Thursday, December 12, 2013

Tales of Nutcrackers Gone Very, Very Wrong

It’s that time of year again, people.

We are in the sweet beating heart of Nutcracker season.  It’s the time of year when cracking nuts has nothing to do with kicking a dude in the crotch, and everything to do with hundreds of dancers making magic on an elaborate set. 

But did you ever stop and wonder what is REALLY going on onstage?  With the thousands of productions all over the country, let alone the world, there must be some MAJOR mishaps, right?

You bet your candy canes there are!  And right here on Mom’s New Stage some of my ballet dancin’ friends share their Nutcracker nightmares! 

Years ago I was in a Nutcracker performance where the professional guest Cavalier, a fantastic Cuban dancer, was a married man.  Not married enough, however, to keep from conducting simultaneous affairs with two of the women cast as party adults.  One of these women was also similarly "married." The other was a single schoolteacher, and she was head-over-heels smitten.   

During the performance the cavalier Cavalier broke it off with the schoolteacher. Devastated and enraged, she reported him to the police for sexual assault!  During the last act of the final performance of the run a team of police officers stormed into the theater, and began combing the backstage area and the catwalks in pursuit of the suspect. As you can imagine, all the dancers in the production wondered what the fondu a bunch of cops were doing in the wings.

The director begged the officers to let the accused finish the performance.  They permitted the Cavalier to take his bows before whisking him away for questioning.  

The charges were later dropped.  I'd be willing to bet that there has never been a more exciting final act of Nutcracker before or since.  

--- Anonymous

In one performance, my Sugarplum Cavalier got injured doing the last jump of his solo and his replacement was a dancer from the company who happened to be sitting in the audience watching the show. They grabbed him out, stripped him down backstage and got him into a pair of tights during my solo, (very QUICKLY) to make our next entrance. It was a little insane and confusing for the audience for sure.

---Kati Hanlon Mayo, Principal, formerly North Carolina Dance Theater

I was apprenticing at Charlotte City Ballet. We were doing the NYC Ballet version and we had an American Ballet Theater soloist dancing Sugar Plum.  It was a big deal; all my friends and family were there. 

Now probably because it was too expensive, the production team didn’t use the dry ice that would create those magical, mystical effects UNTIL THE ACTUAL PERFORMANCES!  In this production the second act started with the Sugar Plum Fairy's solo, so just after the curtain opened they spread the dry ice and then she appeared out of the mist.  The poor woman was like Bambi on ice. She fell about 10 times!

In the very next scene, all of the different dancers, Waltz of the Flowers, candy canes, Chinese, etc. were to run from upstage right to downstage left to bow to her.  So there I am in the wings, waiting and freaking out. Eight dancers went before me, and literally every other one busted her ass. I started praying, Don't let me slip, please don’t let me slip! Everyone is here!

I ran as lightly and delicately as I could, but still managed to wipe out EXACTLTY at center stage.  Completely shattered, I picked myself up, curtsied to the damn fairy, and exited. They ended up having to stop the production, mop and dry the stage, and restart it 30 minutes later!!!  To this day, one of my best friends who was in the audience tells me it was one of the most memorably hilarious moments in her life. 

---Christine Betsill, formerly Charlotte City Ballet

I am proud to say the only part I have ever played in the Nutcracker wasn’t Clara.  It wasn’t the Sugar Plum Fairy or the Snow Queen.  I can’t even say I donned the fabulous stilts in my best Drag garb as Mother Ginger.  (Although, that would have been right up my alley.)  My 5’2” modern dancer ass, complete with hips and a decent pair of tatas, was cast as…drum roll please… the Rat king. 

As if this wasn’t funny enough, my fearless opponent and the hero of our classic story was a 6’2” BALLET GOD.  I decided to play it as quirky as possible to make up for my Napoleonic stature.  Jumps, turns, electrified jolts were done at 160%, including the sword fight.  In the heat of taking down the Nutcracker prince, my sword hit his with such gusto, the blade broke right in the middle.  I had to finish off the battle creatively, with swinging shaft, until my dying breath.

---Jennifer Tarrazi-Scully, Dancer With An Attitude

There were a few times when I went for the shoulder sit and while I was being brought down, my butt tulle got stuck on my partner's hook and eye on his tunic. So there I was, halfway down to the ground stuck on my partner's chest! He finally ripped me off of his chest but needless to say, we couldn't stop laughing! It took about 8 counts for him to get me on the floor!

---Mia Cunningham, formerly North Carolina Dance Theater

It was my first Nutcracker ever with Ballet Austin. For some reason, the company arrived at the theater crazy late, with no time for a spacing rehearsal -- only time to quickly warm-up, get made-up and dressed, and get onstage.

I was rushing to get ready when I heard my music coming.  I was a soldier doll, but I'd never had a proper fitting or dress rehearsal, so I had no idea what to wear.  I grabbed a little military jacket and a matching short circle skirt, threw them on, and ran to place.  My partner and I were to enter from opposite sides of the stage each in our own tip trunks, a “gift” box where you open one side and it’s empty and then you turn it around, tip it over, and it we're there and pop out.  In my box, sitting with my arms wrapped around my legs, I felt a draft around my undercarriage.  #$%@!!!! I had no trunks*!  I only had tights under a super short skirt, and I had tons of crotch-revealing movement.  I was going to make this an X-rated Nutcracker!

So. . .I did the whole variation with my arms plastered to my sides.  My partner was like “What are you doing?!!!” I whispered, “I have no trunks on!”  We were cracking up, with me literally grabbing my lady bits to keep them from being on display.

From the wings, the director shot me withering “WTF?” looks. I thought I was for sure fired.  When I exited he asked, “What was that?”  I flashed him, and he laughed and shook his head.  I did the best I could bottomless.

---Charla Metzker Whitely, formerly Ballet Austin and Ballet Florida

Any Nutcracker bloopers in your past, either as a dancer or from the audience?  Do share!

*essentially the bottom half of a leotard

1 comment:

  1. I love how you are so darn good at bringing the funny to all the parts of your life. And now I really want to see the Nutcracker!


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