In the quarter century I have lived in this city, I have never once been to the ballet. It is with a slight twinge of envy, then, that I escorted Kina to the Upper West Side for a date with my sibling Andrew, who had obtained for the occasion two tickets to the annual New York City Ballet performance of The Nutcracker, which is apparently a Very Important Holiday Tradition for thousands of New Yorkers.
For a little girl whose exposure to ballet has until now been a series of small classes conducted in her friend’s living room in the midst of a global pandemic (and a handful of more traditional classes in an actual studio), I think the opportunity to see real live ballerinas on stage performing an entire ballet was revelatory.
After the performance, Andrew took Kina around to the side door of the theater and introduced her to their friend Mary Liz, who had performed the role of Frau Stahlbaum (and has danced Nutcracker in the company for nearly twenty years now). After complimenting Kina on her gorgeous dress and flawless arabesque, she placed in Kina’s hands a little baggie full of the paper’s confetti “snow” that falls from the rafters at the end of the performance, along with a signed pair of the pointe shoes she had worn that very night. “To Kina,” they read, “Keep smiling and dancing!”
She smiled, and then she danced.
Kina is not naturally a patient person, and so it says a lot that she sat through two hours of Tchaikovsky in a theater full of rapt adults and quietly took in the show, fascinated. She really likes ballet, as it turns out, and today, as she drew in her little diary what she wants to be when she grows up, she put a little picture of a ballerina, mid-leap, pointe shoes and all.
She is smiling.