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We are officially in full on Nutcracker mode.  Each day is like a step through the looking glass, diving toes first into Clara’s strange dream.  In so many ways, Nutcracker season really does feel like a dream.  With its soft familiarity, it lures me in deeper, and somehow my presence there feels oddly foreign.  I own the memories, yet they are not solely mine.  The music runs habitually through me, like the soft ticking of an old clock that hung in my childhood home.

This year I am revisiting the enigmatic Sugarplum Fairy.  I love this entire article by dance critique Alastair Macauly, but his eloquent examination of the music was particularly moving:

“Just the first string chord note can raise goose bumps, a sudden announcement of huge drama. The scales that follow, so momentous and solemn, are as breathtaking as the immense central staircase of a baroque palace. There’s a tragic quality here — those descending scales, with their emphatic rhythm, keep being repeated — but there’s also sublimity, transcendence and even, here and there, aspects of consolatory tenderness. How do you realize this extraordinary music in dance?”

I’ve often wondered about the Sugarplum Fairy.  Who is she?  What is she feeling?  Why does she dance this dramatic pas de deux?  Macauly’s assessment seems to ring true.  He claims that the Sugarplum’s aim is not love nor tragedy, as the “sweeping” score implies, but pure beauty:

“The Sugar Plum, assisted by her cavalier, dances in sublimity beyond emotion; her transcendent beauty keeps being renewed by the dance.”

What a rapturous personality to pursue!  Her power throughout and even beyond the dance world is certainly magical in its mystery, and I am honored to investigate.


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Standing in the wings, I violently shake out my hands the way I always do before entering the stage.  Almost involuntarily, I crack my neck right, then left.  Time seems to have that warped, swirled paint effect, like when you spin a quarter and with each revolution it’s impossible speed slows ever so slightly, and somehow it becomes both clearer and more obscured all at once.  My swollen feet climb one shallow step, pause, deep breath in.  One more step up, my right foot joining the left, breathe out.  After a moment, those satin-wrapped feet make their final step up onto the platform.  Now just masked by the thin canvas column that supports the Land of Sweets, I bolster my own body with the deepest inhale my tutu-encased lungs can muster, and I realize…this is all real.

I’m all but onstage now, and I catch a glimpse of the Sugarplum Attendants, all lined up at the top of the stage.  The familiar counts and poses tug me back to a time when I wore that angelic white dress and tended to a Sugarplum of my own.  They settle into first arabesque, two diagonals forming arrows for our entrance and I sift across the busy stage for Alex’s eyes on the other side.  There he is, matching my gaze, and I can feel his breath in sync with mine from stage right.  Identical smiles have claimed our faces and we nod together, a silent sign of our concurrent eagerness.  The horns belt out, it’s time.

We stride out towards each other, join hands, fouetté to face the audience, and everything that happens next is a surreal blur of sugar-coated magic.  There was just one moment of clarity, during the menage in my variation, when I wondered wordlessly to myself, Is this what it feels like to have your dreams come true?

view my impromptu interview with The Rhode Show here.

more on collecting moments here, here, here and here.