Sunday, December 18, 2011

Nutcracker Ballet

Twenty four years ago, as a second grader, I didn't get to see the Joffrey Ballet's production of the Nutcracker because of the blizzard that hit Chicago on my sister's birthday. So, of course, when I got this job I thought, well, why NOT take my second grade kids to see the Nutcracker? I mean, I get to go, they get the great experience and all will be right with the world. Except that in 1987 at Lincoln School there were four groups of 2nd graders...I only have 13 (now that one of my kids has moved away). So I asked the first grade teacher if she would be interested (she has 19 kids) and the kindergarten teacher (who has 20 students) and I thought, well, I could add my thirds (I only have four) and the fourth grade teacher has 10 kids...this could be something really great...I just had to be brave enough to ask the principal if she would give us permission to go...

The green light I got was more like a yellow. I was told to find a company closer by to see if we couldn't have a shorter ride for our students than the city. I contacted my friends who all dance and got a few responses. Did you know Illinois has it's own Nutcracker performance website which tells you which companies are producing the Nutcracker this season? But none of the companies had school performances that weren't at 2PM...our school day ends at 3:15. So, back to the drawing board I had to go and sell the Nutcracker downtown to my principal. It was only $10 per ticket. We could have two buses instead of one. I'll make sure that each kid brings a snack. We'll have more teachers as chaperones than parents. It will be great.

When I got the green light I thought, okay, time to e-mail Joffrey, time to get the permission slips out, etc. Except that A) I needed more tickets (the principal wanted to go and so I needed 76, not 75 tickets) - don't worry, I got 80; and B) the money was due on, oh crap! It is due in three days! (November 25th). There was NO TIME to get the permission slips out and back with all the money...and the bus, we have to schedule a bus! I e-mailed my contact at the Joffrey who was kind enough to extend my payment date to the 28th. With the help of the administrative assistant we ordered a bus and got the permission slips out that day (with the principal's approval).

I got an e-mail back from my contact saying that everyone had until December 2, 2011 to pay for the tickets. I even got the extra five seats I needed - the numbers meaning that one parent per grade could accompany our group of 68 children.

So here we are a few days away and I find out that five of the kindergarten kids were NOT coming (not because of financial reasons but because the parents didn't want their kids going downtown (to the big, bad city I presume?) without them)...which means I now had to get people to cover the five tickets...Then the principal came in and said, Bad news, she had a showing and couldn't take the trip I had 6 tickets to get rid of...So I asked the science teacher (since she was kind enough to let me take my kids to MSI...I haven't written about that yet have I?), the Serbian teacher - since her kids were coming on the field trip so she would have no one to teach, and two more parents (of mine who have kids in more than one grade). One of the kinder teachers had twins who she said could come so we were set...

Except that I asked another mom to come (because she wasn't going to allow her son to come on the trip without her) and so it was no wonder when, after a smooth bus ride there - very little traffic and my awesome room mom brought class snacks for the 2nd, 3rd and 4th graders; I brought Capri Suns and we had water too; I told the kids where to sit and realized I didn't have a seat for myself...How in the world did that happen? Only now as I type this do I realize what happened...TOTALLY my fault. WHOOPS! Oh well, we got in, the seats were pretty good considering we were on a balcony, and no one at the theater realized there were more of us than there were seats...HA HA HA HA HA (Maniacal laughter).

My kids were mesmerized by the music (canned not live) and the sets. They loved the scene where the mice fought with the toy soldiers. The Snow Queen, Clara, Fritz, and all the other dancers were amazing. But they didn't perform any of the dance sequences from the second half of the show...there was no Sugar Plum Fairy or Russian or Chinese dances...I totally didn't understand what they were thinking putting on the first part of the show - the party scene.

Regardless, the kids loved it and afterward we got to listen to a question answer portion while waiting for our two buses to arrive. They even interviewed the dancers, most of whom were not at all as young as they played in the show; told us about the costumes - you have to be at least 9 years old and between 4 ft and 5 ft if you want to play a child in the ballet because there is only one complete set of costumes for the children and that's it; how long they have been dancing and what happens during rehearsals (absolutely NO talking. Period.); and the most fun part, a mini-lesson on how to move to the music (counting by eights) where the kids got to dance in their seats.

Getting 81 people out of an auditorium is a challenge. We made sure to count the kids at least half a dozen times. I was trying to get my kids to get on the wall so I could count 17 but one, of course, there had to be one, wasn't listening and she just happened to have her mother there so I promptly got yelled at about how her daughter wasn't the only one not on the wall for the count (not true, actually). I counted, we went down the steps and toward the buses and headed back to HAA.

The ride back was shorter than on the way there. We got the kids lunch and they got to unwind. I even had my kids write and draw about their favorite parts while listening to, you guessed it, the Nutcracker. We even had a mini recess (I know, I told the kids the whole day was a recess) where the kids danced around to the music - oddly enough, it was 100 per cent of the boys and only two girls who were dancing.

Despite my need to write to Joffrey about performing the second half of the show instead of the first my kids were extremely well behaved. They weren't hooting and hollering in the theater. They got into lines when I asked them to. They sat on their bottoms when riding the bus. So I'm going to chalk this up as a success! SCORE for Mrs. Bell!

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