25 December 2010


I was driving home the other night, listening to NPR. There was a program playing about some aspect of Tchaikovsky's Nutcracker, par for the course at this time of year. Welling up were the opening strains of Waltz of the Flowers. To most, this would be a moment to sit back and enjoy a classic passage of the famous symphony and ballet. To me-something akin to abject terror. In my head I hear, "Get into the wings! We are on next!" And of course the classic PTSD nightmare of every performer, "I'm not in costume!"
In the early 90s, when FatChanceBellyDance was just becoming known to the world, we were already the darlings of the San Francisco Art Scene. We were invited to all sorts of alternative arts functions. We were "ethnic" and "modern" all at the same time. One year, we were approached by Dance Brigade to perform in the "Ethnic Village" of the Revolutionary Nutcracker Sweetie, an alternative ballet. It celebrated the renown ballet, while making a parody of it at the same time. How "San Francisco"!
But I digress, back to the terrifying aspect of Waltz of the Flowers. Since our appearance in the Sweetie, every time I hear the opening measures of Waltz of the Flowers I am paralyzed with fear. It was the act that preceded us in the production. I am forever frozen with fear when I hear it because it tells me, "Get backstage now! Show!"
I might be shopping in a mall, making dinner at home, driving on the freeway. Every time I hear it, my performer-self goes into a panic because I am not backstage, in costume, ready to perform.
Of course we never missed an entrance and went on to present a 2:27 minute suite to the last section of our chosen music, Hossam Ramzy's Roah Albi from Baladi Plus, nicknamed "Nutcracker". Not as you might expect because the drum solo feels like a 'vise grip' but because it was the name of the show that it became famous for.
Ask me and I'll play it for you sometime, It will help to balance out the yearly panic of Waltz of the Flowers.
*ps, that's me doing a layback in the poster!


Herbatka said...

Oh my, it's a pity that such a beautiful piece of Tschaikovsky managed to traumatize you. I like Nutcraker - whenever I hear Dance of the Sugar Plum Fairy I travel back to the times when I was 5 :-)

Ottavina said...

I have a different kind of trauma associated with that piece. I have played in pit orchestras many times for the Nutcracker and occasionally have been stuck with conductors who wanted to take some parts way too fast. (Mind you, I like to move things along, but there's a fine line demarcating fast, frantic, and impossible!)

To complicate matters, one performance had a disastrous moment when the Dance of the Snowflakes began: the fog machine somehow went on overdrive, creating a thick, rolling cloud that went from the back of the stage to the front, rolling down into the pit, taking all the dust and crud with it so that we could breathe it in. Because of the insane tempo, we were already gasping for air. The dusty dry ice clouds made some of us cough. Add to that the poor dancers couldn't keep up and many of them were slipping and falling. It all sounded more like a "last one standing" challenge.

Anyway, long story just to tell you I completely understand. :)

Carolena Nericcio said...

That so reminds me of Fiasco, an old episode of This American Life. Really, if you haven't heard it, pay the 99 cents to download it, it illustrates just how much tolerance an audience can have. A must for performers!