discovering dance

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When I was two, my big sister’s girl scout troop attended Festival Ballet Providence’s Discover Dance performance of The Nutcracker, part of a program wherein schools, church groups, senior citizens and other small communities that may not otherwise have the opportunity are invited to view a daytime showing for a highly reduced rate.  Since my mother was wildly active in all things field trip, volunteer, organization and arts, and I was just a wee little Keeks, I tagged along for the day.

Now, just to clarify, when I say my mother was(is) wildly involved in the lives of her children, I mean she was not just on the PTO- no- she ran the PTO.  She not only attended every academic ceremony and school function, but would most often arrive several hours early to help plan.  Perhaps best of all, though, was the special tradition my mom established at my old elementary school, a brainchild of hers aptly called Creative Awareness.  A week-long celebration of the arts, my mom’s Creative Awareness embraced the unabashed creativity of the young, speckling the halls of Aitken School with colorful student artwork and rogue 5th graders flute, trumpet, and clarinet-ing their tiny, expressive hearts out.  This art appreciation week culminated in an elegant evening talent show, featuring students framed in decor so classy it caused audience members to question their whereabouts and out-of-districters to purchase new properties (probably).

It comes as no surprise, then, that my mother- girl scout troop leader and overall art enthusiast- would orchestrate a trip to the ballet.  At the ripe age of 24 months, I had been exposed to an impressive repertoire of live theater (pretty sure I saw Into The Woods from inside the womb), heck, my mom even co-created and directed a children’s theater group which I acted in for the first twelve years of my life!  But this Nutcracker thing- this ethereal, floating, wordless bit of magic- this was my first experience with real ballet.

According to my mother, I sat on the edge of my velvet-wrapped seat for the duration of the 2 hour ballet, eyes glowing.  When the curtain finally dropped, so did my jaw.  In her telling of this particular story, my next move was to dismount from my perch, point up to the stage, and squeak out, with the utmost assuredness, “Mommy, I am going to do that one day.” (It should be noted that my first word was a full sentence. #grammarpolice)

Twenty years later, that know-it-all oddly accurate little girl has just fulfilled a pretty incredible dream.  As my pointes brushed the hard stage of PPAC Friday morning and the child-dense house applauded my (rather shakey) double pirouette approximately 30 seconds into the grand pas de deux, two-year-old me craned her neck up.  Little Kirsten smiled her smile across my face, bearing her teeth through since-painted lips.  She leapt with abandon and reached her gaze up to the highest balcony, desperate to absorb every bit of this antipodal view before Tchaikovsky’s final horn silenced.

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It’s difficult to express my feelings about FBP’s Discover Dance program.  But doesn’t that tend to be the case when such unselfish things so directly effect your own life in a way that feels self indulgent?  If from my performance last week, even just one child drew a fraction of the inspiration that I did in watching it all those years ago, my heart will surely be full for the next twenty.

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