Let’s face it. Once you have done this for a few years, you are going to learn a few things about all kinds of topics. One role that we never talk about for a dance parent is number one supporter. We are at every show, every rehearsal, every watch week, every “showing!” Our phone cameras ready to record for posterity or perhaps our unsuspecting office mates. Why not? We are proud of our children and we should be. They have worked hard. Once our dancers get on that stage, a sense of pride most certainly wells up. The dancers are fueled by their audience, but it is much harder to perform for a deadpan audience that is silent.
Never fear, because that is where dance families can help. We know dance and the specific dance so we can serve as an audience “plant,” get the crowd going, and inspire those dancers. The problem is if you are new to dance yourself, you may not know what is appropriate and when it is appropriate to clap. This particular entry will deal specifically with Nutcracker. I will create other blogs later about styles of dance.
Nutcracker is a ballet, and ballet has a formal connotation. Most of your audience is unfamiliar with dance may not realize that there are times you may clap during the dance that is not at the end of the piece. If only one Mom is clapping loudly, then generally, the audience doesn’t follow, but if several parents join, now we have a system going.
Let’s break down Nutcracker to help you be a more successful audience plant and get your dancer happy with the crowd response.
In ballet there is no whooping or hollering or screaming names. Just no.
Of course, as with any production, a good clap at the end of a song is in order and appreciated by the dancers. Here are appropriate and expected times to clap during Nutcracker:
- The first time we meet Snow Queen, Sugar Plum and Dew Drop- when they enter stage, you will note it will be in a grand entrance fashion, that is because we are supposed to clap for them
- Clap along with the bon bons / Mother Ginger song when the dancers cue you
- When a dancer performs a hard move, such as
- Fouette turns – where a dancer turns several times in a row and kicks their leg straight out between
- Partnering lifts
- Slow long sustained movements- either with or without a partner
- Dancer who completes several leaps in succession particularly with no preparation
- Low to the ground kicks (Slavic dance style) or coffee grinders
- Multiple turns in a row, such as when the Sugar Plum turns across the stage
Quite frankly, if the move is an extremely hard move in ballet, like a series of leaps, you may cheer as well! That is hard and the dancer is off-stage needing oxygen. A good performer makes the impossible appear mundane.
I think my son’s best show as the Russian Prince was in front of a group of kindergartners at an Elementary school community performance. It is my favorite memory and I am so happy I happened to be holding my phone recording video. He entered (keep in mind he is the only older male in his studio) from off stage with a beautiful leap. The gasp from the children was audible. Then started the chatter among the kids who were all leaning forwards. Coffee grinders received some little pitch screams and points. His series of leaps for that song all received loud and animated gasping, cheering, and clapping. That is what fuels these dancers. It really does help them leap higher, turn sharper, and experience the joy of performing. That is what I mean when I say seeing the wonder of this production through the eyes of a child.
As my lovely sister, my first “dance daughter” pointed out, who is now a ballet teacher in Chicago, this is the Nutcracker. There are intentionally choreographed funny parts too! You can feel free to laugh at those. Often ballet will incorporate humor into the story, believe it or not. So if you have a Grandma that’s hitting the flask a little too much, laugh! When Fritz is naughty, that’s funny. The whole rat at the party scene and at our Nutcracker Dad stuffs that dead rat right under a couch cushion just before guests arrive, that’s hilarious. If Godfather Drosselmeyer is a flirt with ladies, encourage him. When that one bon bon is taking extra bows and not going back under Mother Ginger’s skirt, that is funny, you may absolutely laugh. Your directors and choreographers want you to have a fun and joyous two hours so be sure to make them happy too.
Please join me in encouraging the audience to show appreciation for these remarkable feats. It’s amazing what a difference it can make in how our dancers feel about their performance.