Sunday, we saw the Ballet Wichita production of The Nutcracker. It has become a tradition for the girls and me. I grew up taking grade school field trips to see a shortened school performance, and in college, as a theatre major, I attended several times to see my dancer friends. (One of them, above in the blue gown, is Big Sis's ballet teacher this year!) It was wonderful to start attending again, when Big Sis was old enough for the shorter school version. I sat with her and her best friend when they were four years old - her best friend's parents play Clara's parents each year - and I loved watching their faces. We did this again the following year, with Little Sis joining us, but last year saw the beginning of all-day kindergarten, so the past two years, I've bought matinee tickets to the full ballet. The good news? They like the full-length ballet better. THE SNOW SCENE. That's enough to make sitting still for two hours completely worth it.
My little dancer babies are rather Nutcracker-happy this year. Little Sis decked her pink tree out in ballet and Nutcracker ornaments. We bought a big Nutcracker at Target this year. In fact, all of our Nutcracker goodies wound up in their playroom, with their tabletop trees. Big Sis even saw the school production this year, in addition to our outing. Not only did many first-grade classes across the city see the ballet, but her whole school saw it - her dance teacher from school was one of the Russian performers!
We had a happy afternoon at the ballet, despite all the madness going on in the world outside, and despite the fact that I'd spent a day and a half incapacitated with the Worst. Stomach bug. Ever.
We have three versions of The Nutcracker in book form in the house now. We have checked out other versions from the library in the past. (To see more excellent Nutcracker stuff, please check this post at Julia's Bookbag and this one at Silly Eagle Books.)
Nutcracker by E.T.A. Hoffman, illustrated by Maurice Sendak, translated by Ralph Manheim. Crown, 2012; originally published in 1984.
This was our only Nutcracker from the library this year. I never intended to read it aloud to the girls, as they aren't really ready for the original Hoffman yet. Sendak wasn't fond of the ballet as he knew it. When he collaborated with Kent Stowell to design a new version for the Pacific Northwest Ballet, he wanted to bring back the darkness of the original Hoffman tale. You can listen to an interview with Sendak from NPR's Morning Edition here, where he discusses his vision. Once again, I point you in the direction of Julia's Bookbag, where Melissa has compiled some links, as well as photos she took of this year's Pacific Northwest Ballet production of The Nutcracker. There was a film version made in 1986. It airs on television frequently this time of year. If you stream, it is available on Netflix, Hulu, and Amazon Instant Video. You can still hunt down the DVD, too.
Actually, if I may interrupt myself a minute, let me direct you to good Wikipedia's entry on The Nutcracker. You can get a good sense of what the original was like, who made changes in their productions and why...
We own two books of the story ourselves. Both of these were bargain books purchased on post-holiday clearance at Barnes & Noble in years past. Both were published by Sterling, and came with something special.
The Nutcracker: The Classic Christmas Fantasy [Barnes & Noble Edition]. Contains E.T.A. Hoffman's "The Nutcracker and the Mouse King" (1816) and Alexandre Dumas's "The History of a Nutcracker" (1845). Sterling, 2009.
I actually bought two of these, so that each girl could have a nutcracker. One fell apart. I found his hat behind the computer desk the other day, in fact. To be fair, he was well-loved. His twin attended the ballet with us this year, spending most of the performance in the lap of Little Sis.
The Nutcracker by John Cech, based on the story by E.T.A. Hoffman, illustrated by Eric Puybaret. Sterling, 2009.
This edition was incorporated into some of the Barnes & Noble holiday decor the year it was released. It was illustrated by Eric Puybaret, who also illustrated Sterling's beautiful Puff, The Magic Dragon. Although this is an adaptation, it is still a longer and wordier story than most picture books. The girls do not mind it so much, though. We have read it over the space of a few evenings, and it's been requested again this year. Our edition came with a musical snow globe. (It plays "Dance of the Sugar Plum Fairy.") It isn't the nicest snow globe. The water only comes up so high and it has a cloudy look to it. Still, it was on clearance and the girls have added it to their decor.
We made a Nutcracker Wreath this year. I learned how to make tutus this summer When the girls wore their autumn fairy costumes to the preschool, one of the teachers asked me if I'd made the fall wreath they were auctioning off, too. I didn't know what she meant, but upon checking the auction items, there was a beautiful tulle wreath made with the same method as the tutus (and in the same colors). I knew I'd be making a wreath this year, and what better than a Nutcracker ballet-themed tulle wreath for Christmas?
We bought a wreath form and several rolls of glittery tulle. I learned two lessons. First of all, the super-glittery stuff costs the same as the non-glittery stuff, but there is less on a roll. Second, be ready to be covered in glitter.
|My skirt is glittery. My sweater and carpet and everything was glittery, too.|
Take your wreath form. Determine how far you want the tulle to stick off the form. Now cut a length of tulle twice that length, plus an inch or two, depending on the thickness of your wreath form. Cut a TON more lengths of tulle, using your first strip as a guide.
Now fold a length of tulle in half, and stretch it over some wreath form, holding the loop open with your hand as pictured above. You then take the two ends, go around the wreath form and through the loop from behind, as Big Sis (my lovely photographer) and I tried to picture below.
Pull tightly until you have a neat knot on top. When working on a wider base such as this wreath form (as opposed to, say, a piece of elastic for a tutu), I feel more secure tying an extra knot for good measure.
You just keep adding tulle, bunching it tightly together. We finished ours with some inexpensive ballet-themed ornaments and a miniature nutcracker, and a little help from my trusty Ol' Orange.
|Meet Ol' Orange.|
The wreath now hangs on the playroom door, obscuring an Ivy & Bean poster and a Tinkerbell wall decal. Perhaps it isn't the fanciest of spots, but beyond the door is the Nutcracker Christmas tree land.
We had leftover pink and silver tulle, so I used an embroidery hoop that was missing its other half to make a smaller wreath. The thinner form meant much less tulle. My disgusting, horrible, wretched stomach kept me from venturing out to get new ornaments, so Little Sis donated a pink nutcracker ornament of her own to finish it. We gifted it to our friend who played Clara's mom. (She was already out of costume when we met up with her after the ballet.) The whole tulle tutu-making method is a pretty versatile crafting skill! And it's easy. All you need to be able to do is measure, cut, and tie knots. So simple. And the results look so impressive!
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