Backstage Pass to A Christmas Carol Ballet

Genny Silva

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Pine Crest’s annual ballet production this year is an adaptation of Dickens’ A Christmas Carol, the classic ballet telling the story of an old grouch, Scrooge, who is visited by the ghosts of Christmas past, present, and future to convince him to change his nasty ways. Nearly everyone has heard of this classic story, and on opening night, the audience will see the tale seamlessly (or so the dancers hope) depicted onstage.

What no one in the audience can see, however, is the hard work that went into creating the ballet—the long Saturdays spent at school rehearsing, the drama backstage—in short, those shared experiences that make all of the performers on stage feel almost like family.  Although the actual performances of the ballet are the culmination of everything the dancers and teachers have been working for, those few hours in mid-November will seem merely seconds to those who have been in the ballet since the beginning of September.

The excitement in the dance studio is palpable the day the cast list goes up; the word spreads around school from dancer to dancer, almost as though it’s being passed through an underground network. “I feel nervous and excited,” reflects junior Amy Morrison regarding the announcement of the cast. Throughout the first day, there seems to always be a small mob surrounding the innocent piece of paper taped up on the wall. This paper will decide each person’s fate for the next few months.

The ballet rehearsal schedule does tend to run one’s life during those few months with nine-to-five rehearsals every Saturday. And believe me, unless there is a good excuse (“good excuse” meaning their house has just burned down or a leg was recently amputated) dancers do not want to have to tell the directors that they will be missing a rehearsal. However, the rehearsals, far from being grueling and tiresome, are made fun by the people there. Warm up classes are set to music ranging from 90’s boy bands, the likes of N’Sync and the Backstreet Boys, classic Disney tunes, to LMFAO’s Party Rock Anthem. In the week leading up to the ballet, the cast stays late for the performance videotaping and enjoys delicious dinner buffets. “Italian night is my favorite,” Junior Steph Thompson comments on the food. The anticipation backstage begins to rise in preparation for the real performances that will take place in a few days. Everyone knows that there is no audience waiting outside except for a video camera, but that does not kill the small butterflies that flutter up in the pit of each dancer’s stomach the second before going onstage to dance.  Opening night is so close they can practically smell it.

When opening night has arrives, things are emotional. Backstage, the cast will have gone through approximately twenty boxes of Kleenex during the traditional senior speeches – this will be their last ballet; the underclassmen will crowd around them, lounging in sweatpants while they lay on yoga mats listening to seniors talk about the time they’ve spent dancing at Pine Crest. It will slowly dawn on everyone that these people that they have grown to love will soon be off across the country, attending college far away from this little school.

“It is a very important night; it’s the culmination of everything we’ve done in ballet….I don’t know. What am I saying?” Sophomore William Keiser says during rehearsal. As deep as that sounds, soon someone cracks a joke and the excitement returns; before the show begins the just-as-traditional backstage frenzy begins. Makeup is rubbed onto faces, someone gets stabbed in the eye with their false eyelashes, headpieces, costumes, and pointe shoes are pulled on. The guys sit around looking bored – they’ve been ready for an hour. Suddenly, Mrs. C will yell: “THE CALL IS FIVE MINUTES!” The ballet is about to begin.