I love everything about the holidays…the decorations, caroling, and time spent with family and friends. A favorite holiday memory is dancing in Pacific Northwest Ballet’s Nutcracker. Each year while growing up, I had about forty performances filled with festive cheer and unexpected adventure. One that stands out was when it snowed so hard in Seattle that driving felt like going on a slip and slide ride. Many of the dancers, stage crew members, costumers, and makeup artists couldn’t make it, but audience members who lived nearby walked to see the ballet. No one wanted to turn them away, so our artistic directors decided that the show must go on.
I went downtown ahead of the storm, checked into a hotel close to the Opera House, walked there, and did whatever I could to help out. With the lack of makeup artists, we all did our own stage makeup. Even the little dancers got creative and smeared some on as older girls helped clean them up. When the ballet was slated to begin, a voice came over the backstage intercom asking, “Can someone lead the orchestra?” The conductor was stuck in the snow so the tuba player spontaneously took his place. Onstage, we had to double up on roles and improvise. Since there weren’t enough fighting mice, some of the soldiers had to kill themselves in the battle scene. As you visualize this, keep in mind that PNB is one of the top five ballet companies in the nation, with a renowned orchestra, and a famous Nutcracker, complete with sets and costumes by Maurice Sendak! Somehow, we all pulled it off. At the end of the performance, the tuba player joined the curtain call in his jeans and t-shirt…which was slightly small from indulging in holiday goodies…instead of the usual tux our distinguished conductor wore. He got a standing ovation!
Meanwhile, the snow continued pelting down and dancers piled into the hotel instead of risking the roads. We had so much fun playing games and everyone agreed that this performance was a memory we would always cherish. I hope you all are enjoying the holiday season and creating new memories.