In an age when everyone seems to have a smart phone sewn to their palms and most kids are exposed to screens for almost every waking moment, there is a refreshing sight that goes largely unseen each year in Wilkes-Barre, an event that shows kids today are the same — or at least can be — as kids raised on movie reels, radios or three-channel TVs.
One morning each December the Dorothy Dickson Darte Center is crammed with grade-school children who spend nearly two hours staring not at a big screen, but a live production of Tchaikovsky’s iconic Christmas ballet, “The Nutcracker.” You may see eyes glancing at email or Facebook posts, but those are the adults.
The youngsters are gasping at the dramatic appearance of the cloaked Drosselmeier as a spotlight reveals his presence in the aisle, his shadow large against the stage proscenium. They are rooting for the soldiers as they battle the mice amid stirring martial music blaring from brass and pulsing from percussion. They are laughing at the Mouse King’s overblown death scene.
And yes, many of the lasses are wistfully wishing to partake of a pas de deux as Klara, drifting into dreams of leaping cavaliers, fluttering flowers and swirling sugar plum fairies.
The Degnan Ballet Center at the Conservatory of Wilkes University puts on one morning performance of “The Nutcracker” specifically for area school children each season. Odds are, unless you are a member of the cast and crew or an educator (or a member of the media) you haven’t seen it and maybe even haven’t heard of it.
The pre-show is a predictable cacophony of chattering children enjoying a morning off from classwork. At this year’s event, the noise rose to ear-splitting cheers with the dimming of lights, but grew much quieter once Klara and company started prancing and strutting behind a scrim, and some appeared utterly rapt as Drosselmeier worked his magic while Fritz taunted his sister during the Christmas party.
There were stories behind the scenes the youngsters didn’t get to hear, but did see in the motivations evoking the performances. As Mary Therese Biebel noted in a Saturday story, Sugar Plum Fairy Julie Degnan had struggled with her decision to follow in her mother’s toe shoes, especially after falling during a rehearsal. A chance to dance in Estonia re-lit her love of ballet, helping her “get back to my happy place again.”
And Wilkes University junior Sarah Hoffman offered an answer to all those in the audience who dreamed of doing what she was doing: Dancing as Klara.
Her first role in the ballet as a “pipsqueak” was to present a crown to Klara, and no, she didn’t imagine she could ever be the one who gets the crown.
“Now, here I am, Klara!” she beamed. “If you can dream it, you can achieve it!”
The great thing about giving all those students a chance to see a live performance like this — indeed, the reason to give them as many opportunities as possible to see real people at many tasks — is this:
It gives those children more dreams to consider.
– Times Leader