Blog Advent Calendar: December 14, 2007

For me, the holidays wouldn’t be the same without the music and beauty of The Nutcracker Ballet. The beautiful photo above is of one of my math students from last year, who is dancing the part of young Clara in a local version of The Nutcracker.

As I watched Maddy dance last Sunday, I remembered the first time I saw The Nutcracker. I must have been 6 or 7 years old, and had never been to a ballet before. I was in love with dancing, as many young girls are, and my most treasured book at that time was a little red book called A Child’s Book of Ballet. (It was dearly loved and literally read to pieces!) I remember that I wore my very best dress and new shoes, and that we sat quite close to the stage, and I was able to see the dancers up close. I fell in love with the music, the colors, the lovely scenery, and the dancing… and I’ve never gotten over it!

Since that first experience, I’ve seen the ballet performed many, many times in different cities and by different companies. I loved watching Salt Lake City’s wonderful Ballet West performing Willam Christensen’s version year after year. And Seattle’s Pacific Northwest Ballet Company has put on a lovely version each year since 1983, with scenery and costumes designed by Maurice Sendak! Maddy’s ballet troupe performed in a very intimate theater, on a relatively small stage, so it was a more contained version than I’d seen before. But the costuming was exquisite and the music as enthralling as ever, and I loved the creativity and the heart in her production.

I enjoy hearing the music playing in the background at the grocery store or in shops at Christmastime. And I love to watch ice skating versions of the ballet — my sentimental favorite being a 1992 performance by Ekaterina Gordeeva and Sergei Grinkov.

So as my own children were growing up, Christmas morning always began with the music of The Nutcracker playing in the background. This year the Grandboy is coming to spend Christmas with us, so of course that music will be part of his very first Christmas. It just wouldn’t be Christmas without it!

A Very Happy Holiday to All!

Be sure to visit the other blogs that are participating in Kailana’s and Marg’s terrific 2007 Blog Advent Calendar:

15 December – Alyssa (By The Book)
16 December – Rachel (A Fair Substitute for Heaven)
17 December – Literary Feline (Musings of a Bookish Kitty)/ Stephanie (Stephanie’s Confessions of a Book-a-holic)
18 December – Dev (Good Reads)
19 December – Callista (S.M.S. Book Reviews)
20 December – Tiny Little Librarian (Tiny Little Librarian)
21 December – Carla (Carla Nayland Historical Fiction)/ Susan (Reading, Raving, and Ranting by a Historical Fiction Writer)
22 December – Carolyn Jean (The Trillionth Page)
23 December – Booklogged (A Reader’s Journal)
24 December – Kailana (The Written World) / Carl V. (Stainless Steel Droppings)

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20 thoughts on “Blog Advent Calendar: December 14, 2007

  1. lisabea

    I love the Nutcracker. My daughters danced various roles for 9 years. It became both an ordeal (driving, stress) and a delight. Now, when we hear the music, the entire family feels the Christmas spirit.

    And nothing, nothing was better than my children performing their own version in the living room complete with costumes, toe shoes and props. My son would be a dew drop in a blanket trying to roll onto his sister’s feet. Hilarious. Fun. Wonderful.

    Great post.

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  2. Melissa

    Ah, Ballet West’s production is, and always will be, my favorite production. I’ve seen this ballet many different times, in many different places, but nothing compares to the exquisite choreography of William Christiansen. At least, not in my opinion.

    I would like the see the ice skating version, though…

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  3. Tara

    I *love* the Nutcracker. I danced in it as an angel at the opening of the second act with the Pennsylvania Ballet Company back when I was around 8. What an amazing experience. I took my daughter last year for the first time and she just loved it.

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  4. Juliette

    Thank you Robin – you have bought back some very happy memories for me. I took my 7 year old daughter to the Royal Festival Hall in London for her first performance – she sat their ‘playing’ her imaginary violin for much of the time. She was actually very talented in reality and really loveed her instrument.
    Wishing you and yours a very happy christmas
    Julie

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  5. Gentle Reader

    I love the Nutcracker, too. I first went when I was five, and I still remember it. (I also remember the velvet dress I wore!) My mom and I are waiting impatiently until my daughter is old enough to go! She’s 3 and fidgety–it may be awhile πŸ™‚

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  6. Nan -

    I have that ballet book!! My fondest memories of the Nutcracker are centered around my daughter who was a reindeer in kindergarten, her first dancing experience. It makes my heart full to remember it.

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  7. Marg

    I don’t think I have ever seen that ballet all the way through – just bits and pieces of it!

    Thanks so much for posting about it, and for participating in the blog tour.

