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As Long as We Remember...

December 13, 2010

Doing the ‘Nutcracker’ Two-Step…

Michael Kurtianyk

Two weeks ago, I was asked by one of the dance instructors if I’d be willing to help in Middletown’s production of “The Nutcracker.”


“Sure, why not?” I said. “It’s not like I won an election or anything.” (I’m over it. Really. I am.)


“What is it that you want me to do?”


“Normally, we’d ask the adults to just stand up on stage and look pretty, but in your case, we don’t have enough makeup for that.”


I should say, in this point, that I have achieved a certain…not notoriety, but more like a familiarity. Did you think I meant that I was notorious because they knew me from running for office? Perish the thought. I told you earlier, I’m over it. Really. It’s because we’ve been sending our girls to the Dee Buchanan Studio of Dance for a number of years. Alexis and Tara look forward to the classes and the performances.


So, it is with familiarity that I responded by saying: “If I wanted this kind of talk, I would have stayed home.”


I did ask my wife if she wanted to be my dance partner, but the last thing she wants to do is be up on stage. I didn’t tell her what I said earlier to the dance instructor.


We had a rehearsal the next night. I met my dance partner for the first time that evening. A very nice person. I couldn’t help but think that she drew the short straw. I felt bad.


When we met for the first time, she had that look in her eyes like she had just lost an election. Not like a deer in headlights; more like a sullen, mortified, resigned look. Someone who looked like she would never get over the bitter, stinging, savage defeat of losing an election. At least that’s what I saw.


We learned the steps and practiced. My partner was great. She’d been doing this for about five years now with this group, and she quickly shook off the rust and had all of the steps down pretty quickly.


Me? I was reminded of that great line by author Jay McInerney, of “Bright Lights, Big City” fame: “I was more like the Tin Man doing The Frug.”


I couldn’t get my brain to tell my feet what my eyes were seeing the instructor do. It was horrible, but I kept my back straight and continued smiling. It’s cross, step, step, skip, turn, step, step. It’s easy. Really. Wait. Turn, and then skip? What? How does it go again?


Having missed the next rehearsal, I was looking forward to the final rehearsal before the show. Do you remember the snow event we had on Friday? Well, that was when the final, full dress rehearsal was to have occurred. Frederick County Public Schools cancelled all activities after school and in the evening, and deservedly so. This means that we started early the next morning, and had our one and only dress rehearsal two hours before the first show.


Everything turned out just fine. I had the dance steps down cold, and my dance partner and I had fun. One of the things I learned is that it’s not necessarily the dance steps that make up the hardest part of being on stage. It’s actually staying in character when you’re not dancing. The adults couldn’t just stand around – we had to interact with each other and the children on stage. We ended up trying to make each other laugh by telling jokes.


One of my friends came up to me at intermission and said, “You know, I was watching you up there on stage, and I thought: ‘Being up on stage is good practice for being a politician. You can pretend you’re talking, and no one hears you.’ ”


I didn’t argue his point.


As I look back, I am happy that I can cross this off my bucket list. The day this story is published will be my 45th birthday. Not bad, really.


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