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Ballet: Is It Everything It's (Nut)Cracked Up to Be?

By Alf Gordon(13,356)

Posted Friday, December 21, 2007
View All Blog Posts submitted by Alf Gordon

Thanks to a series of incidents over which I had no control and that could only be duplicated on a soap opera or a Headline News report, I ended up going to the ballet this week.  My daughter and I went to see "The Nutcracker".  It was my first ballet attendance.  It may well be my last.

Don't get me wrong, I can appreciate art.  I love music and enjoy theater and get a kick out of a good musical.  It's that I'm used to a medium that uses words to help tell the story.  So for me, watching ballet is like watching a silent movie without the text.  You have to figure out the plot on your own.  And with a high-society person like me (not!), you can pretty much bet I'll get the story wrong.

So without further ado, here's my version of "The Nutcracker".  All opinions are my own and cannot be blamed on anybody else.

The story begins with a family celebrating Christmas with a friendly gathering in a Victorian setting.  Lots of adults, lots of kids, one funny old coot who can't stop drinking.  Our young heroine dances among the guests, and is teased mercilessly by one young boy (a future suitor, perhaps?) who ends up scaring her with either a dead or rubber rat.  (I don't know if rubber existed in the Victorian era.)  Presents are passed around to the children (one per kid--wow, wonder how well that would go over in this day and age!).  A strange magician with an eyepatch arrives and entertains the company with feats of legerdemain.  He brings out four life-sized dolls, two clowns and two soldiers, and puts them through their paces.  Finally, he produces a nutcracker, presenting it to our young heroine.  She is enchanted and carries it lovingly everywhere, until the nuisance of a boy grabs it and rips its head off.  Saddened, the heroine retreats to her mother's arms for comfort, while the bad young boy is banished to the corner (this kid spent well over half the scene in time out!).  Our magician takes pity on the young girl, and wraps a tourniquet around the nutcracker's head.  Finally, the company departs and the family goes to bed.

After everyone leaves, the magician returns, appearing in our heroine's bedroom.  (I kept waiting for somebody to call the cops, but they never did.)  He conjures up a rat which frightens the young girl.  It is followed by a horde of life-sized rats dancing through her boudoir.  She hides under the covers, and just as the rats look as though they're about to get the better of her (where ARE those darned cops?), the Nutcracker appears, head fully fixed and quite nimble.  He chases away the rats, bringing in his horse-riding war buddies to assist him, and doing a bang-up job until the Rat King shows up and takes his life.  Our heroine retaliates by bopping the Rat King with something (the old man's drinking bottle, perhaps) and the remaining rats drag his body away.  As the young girl stands weeping over the defeated Nutcracker, he suddenly gains human form and whisks her away to a magical land where flowers and snowflakes dance, faeries from various cultures frolic, and the queen of Candyland herself dances to entertain the little girl.  The End.

Maybe a couple hundred years ago this story was cute, but with everything going on in our society today, I see a slightly different tale.  Is it just me, or does a grown man whisking a little girl to a faraway fairyland seem just a little creepy, and more than a little illegal?  I never did see the cops come to rescue the young girl, although I did see several people with cell phones out during the performance.  Maybe they were calling 911.

And then there are the outfits.  In particular, the outfits for the male ballet performers.  I've seen pictures, and I'm no prude.  But good Lord.  I can't imagine what the little girl saw in the Nutcracker...or maybe I can.  It's obvious she didn't have to imagine very much.  And the backside was as bad as the front.  Somebody took a WonderBra and molded it to each gentleman's gluteus maximi.  At least I understand now why they're called "tights".  Paint would have covered more.  I felt like if I was watching the show, people might think I was watching for all the wrong reasons.  If I didn't watch, then I was a lowbrow who didn't get the whole concept of ballet in the first place.  I was hosed either way.

It turns out that in spite of the fact that I most likely didn't get the real storyline (and I didn't check the playbill), it wasn't half bad.  I can say that I've actually attended a ballet.  And I can give real, quantifiable reasons why I probably won't go see another one.

Anyway, the show was finally over, and my daughter and I left.  As we headed to our car, we passed a shop that sold theater-related items from various shows.  I pointed out a pair of sweat pants that had OMIGOD stenciled across the backside.  She chuckled when I told her, "If the Nutcracker had been wearing those tonight, all you'd have been able to see would be OMOD."  Yeah, I'm a real art afficionado.

This Blog Post has been read 259 times.
Posted to ProBlogs.com on Friday, December 21, 2007
View other posts by Alf Gordon

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