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Nutcracker magic.

THE LIGHTS DIMMED, the curtain rose, and my then 8-year-old daughter, Ginny, was mesmerized. I had seen The Nutcracker many times before, but that day Ginny was seeing it for the first time. I had wondered whether she would even like the ballet. Children are so fabulously entertained these days; would ballet still hold the same thrill for a little girl? I remembered reading, as a child, of how the young Anna Pavlova witnessed her first ballet, wept, and vowed that she was destined to dance. Might Ginny have a similar reaction?

Throughout the performance, Ginny sat absolutely still, awestruck. Afterward, walking though the crisp winter air to our car, she announced, "I want to put on The Nutcracker."

"You'll need to take ballet lessons and perform in a ballet," I said, "before yon can produce one." Ginny had taken only a few ballet lessons in her life but the costumes, music and dancers in The Nutcracker had inspired her.

"I want to make my own version," she said.

Time passed, and I forgot her vow, but Ginny did not. The next fall, we signed her up for ballet classes at Dallas Ballet Center and she teamed up with school classmate, Sarah Moudy, to begin work on The Nutcracker.

"It was fun because I got to help make up the dances," Sarah said later.

The two girls began by enlisting youngsters, ages 3-8, from the neighborhood and from their Montessori school as cast members. Ginny taught herself how to use the Palm Pilot program on our computer and began generating cast lists, costume lists, rehearsal schedules, and budgets. She spent hours on the phone negotiating who could play what. At times, she sounded like a Hollywood producer. After school she gathered the cast and rehearsed them, working every day for months.

"The hardest part was getting the girls to practice," Ginny said. "They didn't want to do the dances over and over, which you have to do to really learn them."

The venue, they decided, would be their school's auditorium. Although I thought it too expensive, Irene Bozarth, the school's music director, was happy to reserve it for them at no charge. Montessori schools encourage teachers to follow the children's lead in learning, so Irene wanted to support their hard work.

"This is how little girls grow up to be presidents," she told me.

Irene went through the school's costume closet with the girls and coached them on how to simplify their plans. She suggested they charge admission and donate the money to America's Fund for Afghan Children. Other parents also chipped in with help and advice. I rounded up a few simple props; Ginny signed up moms to handle costume changes backstage. The day before the performance, Ginny put the finishing touches on the programs, which, at her insistence, lavishly listed each girl's entire name, beginning with "Miss Ginny Leigh Jacobs" as Clara and concluding with "Miss Sarah Catherine Moudy" as the Sugar Plum Fairy.

THEN, ON SATURDAY afternoon, December 22, an audience of about fifty grandparents, friends, and neighbors assembled to watch The Nutcracker--produced, choreographed, and staged by two 9-year-olds. Everyone present was amazed.

"She reminds me of a little Twyla Tharp," said Kim Abel, a guest teacher at Steps on Broadway in New York and Ginny's neighbor. "I was very impressed that, at her age, she had her book of costumes, scenery, schedules. She had it all organized. I was also surprised at how willing the girls were to take direction from her. She was totally in charge. It's a huge, huge talent, and it's something that the dance world needs and needs to nurture."

"I was really proud," said Ginny. "I liked the party, scene best."

Now, the production wasn't so slick that you suspected grownups were involved. There were a few rough moments, such as "when the Nutcracker failed to appear on cue, or when one tiny soloist took the stage, stopped, and turned to ask Ginny, in a perfect stage whisper, "What do I do now?"

But there were some great moments, too. Playing Clara's little sister, one 3-year-old ballerina nailed every step and stayed in character throughout the entire performance. The Russian dancers performed the simple but original choreography beautifully The Chinese dancer bounced across the stage, grinning from ear to ear. The girls told the whole story, and they did it with spirit and originality, dancing with the kind of joyous self-forgetfulness that children can muster.

After the performance, one of the dads presented Ginny with a bouquet of chocolate roses, joking that he expects she will become "CEO of something" one day. Ginny still smiles when she remembers that moment.

So will one of these girls grow up to be a CEO, or a president, or a ballerina? What's more important is that Ginny and Sarah left the auditorium standing a little taller that day--two young children armed not only with the knowledge that dreams can come true, but that they can make them happen.

Now that, I believe, is a bit of Nutcracker magic.

Mary A. Jacobs is a freelance writer who writes frequently for the Dallas Morning News. She is also Ginny's mother.
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Title Annotation:two nine-year-old girls stage the Nutcracker ballet; two nine-year-old girls stage the Nutcracker ballet
Author:Jacobs, Mary A.
Publication:Dance Magazine
Geographic Code:1U7TX
Date:Dec 1, 2003
Words:864
Previous Article:Dance theater.
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