QUAIL MUTTERINGS #32. Ramona’s own NUTCRACKER is Here! (December 9, 2014)
Now back from Thanksgiving break we resume our classes and rehearsals for The Nutcracker. Everyone seems refreshed and gung-ho to amp up our march toward the performances. The vacation did us all good for we are now ready to put on our dancing shoes and slip into whatever character roles we are set to assume. For some, there are multiple parts which make for interesting personality changes. I love it when the students transform into their new identities.
The Sugar Plum Fairy and the Cavalier arrive an hour early on Tuesdays to rehearse their five-minute duet. The nuances in the music and choreography dictate the timing and steps, and provide the base for them to come into their new identities.
“Hold your landing longer.”
“Stay with the music here, but push it there.”
Don’t forget to point that back foot and flare the leg. Beautiful!”
And so go my comments to carry the dancers closer to the desired ends. The Snow Queen stays later on Saturdays to rehearse her dance, as Clara gratefully sits down to remove her pointe shoes.
“I remember when I was the clown doll,” says Helen who’s now playing Clara. “I loved that dance. I think it was my favorite part.”
This surprises me since it’s a short, silly kind of part. I remind her of playing the “Jittery Fairy” in Sleeping Beauty. She agrees that she enjoyed that one as well.
Over the weekend I’ve pulled the Christmas-wrapped boxes out of our barn and brought them to the studio to use as props. The Intermediate children need to get used to carrying them on stage, in the beginning of the story, and putting them in the right places under the giant Christmas tree. They have already practiced galloping around on stick horses with the beginners. Act I in The Nutcracker is colorful and festive. Countless repetitions of all the dances in order, without pausing, are necessary for the ballet’s preparation. Drosselmeyer, played by Morgan, almost always brings laughter from the cast as he continuously makes impromptu changes to his dance. Or when he fills in for other dancers, engaging in off the cuff, exaggerated movements. Morgan also plays the Cavalier, a soldier, and the Mouse King. It’s so rewarding to me when the students transform and become their character enough to feel at home in it and act accordingly. When they take ownership of the role and adjust it for themselves, that’s when I get the biggest charge. I am then entertained by what the story has become after I’ve put the basics onto their bodies.
This year, the Ramona Dance Centre is staging two performances of The Nutcracker. The first is on Friday evening December 19th at 6:30 PM in the Olive Peirce Middle School Performing Arts Center. The second one is the following afternoon, Saturday December 20th at 2:00 PM. Tickets are $5 at the door. In connection with the Saturday matinee we are holding our Reunion. This is to celebrate thirty years of story ballets and thirty-five years of teaching. At least two alumni will be guest performing – including Erica Buechner who now dances professionally in San Diego. I’m hoping many prior students and parents will join us at the Reunion. It’s a potluck, so come one, come all and have a ball at Ramona’s own Nutcracker Ballet. For more information visit www.ramonadancecentre.com.
Chi Varnado is a contributing writer for The San Diego Reader. Her memoir, A CANYON TRILOGY: Life Before, During and After the Cedar Fire and her children’s book, The Tale of Broken Tail are available on www.amazon.com. Chi directs the Ramona Dance Centre. Her collection of essays, Quail Mutterings, can be found on www.chivarnado.com.