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Kid's Review: Richmond Ballet's "The Nutcracker"

What does a 3-year-old think of sugar plum fairies?



“Why are there naked people in here?” asks six-year-old Sylvie upon entering the ornate theater, adorned with nude statuary in niches along the wall. This question is just one reason why you should watch "The Nutcracker" with a member (preferably several) of the six-and-under set. If you don’t have a kid of your own, borrow somebody else’s. Because that cliché about seeing something through the eyes of a child? It’s referring to "The Nutcracker," I’m pretty sure.

Four-year-old Ezra loves the Christmas party scene. Three-year-old Joshua loves the mice. LOVES them. Four-year-old Rowan (disclosure: she’s my daughter, and this was her first viewing of the classic) watches the Christmas tree grow bigger and bigger with great excitement. As the sofa glides across the floor, her eyes grow huge and I realize that it just takes a kid’s perspective to put the “special” back in “special effects.”

The battle against the Mouse King enchants everybody. “And the cheese went ‘shoooooo!’” flying out of the catapult," Ezra says. Rowan adds that “I liked when Clara threw her shoe at the Mouse King!” (that’s my girl, all about agency). Joshua, faithfully notes: “I liked the mice!”

Sylvie loves the Snow Queen, danced in this performance by Cody Beaton with gracious delicacy. In particular, says Sylvie, “I liked her outfit.”

My companions recommend hide-and-seek among empty seats as the best way to pass the time during intermission. It’s also wise to snack, at this point, since dinner will be late.

According to Rowan, the snake (Maggie Small) and “snake tamer” (Fernando Sabino) look like they are having fun, especially when the snake slides down her partner’s back. During the Russian dance, Joshua, from behind us, exclaims, “Bear!” with great excitement, and Rowan guffaws at the bear’s antics (as performed, with gusto, by Paul Dandridge).

Your small friends grow restless during pure dance sections. Rowan, during the dance of the Snow Flakes asks, “Why are there so many of them?” and when I explain that they are supposed to look like whirling snow and ask her if she thinks they do, she says bluntly, “No.” Ok, maybe four-year-olds aren’t so into metaphor.

But they do love magic, and the question of what is real and what is imaginary fascinates them, especially during the holidays, when the boundary between the two grows more fluid. At some point, watching Clara travel through the enchanted snow forest, Rowan asks, “Is she really dreaming all of this?”

Well, what would you answer?


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