Sometimes parents embark on special travel commitments to support the dreams of their children. The following guest post details the pursuit of one such dream. You’re welcome to ride along.
A Nutcracker Journey
by Sarah Yasutake
The Nutcracker ballet is an annual holiday tradition for many, but I didn’t attend a performance until 2013. That year one of my six-year-old twin daughters fell in love with ballet.
One of the wonderful things about being a parent is watching as our children develop their own interests and talents. I never thought I’d be a “ballet mom.” I didn’t know how to put hair up in a bun, and never expected I’d have to learn.
The summer between kindergarten and first grade, my daughter asked to attend a “princess dance camp” at a local dance school, and after that she decided she wanted to be a ballerina. At the library, she asked for books about ballet, which she took home and studied; then she practiced in our living room. She begged to be able to take ballet lessons, so I signed her up.
Her passion for ballet surprised me. Eventually, she read her way through all the ballet books in the children’s section of our public library and her school’s library. She memorized the story lines of all the most famous ballets. Ballet class was the highlight of her week. She never complained about going. In fact, once she asked to leave a sleepover early so she wouldn’t be too tired for her ballet class the next morning.
I have to admit, I never had such passion for anything when I was a kid. My husband and I agree that as long as our daughter has this interest, we should support and encourage her to the best of our abilities.
A few months ago her ballet school emailed a notice about auditions for the Cincinnati Ballet’s Nutcracker production at the Kennedy Center in Washington, D.C. It seemed like a no-brainer that our daughter should audition, but there were some concerns.
First, there was the question of how she would cope if she were rejected. Many more children were expected to audition than would be given parts. Second, if she did get a part, we had to consider the impact it would have on our family. We live at least 45 minutes from D.C. (and could be more depending on traffic) and she would be required to rehearse every weekend leading up to the show in late November.
Once we determined the impact on our family would be manageable we let our daughter decide. She didn’t hesitate. She wanted to audition, even though she might not be chosen for a role.
So on a Friday in late September, I drove my daughter to the Washington National Opera’s rehearsal studios in D.C. where auditions were being held. I think we both were nervous. Neither of us knew what to expect, never having been through anything like it.
The studio was full of kids ranging from my daughter’s age, nine, to their late teens. Children auditioned in groups based on height, and my daughter went in with the first group, the smallest children there. Parents were informed each child would be told whether or not they had been cast before they left the audition room.
A tense hour passed. Slowly children came out of the audition room. When my daughter did I couldn’t read her face.
“So?” I asked. “What happened?”
“They told me to come out here and wait for now,” she said.
“Are you sure?” I asked.
The other children who had come out at the same time were getting ready to leave. Some were crying. Their parents hastily packed up their things and left.
“What exactly did they say?” I asked.
“They just said to come out for now,” she said.
I thought my daughter might have misunderstood, so I asked the woman in charge of organizing the auditions. She said the children who had been sent out of the audition room were done for the day and hadn’t been given roles. That was it. My daughter hadn’t been selected.
I thought I was prepared for this possibility, but in that moment, I realized it was much harder than I’d expected. After I hugged my daughter we gathered her things and left the building. Once we were outside I told her it was okay, and she shouldn’t feel bad. There was no way to know why she hadn’t been chosen. She didn’t cry, but she was very quiet and looked shocked.
“It’s okay to be sad,” I told her. “Take some time to be sad, then move on. Go back to ballet class on Monday and try your best, and if you want to, next year you can audition again.”
Later I wondered if the woman I’d asked had been wrong. Maybe my daughter was right. Maybe she wasn’t supposed to leave.
Soon after, my phone rang—a D.C. phone number. Sure enough, it was the woman from the Kennedy Center. “I’m so sorry,” she said. “There was some confusion, and your daughter was actually cast in two roles—a baby mouse and a cupcake!”
I had the phone on speaker, so my daughter heard the whole thing. I hugged her again. “I’m so proud of you. Not only because you got the parts, but because of how you handled it when you thought you hadn’t gotten a part.”
It was true. She didn’t cry. She didn’t say it wasn’t fair or complain she should have been cast. She was ready to go back to class and keep trying. So in a way, I’m glad that mix-up happened. Even though it turned out it wasn’t a real rejection, it let my daughter know when she does inevitably get rejected, whether in dance or elsewhere on the road of life, she’ll be okay.
Two months after that roller-coaster audition, my daughter performed on the Kennedy Center’s opera house stage for the first time. It’s a stage many dancers dream of dancing on—a stage where her favorite ballerinas have also performed.
My daughter was in all seven performances as a cupcake, and in three as a baby mouse. She and the other young dancers said the orchestra played the music faster and faster with each performance. Perhaps they’re right. Or perhaps it’s like being a parent—the days seem to pass more quickly as time goes on.
This has been a learning and growing experience for both of us. Since she’s performed with professional dancers on one of the world’s “biggest” stages, she’ll feel more confident the next time she performs in her ballet school’s recital. I hope this confidence will transfer over to other parts of her life, too.
I’ve learned to trust my daughter, and not to assume I know more than she does. The next time she says someone has told her to wait outside an audition room “for now,” we’ll wait, and find out what happens.
Sarah, thank you for sharing the Nutcracker journey you and your daughter took. It well illustrates how the road of life can change us. If her desires and dedication continue to blossom perhaps someday we may say, “We remember her when she was just a cupcake.”
Even though the performance of the Nutcracker Ballet is completed at the Kennedy Center, check listings in your area. Many ballet companies perform this ballet throughout the month of December.
The John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts is a living memorial to President John F. Kennedy. The building is open to the public year round, and guided tours are offered daily. For more information, visit http://www.kennedy-center.org/.
Until next time…Travel Light,
© 2016 SuZan Klassen