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  8. raidergirl3

    The music is amazing and is so very Christmas-y. Thank you for sharing all your Nutcracker memories.
    My kids love Nutcracker ornaments, and we’ve taken my daughter a few times. It feels so elegant and grown up to attend a show.
    Lovely post, Merry Christmas

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  9. Literary Feline

    The Nutcracker is a wonderful Christmas tradition, I agree. It’s been years since I’ve seen it performed, unfortunately.

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  10. Bookgirl's Nightstand

    The Nutcracker is so beautiful isn’t it? I haven’t seen it performed in such a long time. Thanks for the YouTube link. I need to check out the Gordeeve and Grinkov performance – weren’t they the best!

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  11. Em

    Whenever I think of the holidays, I think of The Nutcracker too! I’ve seen it performed countless times yet it always captivates me. There is a beautifully illustrated book out this year by Susan Jeffers for kids (titles simply THE NUTCRACKER).

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  12. Chris

    I’ve never seen it live. I enjoy the film versions though. My girl loves the Barbie version. She’s very into Barbie. Great post!

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  13. Kay

    Great post, Robin! My daughter and I used to go to the performance of the Nutcracker here each year. It’s been a while now. I’ll look forward to a little grandgirl (not yet, though!) and taking her. Very special memories!

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  14. Chelsea

    I love the Nutcracker as well. It was the first ballet I was taken to see when I was six years old, and I’ve been in love with its enchantments ever since. There is little better that that feeling of wonderment the something as fun, as innocent, and as beautiful as The Nutcracker can impart.

    My first semester of college was indeed an ordeal! Then again, I’m sure that can be said of most college freshman, so thats not to imply any kind of uniquness on my part! My Latine American Studies class was kind of a hit-and-miss class when it came to what we actually learned. But the section on Latin American literature was, without a doubth, a hit.

    Great post, Robin, and thanks so much for the well wishes with the Marquez! I’m looking forward to it, as soon as I finish with Atonement!

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  15. Robin

    Thanks, Lisabea. That living room version of the ballet sounds absolutely priceless…wonderful memories!

    I totally agree with you, Melissa! To me the choreography of Mr. C’s Nutcracker is unbeatable.

    Hi Tara, what a wonderful experience to dance in The Nutcracker! I would have loved that.

    Thanks, Juliette. Seeing this ballet is such a magical experience for young people. It sounds like your daughter was enthralled, too!

    How nice to have that experience to look forward to with your daughter, Gentle Reader.

    We are kindred spirits for sure, Nan. I still have my copy of the book, but it is in pieces, literally read to death. I pulled it off the shelf when I was writing this post, and fell in love with the illustrations all over again! It’s a treasure.

    Marg, it’s quite an experience to see it performed. I hope you have the pleasure of doing that some time.

    Raidergirl3, we love Nutcracker ornaments, too. And one of my students gave me a beautiful nutcracker about 15 years ago, and every Christmas it sits on the hearth…an important part of our decorations.

    Hi Literary Feline. It had been years since I’d seen it performed, too. It was delightful to watch a performance again.

    Hi Ladytink. I took a lot of dance classes when I was growing up, but very few ballet classes. I always wanted to dance on my toes, but never managed it.

    Yes, Iliana, you definitely do need to check out the Gordeeva and Grinkov performances (there are a number of them on youtube.). They were so wonderful, and I still feel sad when I think of them.

    Hi Em, thanks for reminding me about the Susan Jeffers book. It is a beautiful one…I love it.

    Hi Chris. If you’ve never seen a live performance, it’s a real treat. I do love the film version with Baryshnikov dancing, though. Never seen the Barbie version…I’ll have to check it out.

    Kay, wouldn’t that be lovely to have a little grandaughter to take to see it! What a joy!

    Chelsea, what a perfect word to describe it– “enchantments.”

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  16. jenclair

    The Nutcracker is a Christmas tradition in so many families! My four-year-old granddaughter just attended a performance and was entranced…of course!

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  17. Carl V.

    Thanks for reminding me of this, I haven’t seen this, or listened to the music, in forever. I should at least spend some time listening to it this Christmas. I have great memories of this from when I was a kid and saw a version of it on television and was enthralled. I’ve been able to see the ballet once and I really enjoyed it.

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  18. Nymeth

    I would love to see the Nutcracker ballet! I love the music, and last Christmas I read the story for the first time and loved it too. What a wonderful Christmas tradition πŸ™‚

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  19. Robin

    Jenclair, what a lovely experience to take your granddaughter to see it! I’m looking forward to when my grandboy gets older and we can share that magic with him!

    Carl, I’ve got the music playing on the stereo (oops, old fashioned word! We DO actually have updated technology in this house!) this morning–my first morning of Winter Break!

    Nymeth, seeing the ballet performed on stage is a magical experience.

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