Yesterday was a cultural milestone for the Pictlings as they attended their first ever ballet. Given the festive season, readers will not be surprised to learn that the ballet in question was ‘The Nutcracker’. There are several productions running in our area but we opted for a performance by Internaitonal Ballet Classique at the campus of Neumann University, to the South West of Philadelphia. The very much more affordable ticket price sold us on it – given that we were testing the kids in new terriotory – but we also hoped there would be a much more relaxed atmosphere. It turned out to be a sound reasoning and a good choice.
I have actually only ever attended one previous ballet performance. That was ‘Coppelia’ at Edinburgh’s Festival Theatre some time in the late-1990s. I enjoy classical music so I liked it well enough but have to admit that I miss the words. I am just a verbal person. I read, I write, I enjoy watching drama on the stage and on the screen. I love words and so I miss them when they are absent. I also cannot dance for toffee but we will stick with the love of words as being the reason for my being a ballet philistine. So the kids were experiencing their first ballet and I was experiencing my second.
The great thing about ‘The Nutcracker’ is that the kids were familiar with most if not all of the music. They like to listen to music as they go to sleep at night and sometimes that is classical music. They also know chunks of Tchaikovsky’s ‘Nutcracker’ from watching Disney’s ‘Fantasia’. We found that they were completely absorbed in the dance and the music in the first act as there was a discernible plot and direction. Said plot is, to my mind at least, pretty bonkers and perhaps even sinister in parts but the story is easy to follow at least. In the second act, however, they began to lose focus and were less engaged. They sat nicely and quietly and still enjoyed the music but we could tell that they were pretty much over it at that point because the plot had pretty much disappeared to be replaced by a showcase for ballet performances. As a family of non-dancers, we lacked the knowledge and familiarity with the art form to properly understand what we were viewing. We could definitely tell that we were watching skilled performers and could recognise that some difficult moves were being displayed so we could clap along to show our appreciation but it was impossible for us to engage on the level that some audience members clearly were. The adult performers were particularly impressive and the really small kids were just completely adorable.
I am not sure that ballet is something that will feature regularly in Pict family life but we were pleased to have been able to introduce the children to another of the arts and a different form of creative expression. It was a lovely family outing, however, and certainly added to the festivities of our holiday season.