I have a 3 and a half-year-old daughter and a 6-year-old son who both take ballet. While my daughter is attracted to all the frilly pinkness, the elaborate costumes, and the word ballerina, my son just loves to dance. It seems that at this time of year, each and every ballet teacher begins drilling the story of “The Nutcracker” into her students—almost as if the teachers were getting kickbacks from the box office.
Such as it was, I had two children begging to go to the ballet and see “The Nutcracker” this season. Two wiggly, impatient children who would never happily (or quietly!) sit through the 2+ hours of the original version. Though I’m generally a purist and not one for abridged versions of anything, the New York Theatre Ballet’s “The Nutcracker” was the perfect compromise.
New York Theatre Ballet’s mission is to perform small classic masterpieces and new contemporary works for adults in addition to hour-long ballets for young children–and at reasonable prices. This is all made possible because of a collaboration between the Professional Company and its Ballet School. Roles are even allocated to youth in the children’s division of the school.
The first good sign? Before we entered the theatre to be ushered into our seats, each child was presented with a crayon along with their program in case they “needed to color” during the show. Then, before the actual show started, the audience was given an explanation of the effect of stage lights on the performance—we saw different a ballerina appeared under regular, amber, blue and red lights.
Then it was on to the whirling and twirling. For the first 40 minutes of the show, my kids sat completely transfixed (if not silent—because they did have many loud questions to ask) as the story unfolded.
Almost exactly at the 40-minute mark, there was an audible rustle in the room as many children began to get restless and the universal parental hushing descended upon the theatre. My daughter took one quick bathroom trip and then amused herself by dancing along to the music in the aisle. My loudly questioning son was in good company in an audience of mostly his peers, and got only a couple of unpleasant stares from the woman sitting in front of us who was more successful in muzzling her own children.
All in all, our Nutcracker experience as a positive one and, while it might not satisfy the most serious ballet aficionados, I definitely recommend this show to any parent who would like to give their young children perhaps their first taste of the ballet.
Jessica Kobrin Bernstein is a teacher-turned-overeducated SAHM to a two small children. You can follow her rants, recipes, and reviews on her blog peek a baby.