I found this photo the other day. It's cracked and faded, but the second I held it I felt what it was like to be on that stage. The music pouring out around me, the theater full, my eyes staring at the floor, "don't mess up, don't mess up, don't mess up". For years I performed small roles in my ballet school's performances of The Nutcracker. It was decades ago, but when I walk into a store in December and hear the familiar soundtrack of the Nutcracker suite, I still remember every minute of it.
I wasn't a very good ballerina, but I was in my mind, which is enough when you're 8 and 9 and 10. The Nutcracker performances were these amazing little pieces of perfection in my world. I loved these shows: the backstage chaos, the costumes, the professional ballerinas walking among us looking statuesque and beautiful and other-worldly.
Last night I found a clip on youtube of the ballet. I pressed play, cleared a spot away in the living room, traced my toe in an arc from in front of me to behind, spotted a place on the wall, and turned. I only made it two times around before teetering off my tippy toes, but I felt just a little like I used to. And that was enough.
Sondra Forsyth was my amazing teacher during those years. I looked up to her then and even more now in her role as Founder and Artistic Director of Ballet Ambassadors. The group brings the magic of ballet to economically and culturally underserved children and, as someone who still points to those years with Miss Sondra (as she was known to me then) as some of the proudest of my childhood, I know how important this work is. This program has the power to make kids feel special, confident, beautiful, proud. It's a wonderful thing.