To Dance!

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During my career as a ballet dancer, I performed nearly every role in "The Nutcracker": from Fritz in the party scene to various candies living in the Land of the Sweets. I danced Nutcrackers in Juarez and Vancouver. In Seattle, San Francisco, and even Uvalde, Texas.

So by the time I turned 19 and ticked off my 150th Waltz of Flowers, I'd had enough of "The Nutcracker."

Visions of sugarplums made me want to jab my eyes out with candy canes. I would have rather listened to Salvation Army bells ringing outside Macy's than to Tchaikovsky's Christmas-shopping soundtrack playing inside Macy's.

Retired at the impossibly old age of 30, I figured I'd never have to listen to "The Nutcracker" again, especially if I did all my Christmas shopping online.

But "The Nutcracker" is like the Mafia; you never really get out.


It's 8:00 am on a Saturday morning. "The Nutcracker" rehearsal. My husband is getting fitted for his cavalier costume. Our daughter is in the battle scene. Our four-year-old twin boys are in my Little Angel rehearsal. I'm still ready to jab my eyes out with candy canes, but evidently my parenting involves perpetuating the cycle of torture.

"Angel arms!" I remind the class. One of my sons looks longingly at the door where he left his baseball mitt.

It's cold. I'm grumpy. I brace myself for agony of the second act overture. But then it occurs to me: We're going onstage next week! To dance! And the music changes from jarring to floaty, like a lullaby.

My tummy jumps and my skin tingles and I remember what it was like to dance, to crack open my heart and let the joy come out. I feel as if I'm the little mouse who'll tug on Drosselmeyer's cape, not my daughter. As if I'll be the Sugarplum my husband will escort through the Land of Sweets.

The music feels like the smell of comfort food and my Nutcracker-Grinch's heart grows a few sizes. I don't even mind that my sons will just stand there and scratch, daydreaming about dinosaurs.

With a Perspective, I'm Janine Kovac.

Janine Kovac teaches ballet in Mountain View and organizes writing events for parents in Oakland and Marin.