Curtain-call for Gramma and Grandpa
Cathe Faretta is producing the Nutcracker Ballet in Yerington. She is looking for someone to play the grandparents. Orllyene and I sign on for “the run of the show” (Saturday and Sunday).
Lesa Dusich, founder of the Reno Dance Company, is in charge. It’s up to her to mold Studio 14 students, adult volunteer dancers and her professional RDC members into a homogenous cast. She is doing all this while simultaneously producing the Nutcracker in Susanville, Winnemucca and Reno. It’s D-DAY and Lesa is Dwight D. Eisenhower.
Orllyene and I show up for rehearsal. A torrent of young ballerinas flows everywhere. Lesa is deeply involved with an insistent young dancer. She appears slightly disheveled. I walk up, tell her who we are and give her a hug. Several decades ago I was living this intense show business life, that Lesa is now living. “He’s quite a flirt, isn’t he?” she says to Orllyene and gives Orllyene a hug. It’s instantly clear that working with Lesa will be fun.
The rehearsal begins. The adults and RDC dancers learn a combination, and Studio 14 dancers join in. The first act is run through several tries. Lesa decides to let me set the brief dance Orllyene and I do in the party scene.
I study the way Lesa devises dances for the younger dancers. She asks for ballet skills well beyond their level and always gets it. Another trick she uses is to mix beginner Studio 14 dancer and RDC dancers together. This results in a big, sometimes rambunctious dance number, with action everywhere. Another ploy is having most cast members do at least 5 or 6 different parts. Lesa moves dancers around like chess pieces. Much time, energy and money are being spent on this show, and it’s shaping up fast. This is definitely no nickel and dime operation.
Lesa has definite rules too; “It’s alright to miss a rehearsal, but it’s your responsibility to find out what you missed-is that clear?” She threads affection and encouragement into all rehearsals, but if you mess up you’d better be ready, because you’re going to get it.
Rehearsals move to the stage. The Nutcracker is as much a celebration as it is a classical ballet. In the party scene, Orllyene and I infuse as much fun as possible into the happenings. Performing on stage is like recess at school, when the teacher is nowhere about.
It’s opening night backstage. We wait in darkness for the curtain to open. “7 Minutes,” someone whispers. The RDC dancers join hands in a circle for a ritual dance. Afterwards, “Time for the prayer. You can join in too Grandpa, if you’d like,” Kimberly whispers. I do.
The audience loves us; they definitely get it. They applaud in all the right places. The dancing is delightful, the costumes stunning, the music infectious. And Gramma and Grandpa dance on stage together for the first time. Yippie!
Ron Walker can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org