The Nutcracker – an age old holiday tradition. The classic ballet by Tchaikovsky that tells the story of a girl, her Nutcracker, and the epic dream that takes her from a rat fight under the Christmas tree to a feast of dances in the forest of the sugar plum fairy. Many years ago I saw the San Francisco Ballet perform the Nutcracker on my best friends 30th birthday and I was dying to see it again. My daughter started dance a year ago, and loves it. More importantly she sat entranced at her own recital, watching all the older dancers on stage. Would she sit through a professional show?
At four and a half, I was worried that my daughter might be too young. However, when my best friend said she wanted to get my daughter and I tickets as a Christmas present, I decided to give it a shot. Most blogs advised that if a child could sit through a 2 hour movie, with some preparation, they could sit through the Nutcracker. I thanked my best friend, worked out a date, and planned the day. We talked through the story of the Nutcracker, and even watched some YouTube videos of the story and music to help familiarize her with the story.
Finally the big day came. My daughter and I got dressed in our finest to commemorate the occasion, and jumped on the train to San Francisco for lunch and an afternoon of ballet. The San Francisco War Memorial Opera House is a short distance from the Civic Center BART station. Near the area is a plethora of eatery so far all different price points. We walked a few blocks to the Arlequin Café on Hayes street for lunch. While the café had lovely sandwiches and salads I would have liked to try, my daughter wanted the pizza and French fries. It was her day so I complied.
Afterward, we walked up to the Opera House to head inside. My daughter was memorized right from the onset with all the posters and people taking pictures. Inside she ohhed and ahhed at the marvelous greenery all over the hall, decorated in it’s full holiday splendor. We noticed the sign advertising the extra activities in the theater for the Nutcracker. My budding reader caught on to two words right away “Candy Land”. On the second floor were two extra activities side by side. There was the Selfie Booth, where a volunteer would take a picture of you in front of a Nutcracker poster with props, and CandyLand, a station with various types of candy,. You could buy a carton for $5 and fill it up with whatever candy you wanted. Of course they were right next to each other, and in my daughters mind you couldn’t do one without the other. But, hey I should reward her for knowing how to read Candy Land, right? Once we had our candy and selfies, we headed up to our balcony seats. Just one row from the front, we could see the whole stage and orchestra as they warmed up. My daughter settled into her seat, ate some candy, and was excited for the show to start. As the lights went down, she got very quiet and quickly became laser focused on the stage. Anyone who has seen a professional dance company perform the Nutcracker knows that it’s a delight on the eyes. The dancers float across stage, performing amazing feats of strength with a grace and elegance that mesmerizes all the senses. My daughter was drawn in instantly, and was so focused on the story, I released she was almost falling out of her chair, leaning so far to one side. She was a little short and an adult was sitting in front of her. I took her and sat her on my lap (I can still do that, just barely). She settled back into me, sinking in like dead weight like only a child can do, as she took in the sights in front of her. She gasped at the Rat King, marveled at the snow and corps de ballet, and sighed at the sight of the prince. At intermission, she was dancing in the aisles, humming the music, and delighting all the guests around us.
For the second act, my daughter was excited to see the various different dances from around the world, particularly enjoying the Chinese dragon dance. I will say, the last 20 minutes of the show started to try the little girl’s patience. She started to get wiggly, and I had to draw her into my lap again and pin her down while talking her through what was going on stage to keep her interest (and keep her from disturbing the other viewers). However, for a four and a half, I think she did a great job.
Leaving the show, we walked down the stairs, and landed right in the gift shop. We walked around a little, but didn’t see anything that really drew our attention, so instead we left and went down to the local Starbucks to get a after show treat. Dancing along the streets, Indira hummed the songs from Tchaikovsky and was talking non stop about Clara, the Sugar Plum fairy, and Princess Clara (what my daughter named the Clara that gets her crown and does the dance with the prince. It was her favorite part). She was sure to tell everyone she met on our adventure home how she went to see the ballerinas dance on stage, clearly memorializing the special day in her mind forever.