn how to drive a car: all she needed was readily at hand.
I needed to return to Albertson several times a year to our childhood home. December 2009, Pam and I melded the trip with a day in New York City. Memories of Mom’s enjoyment of Swan Lake drew me to purchase tickets for The Nutcracker. The New York City Ballet has performed The Nutcracker every Christmas season since 1954, when I was one year old. The 56th performance was our first.
As with Dante’s version of hell, the David H. Koch Theater has rings. I sprang for the highest ring, the fourth, the least costly and, optimistically, the best vantage to view the formations of grouped dancers.
A full orchestra is dedicated to each performance, the hall acoustics are fabulous, and we were able to appreciate the scenes, the grouped dancers and, even, the soloists. The last scene of the first act, the Snowflakes (or Snow Crystals), brought tears to my eyes, the music, the scene was impossibly beautiful and brought back some experiences of mine in winter nature.
We were hooked after that, immersed in the very real (i.e., non-virtual) alternate reality at least two Sunday afternoon performances each year, seeing all Tchaikovsky’s ballets in the style of Balanchine for which the New York Ballet is famous. For the 59th season of The Nutcracker were brought two granddaughters, took fourth third row orchestra seats. We marveled at the experience. It included, during intermission, a photo session with a character from the performance.
Here they are with a Snowflake. This is a scan of one of the 8 x 10 prints we received from this session.
We planned to share a performance of Swan Lake with Mom during the September 2013 season, in her 90th year. Mom passed away in her birth month, June, 2013.