A Clod-Hopper Goes to the Ballet

27 Dec

We went to The Nutcracker Ballet last night. My two daughters, my two nieces, one of my sisters and I. We left the boys behind. One can only force so much merriment on men this time of year.

It’s been years since I’ve been to the ballet. College, probably. (Which, loathe though I am to admit it, ended 20 years ago this spring.) The Nutcracker is probably the last ballet I saw, in fact, though it might have been Swan Lake. I did cultured stuff in college. I like to think that I still do, though I’m not sure if attending “Spamalot” counts as culture. (Well, it’s culture, all right, but not, perhaps, the refined part of it. It was fun, though!)

I attended the opera back then, too. My aunt sang in the opera chorus of the Eugene Opera, and my mom and I would drive over from Bend, OR, (I lived there in tenth grade) whenever she had a performance. La Boheme, Madame Butterfly, Carmen, she was in them all. It was a great season! She always got me posters, too, with which I decorated my room in Berlin, months later. Lovely reminders of home.

I suppose that all nutcrackers come from Germany...but this one came directly from East Berlin circa 1987.


But I digress – as usual.

Going to The Nutcracker was terribly fun. We dressed up. We put on airs (well, I did anyway) and we relaxed into the artistic atmosphere. And now, of course, my daughters are prancing around the house, taking turns being Clara and the Sugar Plum Fairy. Lucy boogied big-time right after the intermission and then fell asleep three minutes later in my arms. Pretty sweet.

I love the rocking horse guy. I saw a smaller identical version of him in February when I was back in Berlin but instead of getting him I got the wee one in the front. He'd be a good guy to have on your side in a fight.


I was in The Nutcracker twice when I was small. It was an interesting production; a strange conglomeration of local ballet students and kids who could not dance but who wanted to act. No, I was not one of the dancers. (See my posts about my dancing horrors this past summer.) I was one of the supporting cast. The second year I was the mouse mother, Dame Mouserick, by name. I think the director gave me that title to compensate for the fact that I was not given the same role I’d been given the first year. Whether the role was denied me because I’d been so bad at it the first year, I do not know. I prefer to think that it was just a case of a better person coming along, rather than desperately moving me to a different part.

Who was I that first year?

The Mouse King!

Seriously.

My first nutcracker. Mom gave him to me when I was the Mouse King. He's still my favorite...even if less sophisticated than his shelf-buddies. He does pretty quick work with a walnut. Yum!


I have no idea why I was chosen to be the Mouse King, other than the fact that I was bold and willing and not nearly as embarrassed to wear tights as the boys of the cast would have been, given as I was used to such garments. I don’t remember being embarrassed to be playing the part of a boy. I must have embraced my inner Mary Martin (who played Peter Pan) and given it all I could. I think I also was a Chinese “dancer” (read “clod-hopper”), though how I pulled that off, I truly do not know, given as I am neither Chinese nor, as previously mentioned with painful clarity, a dancer.

I dearly wish that we had those performances on video, but way back in the dark ages circa 1980, we didn’t have such things. How I would love to be able to watch myself wielding my sword, lurching across the stage – and how my kids would love it, too!

If you’re ever in Seattle and have a yen for the Nutcracker, I highly recommend it. It was a wonderful performance and features sets and costumes designed by Maurice Sendak of “Where the Wild Things Are” fame.

A great time was had by all…plus, it was a wonderful way to escape from the rain…

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8 Responses to “A Clod-Hopper Goes to the Ballet”

  1. ceciliag December 27, 2011 at 11:14 am #

    How fantastic! i said to john the other day that the only christmas music i like is the nutcracker suite! wonderful.. c

    • Gretchen O'Donnell December 27, 2011 at 11:25 am #

      My four-year old said, as the music began, “It’s the same music as our movie of it!” Yes, it is great music! (Oh, and then later she said, “Why are there no words?”)

  2. Minnesota Prairie Roots December 28, 2011 at 9:06 am #

    I can just imagine your sweet daughters twirling and leaping and pretending to be those lovely dancers. I, too, saw The Nutcracker in college, back in the day when I attended those sorts of events in The Cities. Now I am content to find my culture locally.

    P.S. Leaving the men behind was probably a good idea.

    • Gretchen O'Donnell December 28, 2011 at 4:54 pm #

      Lol! I imagine that would have enjoyed it…to a degree…but with all the rest we’re spending money on right now leaving them home was the best plan. Of course, they went to the museum of flight, so…it all worked out well!

      We’ve enjoyed some shows lately in Sioux Falls – it’s nice that it’s close enough to still feel local yet professional enough to be amazing!

  3. Kari Bukowski December 28, 2011 at 9:47 am #

    Fun to read as a new entrant to this blog site! Personable, relatable, while still universal in terms of families and memories and the feelings the conjur. By the way, I think Spamalot IS culture, as well, and even the good kind, having seen it done in Madison, WI, with a great cast. However, it also reminds me of one of my husband’s earliest memories of your husband who quoted, verbatim, well in to the night, lines from Monty Python and the Holy Grail when he was supposed to be sleeping on a winter retreat with the youth from Duluth…

    • Gretchen O'Donnell December 28, 2011 at 4:51 pm #

      Thanks so much for stopping by, Kari! I really appreciate it and your comments! I always am glad for input and opinions. Yes, I have heard how Colin tortured your husband with such antics…and, in case you were wondering, he still quotes it…though not so much late into the night any more. We had a lot of fun going to see it last year and are looking forward to Young Frankenstein next month!

      • Kari Bukowski December 29, 2011 at 10:34 am #

        Ah…another great classic from the insane mind of Mel Brooks. At our house we often quote Young Frankenstein, The Producers, Blazing Saddles…we are truly a classy, dignified lot, eh? 🙂

        • Gretchen O'Donnell January 1, 2012 at 1:00 am #

          So I can blame all of Colin’s Mel Brookes addicions on you lot? Sweet. He says “hi” by the way!!

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