Plinth Blog Special Needs Parenting

10Dec/180

Nutcracker Roundup

This is the second year now that Alice and I have done the Party Scene in the Nutcracker, put on by Pioneer Valley Ballet. It is a commitment that begins in October with weekly rehearsals and finishes up in early December, after a whirlwind week of dress rehearsals and 6 performances.

Last year, Alice was a party adult and did all the dances except for one. This year she did them all. What was surprising to me was how much she remembered from the previous year. The choreography came back to her faster than to some of the adults. As a teenage young woman, Alice and I butt heads constantly. This is typical and expected. The Nutcracker has been an oasis of something that she and I can enjoy together.

Dance and performance in general are things that Alice absolutely loves. Me? I'm an introvert, but I'm the kind of introvert that loves performance. I'm hardly a good dancer, but this is worth it to me.

To manage the performances, Alice and I follow a pretty decent schedule. We arrive at the call time, get our make up done, get our costumes on, and I put Alice's hairpiece on. We do our performance, then change back into street clothes, take off our make up and get the heck out of the theater for the hour and a half until the second show. It's nice to take a walk and go into stores with interesting things to look at so that Alice has a constructive focus. After the second show on Friday, Alice and I go out to a celebratory dinner. On Saturday, between show, we go to Herrell's and get some ice cream. On Sunday, we do our best to cope.

Before each show, we go up on stage a little bit early to unwind and take some selfies.

When we're done with the second show, we go down into the basement of the theater and do a unison fist pump saying, "Nailed it!" before cleaning to leave.

This year, Alice was more independent and definitely more mature. In the last show, she lost her hair piece and we discreetly left the stage and had Mary Anne, one of the directors quickly reattach it in the dark (I was without my glasses, so doing it myself was near impossible). It only took a little bit of consoling to assure Alice that, yes, we were going to go back on stage to do the turkey dance (the last dance in the party scene). Last year, I think she would have lost it and it wouldn't have happened. This year, she was much more flexible.

Beyond the performances and the growth in Alice, one of the things that I very much enjoy is the community of the people involved in the ballet company. Tom and Mary Anne, the directors, were incredibly patient and supportive of Alice. There are so many people in the show who know Alice and are genuinely happy to see her. When we go one stage, she gets compliments for how wonderful she looks. When she gets off stage, she gets compliments for how well she danced. She feels welcome and loved and accepted. Like I said: a member of the community. And I'm happy to share this with her as long as she wants to participate.

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