Nutcracker Moms and Ballet Dads
By Robert Bensen
Grace Livermore as Clara in the 2005 Fokine Ballet production of The Nutcracker. Photograph by Robert Bensen
Who knew? Take your kid to ballet class—say he or she is four or five. Pretty soon it’s recital time, and isn’t she cute in her crisp tutu; your little man a doll in tights and tux?
Sure, classes cost, and transport to class, rehearsals, all that takes time. It’s just what we do for them, isn’t it?
Then you’re asked to do a little something. Take tickets. Pass out programs. Put props away. Nip and tuck your child’s costume. Learn hair. Then you help load the truck with scenery and costumes during the winter’s first blizzard, the first shiver and roast of flu lighting up your bones. You know you’re hooked.
The Plot Thickens; There is No Escape
Suddenly, 10 years later, you’re the company publicist or costumer or advertising salesperson or fundraiser or props manager or scene painter or parents’ advisory committee chair.
And you’re saving the first Saturday afternoon to meet each month, January to December, with other parents in committee, brainstorming and planning and negotiating toward all the events and details that have to happen to produce the next Nutcracker.
That’s just part of what it takes—apart from the contributions of the artistic director/choreographer/teacher and her sixty dancers, not to mention the guest artists from Europe and New York—to get to the magic of the overture’s downbeat, when the audience is silenced, the house darkened, the crew on high alert, the dancers who started out, remember, so many years and classes and costumes and recitals ago.
Take a Bow, You Unseen and Unsung, But Not Yet
This is a salute to my fellow ballet dads and moms across the country, and across town. Tend your little mice and soldiers, your soloists and munchkins and Fritzes and Claras all.
Here in Oneonta, we’re up for the 19th Fokine Ballet Company production of a fabulous and fabled Nutcracker.
There are Nutcrackers and Nutcrackers, no? So many, it’s said that the New York City Ballet orchestra plays the whole score by heart. Not to brag, but ours has energy and history—it hearkens back to FBC director Donna I. Decker’s grandmother Aleksandrovna (Alexandra) Fedorova-Fokine (1884-1972), who choreographed the ballet for the famed Ballet Russe in the 1940s. Irine Fokine adapted it for her company, and is producing it for the 49th consecutive year. Her daughters, Nina Marlowe in Arizona and Ms. Decker produce the family version as well—as does the Joffrey Ballet Company in Chicago. The late Robert Joffrey was Ms. Fokine’s student, and adapted her Nutcracker to his company, adding a hot-air balloon escape, à la Oz.
All those dreaming of growing up to be a dancer, popcorning around the studio Saturday morning…a few may get their wish, but for many the wish itself will change as interests and bodies change.
Sometimes their parents exit with them. And sometimes, the parents stay after the dancers go on to college, to careers and marriages and all the rest that life will bring them. This company is blessed with the best of talents, dancers and parents alike, and the parents with tenure do what they did as ballet moms and dads. Chris Giovine’s stage manager extraordinaire, and Jerry Theis works as crew and prints the keepsake program. Alan Sweet and Joe Cornell work as backstage crew and dance in the Act I party, playing Fathers, of course. Holly Sweet is indispensable in costuming. Lynne Bolstad brings in buckets of those advertising dollars.
Save This: What, Where, When and How
Come see The Nutcracker this Friday and Saturday, December 15 and 16, at the 7:00 evening show, or the 1:00 matinee on Saturday, December 16. We’re at the Goodrich Theater on the campus of Oneonta State College, which has recently reopened after extensive, state-sponsored renovation, state-of-the-art-everything and the most beautiful starlight ceiling outside of Lincoln Center. Call the studio at 607 432 6290 for ticket information, please.
You’ll be delighted with the professionalism, the old-school Russian vitality of the choreography, the energy and precision of the dancers. These very accomplished young men and women are joined by professional dancers, including the stellar principal male dancer of the Polish national ballet, Slawomir Wozniak, of the Ballet of the National Opera. Save the expense of a trip to Warsaw to see him as the Cavalier in the snow of Act I and with the Act II Sugar Plum Fairy, danced once again by Katharine Wildish of the Broadway Dance Center, NYC. The Russian dancer will be the Russian dancer indeed, Eugene Petrov, of Irine Fokine Ballet, NJ. Clara will be danced by Sylvia Montanti, Fritz by Alexis DiBartolomeo and the Nutcracker by Griffin Rule. Soloists feature advanced students, including Meredith Adamo, Annalee Lucia Bensen, Sara Jeffries, Kristen King, Joe Oster, Hillary Reiter and Caitlyn Thurgood.
Come and enjoy this extraordinary ballet, and please be sure to thank a mom or a dad. Till then, we have our work cut out for us.