I asked my ten year old grandson if he would like to join me at the Benedum to watch The Pittsburgh Ballet perform The Nutcracker. As soon as I asked, the look on his face indicated that he was trying to think of a reason not to go. So I sweetened the deal: we’d stop at a restaurant that serves one of the best pizzas in Pittsburgh beforehand. He agreed.
On the night of the ballet, while sitting in front of the pizza oven at Proper Brick Oven and Tap Room, my plan was to talk about the fact that this ballet comes from a 200 year 0ld Russian story called the Nutcracker and the Mouse, plus a dozen other facts I learned about The Nutcracker over the last 14 days. But that didn’t happen. I set up this evening just to hang out with my grandson. We spent the time at the restaurant talking about pizza. A teaching moment came out of the evening but I wasn’t responsible for it.
We crossed Penn Avenue and entered the Benedum a little after 6 P.M. At 6:30 we made our way to our seats. The ballet was scheduled to begin at 7:00. A few minutes after we found our seats a lady sat down beside us. She told us a little about her 15 year old granddaughter who would be dancing in tonight’s performance. We learned about the amount of work young dancers have to do in order to be involved with this production and the number of activities they wouldn’t be able to participate in because their goals were taking them in a different direction. Ten minutes into the conversation she paused and asked if she was boring us, but I insisted she definitely was not. I went on to ask a for more information about her granddaughter and her ballet experience.
There was a time earlier in the evening when I thought I might be providing some information about the arts in Pittsburgh, but those teaching moments came from a stranger, a proud grandmother, a nice lady who happened to have a seat next to ours.
As the production began I remembered taking my own children to The Nutcracker years ago. I wish I knew as much about dancing in Pittsburgh then as I know now. A Kaufmann’s delivery vehicle was one of several Pittsburgh elements added to this production to give the feeling that the story takes place locally rather than far away. When the lady’s granddaughter made her stage appearance, she whispered her location to me. I shared the information with my grandson. I felt a bit connected. It was a great experience.
On the way home we talked about the evening. I asked if it was the best ballet he had ever seen.
“It’s the only ballet I’ve ever seen,” he replied.
I asked how he liked the pizza.
“Yea” he said, “that’s the best pizza I’ve ever had”.
By Tom Pollard