The Nutcracker, or: Wow, This Place is Filled With Anecdotes

As a youngster, I participated in The Nutcracker, that ballet that everyone gets dragged to wearing a fancy outfit (at some point, probably when you’re younger) to be snobbish and bored.

As I am an incompetent dancer and was very clumsy during those two or three years I was in it, I couldn’t play any part that was not Mouse.

There was a hierarchy of mice: the minnie mice, who were the bottom of the heap; the middle mice, who were generally taller and had greatly similar costumes and somewhat more major roles; and the all-revered Battle Mice, whose costumes were very chunky at the bottom near the legs so it looked like they were all lugging around an unnatural amount of fat there. They were generally middle- and high-school students and I don’t remember ever talking to any of them.

The auditions were long and tiring, and obviously I was a hopeless case with a destiny toward one of the more amusing parts (who wants to dance around with creepy baby dolls or be a snowdrop when you can wear grey felt and assault the protagonist?).

I was initially bad with choreography, but I mastered it eventually. Some of the other people irritated me, and the costumes were horribly itchy and hot; somehow I still managed to enjoy myself. I had glasses the second year I did it, so the glare of the lights was even more annoying. The smoke machine smelled awful. The floors were scarily slippery. We were supposed to do French braids, but I didn’t know how to even braid, so we had the makeup people do it for us.

I would like to mention, as an unrelated deviation from the topic, that at the time I was reading a novel entitled Inside Out, suggested to me by my sister’s kindergarten teacher, about a young man suffering from schizophrenia (which I pronounced “Shy-no-pear-zee-uh”), which I then became terrified of “catching”, and a bunch of very unhappy people around him. I have no idea why a kindergarten teacher thought it was appropriate for a seven-year-old. I also tried to knit a scarf at that point. It became a ten-inch, holed ruff made of faded blue yarn. I don’t know where it went–probably into a chasm of shame.

I didn’t have any friends in the ballet, and most of the people I interacted with were rather cruel to me. A girl whom I had known previously who was my friend and whose house burned down when I still knew her was there, playing DS (DSI maybe?) with her friend–Nintendogs, I think is how it’s spelled. In my horrid boredom, I sat behind them and watched them during dress rehearsals. They caught me and called me an “outsider”, a term I knew the meaning of but was confused by–outsider of what?–and moved away, giving me looks as though I had been stalking them or checking them out or making crude remarks (and they had been significantly older).

A girl let me borrow her DS for a few days, which I was very excited about. It came about because for some reason there had to be a fire drill at six at night in November and I was freezing outside, an older girl came up to me, asked me why I was alone (and looked so miserable, which may have just been the way my face naturally looked), asked her sister for her DS, and let me borrow it. There were fire trucks for some strange reason as well. Perhaps there was a glitch in the system or something like that.

My experiences with the ballet were very interesting. On my very last performance, I was stuck in bad traffic outside NYC and couldn’t make it, but I arrived in the last two hours or so of the performance–long after my scene. But I was there for the final bows.

It wasn’t a professional ballet or anything. The choreographer (and also the Mouse King) was a colorblind guy who had been a counselor or something for an acting camp I had done. We did it at the local high school (which I am not attending because we moved).

My advice is this: don’t let children read about schizophrenia. It’ll mess them up, especially when they only have a vague understanding of suicide–and think it always happens because of something, and when they don’t understand schizophrenia, they will think the suicide was pointless. Or was that just me?

Anyway, we went to a lot of cool places where we learned the choreography, and I guess I’m kind of glad that I did the thing. I did prefer doing my school musical two years ago, but that’s because I actually know how to sing, and I got a great part. Maybe I’ll talk about that later. I’m really tired right now.


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