It’s not often that a child gets to live out his or her childhood fantasy while still a child, but that is essentially what is happening to my daughter Bryn. Bryn, who is 12, is a ballerina, with quite a bit of talent (if you are willing to take the word of her various teachers over the years). When she was just 3 years old, Bryn started taking dance classes and appeared as an angel and a mouse in her ballet school’s annual Nutcracker production (which in many ways was more like a recital since the only ones in attendance were family members). I’m sure you can envision the contribution of the 3-year-old mice and angels in such a production—they stole the show every time.
Since that first performance, Bryn started collecting nutcrackers. She now has a couple of dozen (or so) of various shapes and sizes. And over the years, she continued appearing in that same annual production, graduating from angel to bon bon to flower girl along the way. All of the girls longed some day to be given the role of Clara, the nightgowned girl around whom the entire production revolves. No doubt it has ever been thus.
When Bryn’s ballet school was sold last year, we were forced to find her a new place to take her lessons. We settled on the Academy of Ballet Pacifica, Orange County’s resident ballet company, because it was affiliated with some of the most famous dancers in the world (ever heard of Ethan Stiefel or Amanda McKerrow?) and because her teachers continued to insist that she had a natural talent that might best be cultivated at a more serious conservatory.
Of course, it’s one thing to stand out in a smallish, neighborhood ballet school and quite another to try to make your mark in an academy that draws students from all over Orange County and beyond. To our delight (and my bemusement), when we got to the Academy we discovered that Bryn really is as good as we had been told. Even in a room full of hard working ballerinas, Bryn seemed to stand out.
Thus we were not entirely surprised to learn recently that Bryn has been cast as Clara in Ballet Pacifica’s December production of the Nutcracker. This production will include several professional-level dancers and is certainly a notch above anything she has done before. Rather than appearing a couple of times before family and friends at the local community college theatre, this time Bryn will be dancing several nights throughout December at the Irvine Barkley Theatre.
Pretty heady stuff for a 12-year-old, don’t you think? (Pretty heady stuff for her parents as well, I suppose.) Alas, the consequence of this great honor is that now Bryn will be dancing more than ever, with weekend rehearsals to go along with the 10+ hours of weekly dance classes she is already taking. It’s too much, really—more than I would ever stand for were it not for her manifest passion and talent. At the same time, I am troubled by the implications as more and more of her time and attention is devoted to ballet and less to school and family and church activities. I worry about her becoming one dimensional, about her wearing out her tiny body, about her losing touch with friends and disconnecting with the variety that should enrich the life of any 12-year-old girl.
More than anything, I pray that she recognizes that she has been given a rare gift, and that that recognition inspires in her not the conceit of a diva but rather the humility of a girl who sees in her talent a direct connection with her Heavenly Father.