“That was transforming.” Elihu’s exact words immediately after the applause died down. We both sat in our seats, rather dazed and unmoving as the crowd around us rose, chattered and made ready to leave. We had just seen the Saratoga City Ballet’s production of The Nutcracker from the most intimate seating possible. Elevated enough, close enough. And for Elihu’s eyes, a situation like this doesn’t come often. He sat riveted throughout the whole performance – and why not? top-notch dancing, gorgeous costumes and all the production details of the real deal. Hell, this really was the real deal. I had even been moved to tears while watching the perfect and joy-infused performance of the only young boy in the company. He wasn’t even my child, yet I wept like a proud mother. An inspiring production all the way ’round.
Although I’ve been trying to get my son to see The Nutcracker for years now (we live in a town in which the New York City Ballet spends part of its summer) it was only just tonite that we finally went. His delight and amazement – and new desire to take dance lessons (?!) seemed to confirm that our timing was right. At intermission the floor was full of small girls playing at pirouettes and pretending to dance en pointe, and my son was flustered and frustrated. He was burning to dance around, to practice his own freshly inspired moves, but he simply couldn’t be the only boy. Yeah, he’s probably right. Nine is probably a bit past that window. But to be honest, I’m not sure there would ever have been a window for a boy to naturally join a cluster of pink-bowed girls in their dance-play. He sees how challenging actual dancing is, and he gets what a star that one boy in the company is, but it’s still not enough. I tell him he’d kinda be a rock star if he went down and joined the girls, but he angrily protests. So instead he goes to a corner and twirls a time or two, and makes a great leap, legs out and straight… oh the hope and promise of a young one. My mother’s heart smiles at his pure joy and possibility, yet I’m slightly misty too; uncensored, childlike moments like this happen much less often these days, and it seems we may be nearing the end of them altogether. Just in case, I savor it all with extra attention.
I’m not naive enough to expect this interest in ballet to last, as I am not expecting this week’s request to play the transverse flute will last (bass and tuba are still holding in strong though), but I see him feeling the inspiration rise within, and I’m witnessing his vision of possibility grow, and that in of itself is enough for now. I also know we’ll have to pick something soon and stick with it – but I’m not worried. He is musical – he’s got a great ear – has better time than me, and he’s playing violin at school now. I’ll let him be. I’ll also listen quietly from the front seat, a smile on my face, as Elihu tells me all the way home about the moves he noticed, the questions he has about them, and how much he wants to start ballet lessons next week.
Elihu’s world has expanded once again. A ballet boy, maybe not, but a better boy? Definitely.