27. Larger Than Life

This past weekend I was fortunate enough to perform with Adagio Ballet’s Nutcracker as Mrs. Stahlbaum and, as no surprise to many of you, the Sugarplum Fairy.

This is at least the sixth year that I’ve performed the sugarplum variation in some capacity. It’s always been one of my favorite variations and the role itself has become one of my all-time favorite roles. To me, the Sugarplum Fairy is always a mix of sweetness and regality; she’s a queen, but at the same time, her kingdom of sweets is a place of pure happiness made out of all sorts of delights.

This weekend, I received one of the best compliments I think I have ever received. The man who played Drosselmeyer has been a professional dancer for well over thirty years and has seen countless productions of Nutcracker over the years. He watched my solo during the Saturday evening show. On Sunday, when I saw him, he said he was extremely impressed with my variation. Sugarplum always a technically challenging variation, but he said that most of the time when he sees someone dancing the variation, the technique is the only part that comes through. He said he has never seen anyone dance the character of Sugarplum more than I did, that it was pure sweetness sprinkled everywhere.

Dancing the character is always what I’ve strived to do, especially with that variation. I couldn’t have asked for a better compliment.

With due deference, the years I’ve spent spending on thinking about this character was really inspired by one of the first Sugarplums I got to watch in my young dancer life. She was the second sugarplum that I got to watch up close when I started performing in The Nutcracker, and she was so flirty and so spicy about her Sugarplum performance that I’ve always said she was my favorite. I don’t remember if she had perfect technique or not, but it didn’t matter. If you fully live your character, and not just dance it, that character really comes to life.

Before the show on Sunday, I put on my tutu and tiara and went to a tea where all the little girls and boys and their moms were looking forward to meeting some of the Nutcracker characters before the show. My favorite moment was when this one little girl and her mom came up to me and the little girl asked me if I knew the Tooth Fairy. She had just lost her second tooth at the tea but had accidentally swallowed it, so she didn’t know if the Tooth Fairy would be okay with that. I told her that I have never met the Tooth Fairy personally, but I have written her letters before (which I really did, when I was young), and that if she wrote the Tooth Fairy a letter explaining what happened and put that under her pillow that night, the Tooth Fairy should be just fine with it.

Now, I never would have been able to tell you that my love of ballet would ever lead me to a moment where some little girl would ask me, as the Sugarplum Fairy, if I was friends with the Tooth Fairy. That’s a kind of magic you can never forget.

I realized, while studying for my International Trade Law final earlier today, that that magical moment had happened because I had stepped into a role, and in that role I was larger than life. People become larger than life all the time, actually. Just because we’re not always the Sugarplum Fairy doesn’t mean that we aren’t other roles that are still larger than ourselves at our most basic human level.

For instance, one of the attorneys at the EPA whom I interned with this past semester was a manager of a team of attorneys. That didn’t mean she wasn’t herself. She could be herself, but in that role as manager, she was larger than that and encompassed all these additional traits that she as a person didn’t necessarily have. I’m not going to speak much on politics, but political roles are no different. Once you’ve stepped into the shoes of, say, the President of a country, you are no longer just yourself; you know owe that role to everyone who relies on that role. (That connection is what made me think of all this while studying for international trade today.)

Now, we all have our own roles, whether they are few or numerous, magical or mundane. But for the most part, I don’t think we actually think of those roles and the implications they can have. But just becoming even that much more aware of that role and what capacity that role has for playing a part in the world should never be undervalued. We can use those roles for evil or for good, but I like thinking that most of us would choose for good.

So go sprinkle some sweetness in the world and fully embody the character you admire the most.