´┐╝Ballet Show The Nutcracker - 2017

Memorable Moments.....

One young student was standing beside me at the side of the stage waiting for her turn and she said “I’m so excited, this is the best day of my life” which makes all the stress worthwhile. Its not that its very stressful, there’s just so much to get done and remember.....

As this was the 3rd time we’d done Nutcracker, I was probably the most relaxed during any show that I have ever been - during the show!!! It was just as hectic in the lead up, getting all the props together, trying to remember everything, lists upon lists of things to do. Because I live in Dublin, it’s really important not to forget anything, as it’s just too far to go home again. The props for Nutcracker I think must run into the hundreds, from the Christmas tree with lights and decorations, props the students dance with like the flutes and fans for the Spanish, Snow machine with snow. (Found it very difficult to get fake snow for the snow machine this time as the company I usually use don’t supply it anymore.  I had to research what type of fake snow I wanted - Display snow Foss Snow, Foss Decor Snow, Foss Decor Transparent, Foss Decor White Fine snow, Falling Snow, so if anybody needs any advice on fake snow, ring me, I’m an expert now!!) Thankfully, I choose the correct snow and we had a great snowfall on stage, much to the delight of the students dancing the Waltz of the Snowflakes, I even saw one of them making a snow angel in the middle of the dance!!  We have huge props from the Madame BonBon giant dress and the huge presents. Its another story getting them to and from Solstice.

One big thing that was different to any other show we did was that I organised the music. I usually put the music on a CD or more recently on a USB and the sound technician in Solstice organises it for me and ultimately presses play, but this time I was able to arrange the music myself.


The soundtrack for Nutcracker is beautiful and I love every bit of it... 

In previous years, it was very difficult for the technician to figure out what I wanted eg, wait till the girls are on stage before the track is played or perhaps let it play and then they dance out, fade in/ out a track and very often a mistake was made. Some mistakes were not very obvious and really the only person to know would be me, but some mistakes were huge like the wrong track being played. That end of things was very stressful as I can only communicate with the sound technician through headphones called cans, so the message takes a while to get through. I spent months learning how to arrange the music properly using a music programme, but the results were fantastic, I had 100% control of when the music was played and I was able to set the cues in advance. We were able to play the music for Sugar Plum Fairy a bit slower as the dance is very technically difficult. (Our Sugar Plum Fairy, Aoife, did a great job) During rehearsals in the studio we set the tempo which was a great advantage as in previous years that would have to be done by the Solstice sound engineer on the day of the show and there is only a certain amount of time to get these things right. My son Christopher was in charge of the laptop and “pressing play”. He did a wonderful job. For the first time, no mistake was made. He was right beside me at the side of the stage which meant I could pause things or quicken them up straightaway depending on how quick /slow the students were. I made him take a bow after the Monday show - he still hasn’t forgiven me for that!!

The only thing I forgot to bring that day was the charger for the laptop. My sister Karen had to do a quick dash to Dublin to get it, thanks again Karen. But by far the biggest thing to be organised are the costumes, but it is also gives the greatest pleasure. I’ve spoken before about the look on the faces of the students when they see their costumes for the first time and put them on. Costume day is easily the best ballet day ever. I wish we could have costume day more often. A huge amount of preparation goes into organising the costumes, getting the colours and sizes right and making sure everybody has a costume that fits and that they like. I’ve told the students dozens of times about the costumes I had to wear as a young student, they often felt like rags and I remember I vowed that if I ever became a ballet teacher, I would never ever make my students wear anything they were uncomfortable in or that they didn’t like. I’ve never forgotten that and I hope I’ve been true to my own promise. In fairness, its much easier to get good quality beautiful costumes nowadays, but seriously, I can only say, thank goodness there aren’t many photos floating around of me performing in my “costumes”. When I look back on the 2 days being in the theatre, a few things stick out.

When I look back on the 2 days being in the theatre, a few things stick out. One young student was standing beside me at the side of the stage waiting for her turn and she said “I’m so excited, this is the best day of my life” which makes all the stress worthwhile.  Its not that its very stressful, there’s just so much to get done and remember.  A show like Nutcracker takes months and months of preparation, but when a student says something like that, you forget about all the work.

Another thing is how relaxed everybody was, this is all the work of the parents backstage. I am so grateful to these Mums, they give up their time every year to help keep the students safe and happy and looking beautiful. Over the years we have developed a great team of Mums, with my 2 sisters. I most definitely could not do what I do without their help. Thank you so much.

I do have one big regret though.....Leaving the Christmas tree decorating to the 2 stage hands. Their job was to put on the lights and decorations. It was only when I saw some photos of the 1st night that I saw the absolute state that Christmas tree was in. I apologise!! I didn’t actually look at it, I crossed it off my list of things that needed to be done and I moved on to the next job. Thankfully, after I saw the photos, my sister Liz and a parent (I can’t remember who she was, but thank you) they stripped the Christmas tree bare and re-did it. They did a fantastic job. I don’t actually have a picture of the tree the second day, but I know it was far better, thanks again to the 2 ladies.

So because the Christmas show is, well, at Christmas time, when the show is over and all the props are put away and all the costumes are washed (by hand) and stored, its only then that I can get prepared for my own Christmas. I was very late getting the photos of the show prepared (thanks to Colm for taking them during rehearsals on the Sunday) because I spent the few weeks before the big day literally racing around getting everything ready. But I wouldn’t have it any other way.

Doing Nutcracker is a wonderfully magical way to start of the Christmas festivities. Just before I go, a few months ago, 2 of the senior students Amy and Lucy came to me with an idea. The wanted to pick the show for 2018, which isn’t unusual, students often suggest which show to do, but these wanted a real input. The did some work on characters and some staging and production ideas too. We have decided to collaborate together for the next show (the name is top secret), with the permission of their parents, so you might see them from time to time in class over the next few months. This is a great opportunity for them and their enthusiasm is breathtaking. So watch this space, there might be someone else’s name on the poster this year!!

Take care, Michelle

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