It is probably safe to say that I am not the world’s greatest ballet critic. One big reason for this is that I have never actually been to a ballet. Sugar Plum fairies do not generally occupy this mind.
All that changed this week with a strongly suggested family outing to the Warner Theater to see Septime Webre’s The Nutcracker.
Another reason I am not often consulted for ballet reviews is that I am generally suspicious of people with made-up names. Especially androgynous made-up names.
But Christmas is not just about giving, Ray Charles tells us. It is also about receiving. So I smuggled in a spiked Red Bull and settled in for a long winter’s night.
Expectations fell further upon reading a note in the bulletin from Septime Webre explaining, “I have cast Clara’s grandfather as a Scottish American, reflecting my Cuban grandfather’s Scottish heritage.”
Hoo boy, I am starting to wonder if our choreographer might be a little confused.
But then the familiar plucking sounds of Peter Ilyich Tchaikovsky’s music brought the stage to life and what followed was a purely pro-American, adamantly heterosexual, profoundly Christian celebration of Christmas. It is a wonder The Nutcracker has not been banned.
It is, unarguably, the Duck Dynasty of ballet.
The first hint came even before the music started when a man in a sweater walked out onto the stage and gave the audience strict instructions that when applauding male dancers, we were to yell, “Bravo!” And when applauding female dancers, we were to scream “Brava!”
Maybe it was a little less coarse and certainly less anatomically specific, but there wasn’t a dime’s worth of difference between that and Phil Robertson’s describing the unavoidable differences in the plumbing of men and women.
Sure, I know what you are saying. “But there were dudes jumping around in leotards! That is not normal.” I know this because that is what my children said to me after the performance.
And to that I say, correct. It is not normal. But it is, after all, exactly what you get every week if you flip on Monday Night Football. And professional football is about as American and absolutely as masculine as you can ask for in these fey, modern times.
I mean, in a fallen world this messed up, filled with people who are all so utterly confused and so self-absorbed and the knockout game running amok and children either starving to death or dying of the obesity epidemic, The Nutcracker — despite its virulently anti-Caucasian title — is a dazzling parade of hope and good and joy. It whisks away all your troubles without all the politically correct perversions that Hollywood injects into nearly everything it touches.
Frederick Douglass makes a cameo at the opening Christmas Party and he is not wearing Kente cloth or talking about Kwanzaa. An Indian who looks like he stepped right out of the logo for the Washington Redskins performs a stunning Indian dance and the crowd goes wild. The tomcat chases the brilliant red cardinals with carnivorous intent.
Even George Washington himself makes a grand entrance to combat the nasty Rat King and all his rats in redcoats. The royalists are, of course, defeated in a tremendous victory for freedom and republican democracy. And we weren’t even reminded that George Washington had slaves!
Battling alongside the father of our country are so many soldiers with muskets and — clutch your pearls, ladies — tri-corn hats! It looked like an invasion of Tea Party Patriots! Someone call Homeland Security!
So, yes, there were men in tights, but The Nutcracker is a world of codpieces and tutus.
It is, after all, a fantastical story about a girl becoming a woman and a boy becoming a man and the two of them running off together. At least until little Clara wakes from her Christmas Eve dream.