When I was a little girl, growing up in the middle of nowhere Prince Edward Island ballet was beyond my dreams - of either doing it or seeing it live. There were no places to take lessons (not that we could have afforded them anyway if there had been). Ballet for me was something that existed only on television and in books, mostly books. The first ballet I ever remember seeing was Alice in Wonderland on Adrienne Clarkson Presents on the CBC.
It was years and years later before I saw the ballet live in person, and when I did it was the Nutcracker. I was in my third or fourth year of university and I took a whole $25 (a rather significant amount of my budget at the time) and bought a student ticket. I was in the third balcony (though thankfully the first row) and I went alone. In the seat beside me was a little blond girl, no more than three or four years old and complete with ringlets, who was clearly about to experience her first Nutcracker too. I honestly couldn't tell you which of us was more excited.
Then the curtain lifted and I was whisked away to a world of magic. I was like Clara, in awe of the Nutcracker, the Snow Maidens and the Sugarplum Fairy. I was in their world and was sad to have to leave when the final curtain came down.
Last year Lee suprised me with tickets to Nutcracker here in Ottawa. Well, he kind of surprised me. I knew he was buying tickets. I didn't realize that he got us truly fantastic seats. We were in the second row. I had never sat so close before. It was overwhelming and wonderful. Well...mostly. It honestly wasn't my most favourite interpretation of the story that I'd seen. And there were no programs. Lee, who had never seen it before and didn't really know the story was completely lost. It really wasn't a perfect performance.
I swore that this year we'd go to Montreal, and see it done the way I was used to it. The Montreal version is a very much a classical interpretation of the story (read: no bears on roller-skates making a random appearance at the party...). Months ago we set the plans in motion. I recruited some Montreal friends to go with us. We booked a hotel across the street from the performance hall. Our friends made dinner reservations.
Saturday afternoon we drove into Montreal, did some shopping, got settled in the hotel and then got ready to go out. I see the ballet (or any theatre experience) as a very good reason to get dressed up.
It doesn't hurt that I'm always looking for a reason to wear this gorgeous green dress. I also impose this on Lee. No jeans allowed at the ballet is the house rule. So I make him wear a suit. And a tie. The cufflinks are totally optional.
Somewhere there is a less blurry photo of us - a self portrait we took while waiting for the curtain to go in the theatre but it's on the actual camera and I don't know where that is. (Translation: I'm too lazy to go looking for it and my iPhone is right beside me.)
My favourite moment of any ballet, but particularly Nutcracker, is the moment right after the orchestra has finished warming up. They are silent and the conductor has his baton raised and you know that in just one second he's going to bring down his hands and it will start. That you are about to be whisked away. That you are about to be part of something special. In that moment all you can do is hold your breath and watch as the fake snow falls against the special backdrop.
Once the music starts I don't want it to end. While there's still music and dancers on stage I'm a six-year-old girl. While there's music there's magic.