Every December, when I was growing up, my mom would take us kids to see the Nutcracker. It was a little bit of wonderment to look forward to, a world of pristine princesses on pointe shoes. Plus it was a link in the magical chain called Christmas, a whole month of special outings that all led up to a day devoted to presents. Unsurprisingly, as the years went by, those links started coming undone. Maybe not believing in Santa opened the way for not believing in sugar plum fairies. A statewide campaign preaching energy efficiency dampened my enjoyment of the annual light shows in our neighbors’ yards, not to mention the invention of giant, inflatable, light-up characters. And then, in college, suddenly having to spend my own money on gifts, a mortal blow was dealt to my love of the giving and receiving part of the holiday. I guess because up until then I had only just been receiving. Participation in the family rite of Christmas is non-negotiable, especially since I didn’t move very far away from the lot of them, but as time passed, I started figuring out what the bare minimum requirement was and shooting just over it. And so, I haven’t been to the Nutcracker in something like 20 years. Honestly, I never missed it.
This year, though, I accidentally contracted a bit of nostalgia. Earlier this week, in a moment of weakness or insanity or something, I called my mom and asked her if she wanted to go see the Nutcracker with me. We’re going next Thursday.
What I tried to do, actually, when I suggested to her that she and I go see the some seasonal dance, was to make a compromise between childhood memories and, you know, adulthood. Mark Morris made a ballet called the Hard Nut, based, as he says, on the original story of the Nutcracker, before it was made kid friendly. Plus, it’s set in the 70’s, draws imagery from comic books, aims at gender neutrality where appropriate, and uses all of Tchaikovsky’s original music. My mother’s obvious disappointment at that idea made me immediately abandon it. You, though, here visiting, away from your family, if you find yourself possessed by a similar cautious wistfulness and a free night, can go see this updated classic. It’s playing in Berkeley and it’s what I would be doing, if I had been a little more careful.