The Nutcracker: Ballet and matrimony |

The Nutcracker: Ballet and matrimony

Ron Walker

It’s 2 p.m. Orllyene and I are seated in the second row center (courtesy of Martha Zimet). The curtain parts and Act One of “The Nutcracker” begins. Since my early recital days, as a 16-year-old kid in Hollywood, dance has been my connection with life. Starting with ballroom dancing, I moved on to ballet, recitals, shows at the Veterans Home, and a county fair. In New York, jazz dance took over and made me into a full-fledged dancer, but ballet was my first love.

Lisa Dusich is the driving force of The Reno Dance Company. She is in full charge of today’s performance. She is a monumentally gifted dancer and brings to her choreography a diversity that guarantees a solid performance. She has the audacity to mix beginning students with young professionals and because she knows the exact way to do that (talent), every moment reaches a pinnacle of excitement.

Sitting here, watching this show evolve, section by section into a full measure of storytelling and dancing delight, sends the dancer part of me into orbit. A snow princess is partnered by a gifted young man who presents her to the audience with the tender care of a young Nureyev. A formation of male dancers, in perfect unison, dance across the stage with the same precision as the Blue Angels in flight. This performance speaks volumes of their discipline, dedication and devotion. Ballet isn’t for teddy bears. It is work, finessed into looking easy.

Donald McCandless is cast as the magician. He is the thread that holds all the elements in the first act together. At times he goes far beyond a magician’s trickery. Sometimes he even wheels himself around the stage on a unicycle. When Donald is on stage, no one sleeps.

Donald’s lady friend, Sherri is in the cast and part of the party scene. She and Donald have been seeing each other for several years, but due to the complications of previous marital entanglements, they have been careful to keep their lives separate. Theirs is a good example of single “parent-hooding.”

During today’s performance, at the very moment when the stage is flooded with party guests, Donald breaks character. He kneels down in front of Sherri, and says. “Will you marry me?” Sherri is taken by surprise, her cheeks flush and smilingly answers “yes,” and the storyline moves forward. At that precise moment, Orllyene leans over and asks me “Did you see that? Donald just asked Sherri to marry him.” I blanch. I was studying my program and missed the most important moment in the whole show.

Dancers are always hungry. It’s a given. After the show, to cap off the evening, Orllyene and I attend the cast party at The Gallery Bakery. Mary, the owner, loves “racy-showfolk,” and serves divinely sauced meatballs, mushroom caps filled with ambrosia and of course, pizza.

As we are leaving, I congratulate one of the young male dancers on his dancing prowess. “It is all just so much fun,” he says: And he is so right.

Ron Walker can be reached at