Sunday, December 16, 2012

The Nutcracker

At last, I had the opportunity to take the kids to see the real Nutcracker ballet, here in Atlanta.  We are living across the street from the Fox Theatre, Atlanta's premier performance venue.  For the last two months we've watched from our window as dressed-up audience members go in and out.  Tonight was finally our turn!

It really is an amazing theater.  Originally a Yaarab Temple Shrine Mosque, and then a movie palace, it is an opulently decorated building, inside and outside.  Its architecture and interior decor is described as "Moorish", "Egyptian", and "trompe l'oeil".  It is a feast for the eyes, every surface embroidered, gilded, or sparkling with rhinestones.  

The ballet itself was fairly enjoyable.  We bought the cheap tickets (still $45 each!), which meant the kids had to strain a bit for a good view over people's heads.  The production was very well done, the ballerinas were lovely.  It occurred to me though that the audience seemed most impressed when the dancers did something slightly acrobatic.  And I thought, well if that's what people want to see, why aren't we all at the circus??  ...ballet as an art form mystifies me a bit.  It seems like every little girl wants to take ballet classes at some point, presumably for the "prettiness" factor.  But when watching ballet, it seems so repetitive to me, the same types of steps in precisely the same ways; the same body types, the same movement qualities, the same sequences.  At least the Nutcracker livens things up a bit with over-the-top costumes.  I feel a bit like a rube, in my inability to really appreciate ballet (like many "fine" art forms) - but at least I can be honest about what I like.  I truly enjoyed the little cartwheeling girls in the Russian dance, the elaborate play-acting in the Christmas party scene, and the small magic illusions integrated into the show.  The most beautiful dancing was done by the Arabian pas de deux, a husband-and-wife partnership (Pedro Gamino and Abigail Tan-Gamino) who had exquisite onstage chemistry and were the most acrobatic of the dancers. 

Overall I am so glad we went.  It's one of those things I've always wanted to do with my kids, and they loved it.  Even Baz... when we were getting ready to go he disappeared into his room, re-emerging in his one good button-down shirt, dress pants, dress shoes and a tie.  He had a slight qualm about going to the ballet ... worried it was a "girl" thing, I think, but during the day I was able to reassure him that no, it was simply going to be an awesome show.  As much as any of us, Baz loves live performances, and was especially able to immerse himself in the Act 1 scenes.  He got a little bored during the endless dances of Act 2, but still behaved himself passably well. 

After the show, simply crossing the street and going into our elegant lobby felt glamorous.  The girls grand-jeted all over the apartment before we could settle them into bed. 

While looking up information on the Fox Theatre tonight, I came across one particularly odd story.  Apparently there is a man named Joe Patten who they call the "Phantom of the Fox".  He has a lifetime lease on a posh apartment inside the Fox Theatre, where he has served numerous roles over the years in caretaking and preservation.  Two years ago they tried to kick him out, and lawsuits ensued, but apparently all is OK now and he's back to living his eccentric life. 

I look across the street at the upper windows of the theater, wondering if any of those windows are his. 


  1. I've juggled fire on that stage for Otello many years ago.

    Did you look up at the stars on the ceiling? They are supposed to be the current sky I think...

  2. so great you went to see it! I am with you though - I'd prefer the circus... sometimes I wonder how many people who 'appreciate' these things are just doing b/c they think, if they don't, they'll look stupid. Cool about the phantom too... xoxoo