Mother (Almost Never) Knows Best: Toddler Ballet: Cracking a Tough Nut

Tuesday, 12 December 2017

Toddler Ballet: Cracking a Tough Nut

I won't lie. When my mother phoned me to ask if I fancied taking my all-things-pink-loving toddler to watch the Scottish Ballet's performance of The Nutcracker I was filled with a mixture of dread and self pity. I dreaded having to cajole, bribe, threaten and eventually manhandle my near 4 year old into what was bound to be an exorbitantly priced seat for the protracted performance. I pitied myself as I had absolutely no desire to go. Having been "actively encouraged" to attend ballet throughout my childhood years (there were hopes that it would improve, what remains to be, terrible posture) it was always painfully evident that I lacked any natural ability. When this was combined with my having been quite a tall and robust teenager who felt awkward and out of place, a love affair with the art form did not ensue. Plus, I could not learn to like the maudlin music.

So there I was, an interminable silence on the phone line, with an expectant and beloved maternal presence on the other end. There was no way to extricate myself with causing offence or, worse, disappointment. So I signed us up.

The funny thing was that my daughter was really excited. Like grab a brown paper bag, breathe deeply, head between the legs excited and you just can't immunise yourself against that sort of enthusiasm. She wanted to know the whole story and be able to hum the music before she took her seat. After the initial disappointment of learning the role of the Sugar Plum Fairy was already cast, she took to dressing up as the candied sprite at every opportunity and that included donning her ballet shoes in the most random of places. We bought a beautifully illustrated version of the story which had buttons to play a few bars of Tchaikovsky's score in the relevant places and both children were up and practicing their plies and pas de basques. I too seemed to recognise, and to my utter incredulity, enjoy the vast majority with the 90s Cadbury's "Everyone's a Fruit and Nut cake" aiding the appreciation.

When the day finally happened upon us I felt myself as giddy as my toddler. I was ready to enter the Land of Sweets and the Mouse King was in danger of receiving a swift thump from my left brogue. My apprehension had now shifted to my toddler's staying power. Would she go the distance? Would we make it through to the Sugar Plum Fairy or even my beloved Dance of the Reed Flutes/Fruit and Nut Cake? I packed my bribes high and started the psychological manipulation by telling her how much she was going to love it and how we knew that, as such a big girl, she would enjoy the WHOLE thing... Well she did. She was captivated for pretty much the duration. In all honesty, she found the Waltz of the Flowers a little drawn out but I will confess that I too may have found my attention waning a little during that particular number. Tchaikovsky take note, nobody can pen hits all the time.

I am not suggesting that we are now culture vultures who will be signing up to all the latest ballet performances and classical music recitals. All I know is that The Nutcracker worked on our level. For my toddler it was a story filled with magic, toys, sweets and dancing, all put to catchy music with no tricky adult conversations to follow. Whilst for me, it was exactly the same.

 The Christmas spirit is upon us....
Sugar Plum Fairy better watch her back

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