So way back in September when I enrolled Clara in ballet, I started getting to know the owner of the ballet studio, Rachel, who is a member of our ward here in Dublin. Her studio actually has three locations and for the past five years her dancers have put on a full performance of "The Nutcracker" for free to the public at the Oakland LDS temple. I had heard about it last year and wasn't able to get tickets because they were gone within about 5 minutes of being made available online. But we try to go see a performance every year (see here - Clara was so little last year! - and here - when we did a triple date to see it in our pre-kid years). So when Rachel asked me if there was any chance Paul and I would be willing to participate in the show this year, I sort of jumped at the chance to be involved. Paul joked that I "voluntold" him for this part (a phrase coined by a friend from a previous ward).
As adults, we only participated in the party scene (Act I, Scene I) which is where a number of families attend a party at the Stahlbaum's (Clara's family) house. We were assigned 3 girls and 2 boys to be our children and it was a lot of play acting. There were a couple of Saturday rehearsals and a Wednesday evening dress rehearsal that we had to attend but since our parts were tiny and just supportive to the real dancers, it wasn't too intense. We did have two little dance sequences though where the "parents" dance together in stately, 18th century dances though and I must say it was sort of a dream come true to perform on stage again after such a long time (since 11th grade for me). I had forgotten how much I love performing. There is just something magical about the lights and waiting in the wings for the curtains to rise and paying attention to cues and chatting with the other performers backstage that is so much fun. Add to that the elements of Christmastime and date night with Paul (since the girls obviously had to stay with a sitter a couple of times) and it was even better than I thought it might be.
The production itself was amazing. For a non-professional group, I was blown away by the costumes and sets and talent of the dancers. I cannot believe that this quality of a performance is put on for free every year (Rachel isn't sure how long she will keep doing it because it is soooo much time and work to do it). There is even a live orchestra, which really adds a lot to a performance. There were some places where the orchestra struggled but they all volunteer and there is a ton of music to learn and rehearse together so its not like you can expect perfection from them. And everybody said that they have been getting better each year.
Here is a picture of the adult couples from our scene, minus Ms. Bambi who played the part of Clara's mother and teaches at one of the studios. We really enjoyed getting to know each of them and were surprised to learn that of the five couples, three of us had adopted our children and we are all in the same ward. The couple on the far left in green (the wife is also one of Clara's nursery leaders), the woman in light blue, and Paul and I each have two children who were adopted. And the grandparent couple (literally, that is their role - there is a part called the "grandfather's dance") used to host birthmothers who didn't have a place to stay during their pregnancy and so they also have a close connection with adoption. So many interesting stories and such fun making new friends.
I snapped a quick photo from backstage one night to try to show the size of the auditorium and couldn't capture how large it really is. There is a balcony and pit area and everything.
I adored all of the costumes. There are so many different roles and many of them are played by the same dancers in different scenes so there were lots of costume changes. I don't know how everybody kept it all straight!
For the record, Paul DID wear blush and lipstick on the second night after being shamed into it by the other men and me. What a good sport he is. Also, he is the most fun person to be on stage with ever. He hammed up everything and I was constantly amused by his expressions and eyebrow waggles. He was tasked with carrying one of the "dolls" (dancers that behave like wind-up dolls brought to the party by Godfather Drosselmeyer) off the stage at the end of her dance by flipping her upside down and carrying her off that way while she holds a stiff, doll-like pose and it got one of the biggest laughs of the night (because of the choreography, but still...). Clara came to watch the performance on Friday night and said that her favorite part was when daddy carried the clown off the stage.
Clara was fascinated by my "beautiful gown". I went out at intermission to see her and she kept caressing the black ribbons and pulling out the red skirt to see how long it was. I twirled for her and could see in her eyes that at that moment I was absolutely, for sure a princess and the most beautiful one in the world. I was stopped a couple of times by other 3 year old girls who were too shy to speak to me but whose moms explained that they were "dying" to meet a "real ballerina" and that because I was in costume I counted. It gave me a glimpse of what the people who dress as characters at Disneyland might feel like.
I even wore false eyelashes for the first time for the Saturday performance. I forgot them Friday night but remembered that I had a set that Tabby gave me for my birthday and pulled them out on Saturday. Those things are insanely uncomfortable (at least at first) but I have to admit, they looked pretty cool on. I mean, for a girl who has hardly any natural lashes to speak of, these things made a massive, insane difference in my appearance (at least to me they did). I just wish they weren't so dadgum awkward to wear. I need more occasions to try them out again so I can get more used to them.
After our part was over we just hung out backstage watching the dancers perform from the side, which was a very cool perspective. I have mad respect for these ballerinas and how much hard work they put into putting on each show. It was also so fun to watch the littlest performers (the angels and sheep) as they were squired around by their instructors. They were so darling and I hope that Clara gets to participate one day!
And when we got bored we took ridiculous selfies. It was definitely a time commitment to do the show but we had so much fun that we definitely would consider doing it again in future years if given the chance.