Wednesday, October 9, 2013

The Role He Was Born To Play

Remember last winter when Ryan was a soldier in an adaptive production of The Nutcracker? Well, tis the season, and we're doing that again and kicking it up a notch: he will perform in both the soldier scene and one or two other dances. Ryan has been rehearsing with the youngest group of kids - adorable little girls who are beyond proud of their leotards and tutus. The older kids we got to know last year are in a more advanced class, practicing different dances.

While watching the older kids dance last time, Ryan fell in love with the Russian dance. You know, this number:
The dance involves lots of jumping and running and galloping.

"Can we dance The Nutcracker now?" he asks the air. By "Nutcracker dance" he means specifically the Russian dance. That the older kids will be performing. That he doesn't know he might not be performing.

The younger kids' group is supposed to perform the Chinese dance (but with much much less energetic choreography than this video):
Ryan has zero interest in the Chinese dance. When all the kids are supposed to be walking slowly on tiptoe, Ryan is running circles past them, taking half a dozen extra passes under the arch. The rest of the class - the warm-ups, practicing the Chinese dance, clapping to music - is just the tedium he endures for the reward of exploding into a joyous Russian dance. The sweet high school-age ballerinas encourage him to do demi- pliƩs and tendus at the barre, and he does his best approximations, but he's just filling the time.

I explained all this to the director, Miss Debbie. She said there's no time to change costumes between the Russian and Chinese dances, so doing both was not an option. Well, Ryan has made his preference clear, I noted. Can we switch things up?

Miss Debbie thought a moment. Then she cued up the Russian music and had Ryan and the one-on-one helpers line up in the front of the room. "Ryan, this is your audition," she announced; I'm sure Ryan had no idea what that meant.

The music started, and Ryan came to life. He danced with contagious exuberance. What he lacked in technique he more than made up for in enthusiasm. When the music ended he took a small bow and said "Thank you!" The other moms on the sidelines grinned.

Miss Debbie cocked an eyebrow at me. "Really?" she asked. "We'll have to think about this."

The other parents murmured, "She HAS to let him do it! He's so HAPPY!"

But the director is not yet convinced he can keep himself under control. Her concern, it seems, is that during this scene there are other people leaping and spinning all over the place, and that Ryan's energy might be challenging to contain. "He'll need someone on him," she told the mentors, meaning one of them would have to stay near him on stage, like they did last year. I said I didn't see that as a deal-breaker.

To be continued...

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