The Nutcracker production put on by San Jose Dance Theater, which featured my son, Julian, as both Fritz and one of the two Russian dancers, has closed its curtains until next year. Yes, while others gear up, we’ve cleared the stage for the next production, put on by Ballet San Jose’s professional company (sorry friends, Julian won’t be in that one this year…) at the same venue, The Center for Performing Arts in downtown San Jose. That said, SJDT’s Nutcracker was a resounding success, and, given that it’s the first time I’ve seen it, I was totally impressed. Really!
This production features mostly local youth dancers and four professionals: Sarah Spradlin-Bonomo and Chris Bonomo, a husband-and-wife team that do amazing lifts and partnering; Maximo Roman Califano, a Ballet San Jose company member; and Liesl Coffin, a teacher at Los Gatos Ballet. Marcie Ryken, the production’s artistic director, runs Los Gatos Ballet. It also had a few adults as the parents in the party scene and such. By the way, the father of one of the dancer’s played Drosselmeyer, and he was, by far, the best Drosselmeyer I’ve ever seen! In any case, the sets were beautiful and totally professional. The costumes were fabulous, and the dancing impeccable and as professional as humanly possible with children aged 5-18. (They call the kids they put together for the SJDT Nutcracker a pre-professional company…)
Of particular note, a girl we know played the lead in the Arabian dance on the night we watched and partnered with Califano. I was so very impressed with her ability to partner with him, which must have been a bit intimidating as well as exciting. (As a mother, I was watching her in that skimpy outfit with his hands on her body…but that’s a fact of a female dancer’s life. I just wondered if she felt uncomfortable…) She did as well as any professional dancer. Of course, if your going to partner and leap into a dancer’s arms, you want to do it with a professional your first time. Then you can be confident of being caught and having your turns go well.
As for Julian, he looked great! He managed to land his flip in the Russian dance every time but one out of five performances. And he did land it that last matinee on Sunday, but ended up with his hands on the ground briefly. Chalk it up to being tired. All his other turns and leaps looked great, and he had a super time. He did a superb acting job during the party scene, although I told him he really didn’t have to act at all – he just had to be himself: a pain in the ass. He was very funny being a holy terror and annoying everyone in sight as Fritz.
He said he enjoyed it enough – and made some good friends (and the girls, of course, loved him) – to give up all his weekends between September and December next year again.
Anyway, Julian had a great time in the Nutcracker. His dancing improved by working with Marcie, and he plans to try and take her Wednesday afternoon ballet class so he can keep on benefiting from having her as a teacher. He learned a few new skills, like that flip. He also learned to partner, after asking Chris Bonomo to teach him how. (As I said, Chris is an awsome partner. His wife has to be thrilled each time she does a turn or is lifted. He lifts her like she weighs nothing at all. And he was more than happy to offer a few lessons to my son.)
Additionally, Julian also learned how he does not ever want to act to younger dancers after one professional dancer treated him with disdain.
He also made a ton of new friends (girls and boys) and left a few hearts broken. His phone now buzzes with text messages even more frequently than before. I see him being tagged in photo after photo on FaceBook, and he’s always the one boy among about six or seven girls in tutus.
Overall, therefore, I’d say the Nutcracker 2008 was a success all the way around – at least for Julian. And I thoroughly enjoyed watching it.
(Also, given that we had a boy, we really weren’t asked to do much work either! A few hours of Ron being a security guard and that was it! That’s a benefit to having a boy who dances!)
One last note: I did ask Julian after the Friday night performance if he would consider giving the other boys a scoop and swoop lesson, which they really could have used. However, he flatly refused to do so. “Mom, do you really want them to think I’m looking there? Am I supposed to say to them, ‘Hey, I was looking at your crotch (he used other words) and noticed that you don’t have them packaged up correctly. Here let me show you how to do it?’ I don’t think so!’” I guess that just wouldn’t be okay. Ah…if only they had had a great teacher to offer them the manly secrets of how to use a dance belt… I guess the boys just won’t teach each other.