And Now For Something Complete Different
I may have mentioned that my daughters study dance at the Hampton Ballet Theatre School and perform in the three productions the school puts on each year.
Naturally the winter production is The Nutcracker, and so for the past three or four years around this time of year our family has been engrossed in shuttling dancers to and from rehearsals, and then helping with the show, either back stage or at the front of the house, and even watching the performance.
And so each year at some point I find myself sitting next to my wife, watching the party scene, which is cast with various adult friends of the ballet, elbowing my wife in the ribs and whispering in her ear, “We should do that next year!” (My wife would sooner die.)
I have also mentioned that I like and admire James Poulos. I am, in fact, a James Poulos fan. And as a fan and I know that James used to sport a rather impressive set of mutton chops (along with a velvet jacket) as a part of his “look”.
And so it was that last fall, after watching Master and Commander for the 26th or 27th time, that I grabbed my Oster clippers and ran it up and down my chin, leaving me with a nice set of chops myself. Then I snapped a “selfie” and posted it to twitter with the text “Eat your heart out @jamespoulos”.
So then, a couple of months later I was still sporting these chops when we were, once again, engrossed in Nutcracker season. And then it was opening night and my wife and I were in the audience, and it was the party scene, and again I was elbowing her in the ribs.
And then something different happened.
Instead of the usual fellow coming out and doing his turn as Drosselmeyer it was the director of the ballet school, and I learned that the usual fellow wasn’t going to be doing it anymore and this had happened last minute and made the usually stressful effort of mounting the show that much more stressful.
And I came up with a plan.
So now it’s a couple weeks later, and back to regular classes and it’s quiet cold January in Montauk and I take my daughter down for class a little early, and after Ms. Sarah finishes up with the earlier class but before my daughter’s class begins I say to her, “Ms. Sarah, I noticed your usual Drosselmeyer wasn’t in the show this year and that you played the role,” and then I struck just a bit of a pose.
I am, as I say this, still fully mutton chopped, and it’s been about three months now, so my mutton chops are quite choppy and very muttony.
And Ms. Sarah picks up on all of this, and she smiles a broad smile and exclaims “Oh! You’d be perfect!”
Well it’s been about 2 months that I’ve been growing out my mutton chops again, and my hair too for good measure. And about 6 weeks that I’ve been rehearsing.
And I love it.
When I was young I did a lot musical performance in school, and of course I played in a rock band in high school. But never any theater or dance; I’ve never used my body this way before, and I love how unprotected is. It makes me feel horrifyingly self-conscious.
In fact, last Friday was my first day rehearsing with all the kids and when I saw them all there I had a moment when I thought I might not be able to do it. The giddy confidence I had worked myself up to in my one-on-one rehearsals with Ms. Sarah was replaced by the fear that the kids would laugh at me. And as that happened I could feel my motions become cramped and laughable. It was great.
So anyway, that’s me in the picture, tight pants and all hairy. The moment is when Drosselmeyer first sees Clara and realizes that his adored niece is becoming a young woman. Great changes are afoot and tonight will be a night of wonder and magic!
Three thoughts that connect this back to the larger themes in my writing here at The League:
1) As I feel myself approaching 50 I find that I’ve made a point of finding and getting to know younger people whom I admire. James would certainly be an example of this, and there are others.
2) Also related to my advancing age, I find that I want to very purposely do things, think things, even wear things that challenge my sense of who I am.
3) I spoke with my mother after taking Mon Tiki down to Norfolk, and after filling her in with the details of the trip, she asked about how the ballet was going. “Oh it’s great,” I said. “It’s great to be able to do something that’s intimidating, but is not actually dangerous!”
That’s sort of what I was thinking about in my last post about self-identity. Sometimes things we’re very afraid of aren’t a threat to anything, except maybe our pride or sense of self. I’ve probably missed some opportunities because of that (actually I know I have). I’m trying to be less prideful and more open-minded now.