First Daughter and family’s Nutcracker collection
Girls raised in the South from a young age either attend, dance in, or do both in the Nutcracker. It is a rite of Southern passage for females. My oldest daughter as member of the Columbia City Ballet danced roles in full company and as the Chinese in the Nutcracker in Columbia, SC. Her younger sisters were mice and angels. It was a part of our lives- the music, the story, the costumes, the Christmas ornaments. Now that my girls are grown, the granddaughters are attending and there is a certain etiquette attached.
Winston-Salem granddaughter dressed in her Nutcracker finery.
Of course, in the South, attendance attire is important. Young girls must dress up in to attend. Jeans and sweatshirts would be tacky. This is a special event for a six-year-old usually for a Saturday afternoon matinée. I take one of my granddaughters to the North Carolina School of the Arts performance in Winston-Salem at the Stevens Center. Her family collects Nutcrackers so our first stop is the shopping for another wooden and highly decorated Nutcracker for the mantle. My Texas daughter takes my other granddaughter each year in the Houston area.
Houston granddaughter dressed for the big event
In Winston-Salem, on our way to the Stevens Center, my granddaughter asks, “Mimi, why do we dress up for the Nutcracker?” I explain that it is important to honor the dancers and musicians by looking our very best. If we see someone dressed in jeans and sweatshirts, that attire is what we in the South call tacky. “We must also be forever prepared to have our picture made,” I add. As we enter the venue, we make the annual purchase of another nutcracker to add to the collection. We find our seats, orchestra seats of course for which I paid a premium for a Christmas gift- so exciting.
My Favorite Yankee asked why I needed to see the Nutcracker every year. I explained that it is like reading Shakespeare’s Hamlet – quality literature, art or music means that each repeated experience provides some new experience or nuance. I never tire of it. Admittedly, part of the experience is a Christmas tradition, something pleasant to hold on to. The older I get, the more our family traditions matter.
In preparation, I had Tchaikovsky’s Nutcracker score downloaded on my iPhone and playing on my Bose iPhone player. I know the music by heart after all these years. Each orchestra director may do something different and each artistic director may approach the story differently as well as each choreographer. My favorite is the George Balanchine version.
I consider this experience a way to expose the granddaughters to beautiful classical music, historic ballet, and a wonderful, magical Christmas story. Here’s to making memories!