Photo by Herbert Migdoll, via Time Out Chicago

Photo by Herbert Migdoll, via Time Out Chicago

Over the weekend, I celebrated my 23rd birthday. My weekend was packed with cake, family and friends, mimosas and brunch, a fancy dinner, a dozen red roses, thoughtful gifts and a trip to the Cleveland Museum of Art. But the most precious gift of all was a ticket to see The Nutcracker with my uncle.

I saw The Nutcracker once before, many winters ago, when it was performed by the renowned Cleveland Ballet. Unfortunately, the company moved to San Jose, splitting their time between the cities until 2000, when they remained permanently in San Jose. On Friday, The Nutcracker was performed by Chicago’s Joffrey Ballet, accompanied by the Cleveland Orchestra.

Going with to the ballet with my uncle was ideal. He is, in a way, my mentor of the arts. When I outgrew my childhood violin, he let me borrow his—for five years! We often go to the art museum together, he enjoys going to Severance Hall to hear the orchestra and he has taken me to see almost every ballet I’ve ever been to.

But an even greater reason I enjoyed going with my uncle was because the story of The Nutcracker, stripped down to the core, is about a girl and her magical uncle who brings her dreams to life. Clara receives many gifts for Christmas, but it is her uncle’s gift of the Nutcracker that is most beloved.

After the rest of the house is asleep, Clara sneaks back downstairs. With a boost from some magic glittering dust, she helps defeat the Mouse King and is transported to another world. The costumes and set throughout the first act were extravagant and detailed, fitting the period-piece that it is. But the snow queen and king, with light shimmering off their sparkling costumes as they danced in falling snow, took my breath away and almost moved me to tears.

The Cleveland Orchestra, of course, played the score beautifully. I have always loved Tchaikovsky’s Nutcracker Suite, and as much as I wanted to see the dancers, I could not help but close my eyes to take in only the music from time to time.

And as a nod to the great Walt Disney, I can never listen to the Nutcracker Suite without envisioning scenes from Fantasia. So while I’m waiting with fingers crossed to hear if Swan Lake will ever make a return to the Cleveland stage, I guess I will have to find time to pull out my dusty VHS and watch Fantasia once again.

Photo by Herbert Migdoll, via Time Out Chicago

Photo by Herbert Migdoll, via Time Out Chicago

Waltz of the Snowflakes, scene from The Nutcracker. Photo from the New York Times

Waltz of the Snowflakes, scene from The Nutcracker. Photo from the New York Times

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