When she was about 8 years old, I took my niece Karie to see The Nutcracker ballet. I had seen the ballet many times, but this would be Karie’s first.
I have never found The Nutcracker to be a particularly good ballet. The music is phenomenal, but the interpretation always seemed to me to be nonsensical. Dancing cookies? Dueling rats? A mysterious old uncle who always comes across as slightly perverted?
Anyway, it was Christmastime and I thought Karie might like the ballet, despite my misgivings.
We got through the opening party scene, with Uncle Duesseldorf (or whatever his name is) handing out toys and knick-knacks to the children and other party guests, the fighting over the nutcracker doll, the little girl falling asleep in the parlor with the title character standing guard on the mantel and the Christmas tree lights twinkling in the background. Then, as usual, the “magic” began to happen: the parlor walls fell away; the Christmas tree grew to an enormous height; the rats became enlarged, donning uniforms before attacking a legion of nutcrackers, led by the lead nutcracker, now standing at full adult size.
Karie’s eyes were wide – and she watched the rest of Act I in awe. Just the reaction I had hoped for. After the Dance of the Snowflakes, intermission came. Karie and I stretched our legs in the lobby.
“Well, what do you think?”
“Oh,” Karie gushed. “I love it. I especially liked the part where the little girl shrank to the size of the rats.”
I will never look at that scene of transformation in quite the same way again.