Day 15: Finding Christmas Joy in ‘The Nutcracker’

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For about a decade now, seeing “George Balanchine’s The Nutcracker” at New York City Ballet has been the enchanting kickoff of the Christmas season for my teenage daughter and me. She took ballet when she was little. I took dance classes too in younger years. But that’s not the draw. It’s the joy, the storybook wonder of the holiday classic that’s made it a Christmastime mainstay for us. Backstage, we have met Mother Ginger and peeked underneath her huge hooped skirt. We have been photographed with principal dancers. Three days from now, we will once again savor our sumptuous view from orchestra seats in a jewel box of a theater at Lincoln Center, seats so close to the stage that we will tilt our heads back to watch the magical Christmas tree grow to an enormous height. Even last year, amid a resurgence of the coronavirus, our holiday spirit wasn’t dampened when we saw dancers 12 years and older replace the pint-size angels, mice and revelers because of safety protocols and their eligibility for Covid vaccines. The tiny dancers are back this year. They do indeed add sparkle and sweetness. But the sweetest moment for us came in 2019 when “The Nutcracker” broke a barrier with the first Black dancer to play Marie, the brave young heroine. It was a milestone for the production, which dates to 1954. And Marie looked like us!

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