A Walnut Hill-cracker

Posted by on Dec 7, 2012 in Arts, Blog | 0 comments

Thursday night, I received my first holiday treat: watching the Nutcracker from a very different perspective. I found myself at the Walnut Hill School for the Arts located out in Natick. I had presumed that any art schools of this quality would reside firmly in the city (or perhaps it’s the residue of too many episodes of “Fame” from back in the day). But as it pertains to the arts, I’m glad to stand corrected.

What I was more excited about was watching Gregoire, the seven-year old son of friends. I was told that, last year, he was a party boy when he was in the school’s production of the Nutcracker. This year, he had been chosen to play Fritz, Clara’s mischievous brother. In general, I love dance, always have. But it’s quite another thing to watch when kids are involved, especially ones I know. I was over the moon when my nine-year old niece, Alyssa, was doing hip-hop a few years back and to listen to Gregoire talk about ballet at the meals I’ve had at his parent’s house is to know that he had already sold two tickets to this year’s production without too much prompting.

Watching him lead the children around in dance or participating in the more formalized group dances was a joyous thing to watch: He was animated and engaged. I was surprised at his ease on stage and how well he interacted with others. No looks of uncertainty. No awkward moments. As his parents would see him a few days later (we were unable to get tickets together), I knew that they would be proud.

After his part was done, he sat in the house and watched the rest of the performance with a friend. I don’t blame him. Everything from the sets to the costumes to the special effects was terrific. I was especially aware of how strong the older male dancers were. Even though its been awhile since I’ve spent time in a dance studio, I know that the ratio of men to women is pretty steep, especially in ballet. The fact that there were many high school “boys” and that they were making it look so easy was stunning to me.

On the car ride home, he chattered along happily about the show. He told Christophe and I about how he hoped to dance the part of the cavalier one day (one of the few male parts that gets a solo in the show). He told us how one of the older girls loves to shower him with kisses. As we talked about the technical elements of the show, he told us how someone had accidentally dumped a bunch of snow during the holiday party scene and how Clara’s father had quickly recovered by pretending the ceiling had sprung a leak. My favorite part is when he talked about how the director gave notes to the older members of the cast, talking about what they could have done better. Gregoire’s response: “I don’t understand what he sees. It all looks PERFECT to me.”

Maybe I’m still recovering from the protracted negativity-fest that was this year’s presidential election. Maybe I loved the fact that he was enjoying something artistic. Or maybe I just loved the purity and joy of his observation. In any case, it felt like a true kickoff to the holiday season and I gave him a deep hug of thanks before we dropped him off at his parent’s house.

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