Maybe it’s because I’m the oldest daughter, or maybe it’s just part of being a photographer, but I feel the need to be the family historian. This need applies to any and all of my vast and varied families, like my Wonderbound family. This winter was the last time Wonderbound will participate directly in The Nutcracker. I felt a strange, self inflicted, pressure to document those last moments, because there is beauty and importance in our final things, even when our relationships end for good reasons.
For some of Wonderbound’s artists, they’ve danced The Nutcracker since they were 5 years old, since they were the tiny children bouncing out of Mother Ginger’s skirts. Their last “Waltz of the Sugar Plum Fairy” needs to be captured, with just much care and for much the same reason, as the dance students who perform this ballet for the first time. It’s like Nutcracker graduation photos. And I will miss Sarah Tallman’s flirtatious fairy and Private’s capricious Drosselmeyer, just as I still miss Marian Faustino and former company member Ben Delony’s sugary sweet, over-the-top with silly joy “Dance of the Mirlitons” because it was the smiliest dance ever.
But… after you take your graduation photos, you still have to graduate. Certainly, coming back to a ballet so tried and true and, dare I say, safe, feels weird after the skyrocket ride that was A Gothic Folktale. Perhaps even more so since both ballets have the heart of a fairytale. I adore Sara Lawrence-Lightfoot’s book, Exit: The Endings that Set Us Free because she so clearly articulates this weirdness. Sometimes we have to go backwards in order to go forwards. We have to try on those old clothes, those old identities, to really see that they no longer fit and we’re ready for something new. New roles and new relationships don’t grow overnight, and we don’t lose our old selves in an instant. And I have to say, these dancers are just so darn GOOD in these old roles, even if they’re ready for new ones.
If anything, the ground under Wonderbound feels more solid to me now, having gone back to The Nutcracker. Many artistic companies paint themselves into this strange corner, if you’ll forgive the terrible pun, because they stay with the tried and true money makers, giving over their time and energy to things that they know will fill seats. The trouble is, there are only so many resources available, so these companies can end up forgoing the new and noteworthy for a safe bet. As that safe show becomes stodgy, less press-worthy, and less exciting to audiences, it can end up strangling these companies in the long run. They build themselves an albatross of tickets sales they can’t remove from their necks.
No one has ever accused Garrett Ammon or Dawn Fay of a lack of innovation. I am excited to see what transcendent madness they concoct for next winter, and I’m excited to see Denver respond to something new. I’ll still miss the tutus and the pointe shoes, and although I know the Colorado Conservatory of Dance will take over The Nutcracker with great success, it just won’t be the same. But that’s the point. If you’ll forgive another terrible pun.