Handsome came home a couple of days ago, more excited than I’d seen him in months. “You won’t believe what I just saw, Shirelle! Remember I told you I was going to a ballet?”
Now I have to admit, while I’m often jealous of Handsome’s ability to go to theaters, concerts, sport events, and such, ballet has never raised my envy. Someone daintily dancing on their toes doesn’t move me the way, oh say, a bunch of folks excitedly chasing and kicking or throwing a ball does! Now that’s exciting!
I certainly see why it’s worth respect though. I can barely hold the form of a “Sit!” and here are these humans – the clumsiest of all species – moving in perfect idealized form, and often performing with such strength anyone would be in awe (YOU try to stand perfectly still with one leg sticking straight out from your hip for a whole minute! And then try it on your toes!!). But to watch this for two or three hours? Sorry but this pup will drop straight to sleep, dreaming of far more exciting squirrels.
The ballet he went to is, I guess, the most popular of all, especially at this time of year. It’s called The Nutcracker, and tells a weird story where a girl receives a gift from an eerie man, of a toy soldier who, if you put a walnut in his mouth, will crush it so you can eat the insides. Then she starts dreaming, with visions of fairies and dancers from foreign lands, and – well here’s where it gets interesting to me for a while anyway – Giant Rats! Handsome says it’s all about her first crush and dreams of romance and… hey I get that kind of stuff in your letters all the time, Pack Members, and don’t have to sit quietly still watching it all play out!
So although I do love the music to it (you all know this pup is a sucker for a good tune, and Pyotr Tchaikovsky created endless ones!), I saw no reason for him to be so excited about this show.
“Well,” he explained, “the company that put this on used recorded music, not a live orchestra.”
Oh, well there goes one more chance for excitement. I do enjoy watching instruments get played, especially the loud fun ones like trumpets!
“And many of the dancers were just amazing. I can’t imagine how much work they’ve put in, for their whole lives, to do this so beautifully!”
He looked at me with such an excited smile I felt a little bad for yawning.
“It was all going fine, until this one song – I don’t even know what it’s called – where all these girls, I’m guessing around age 14 or so, were dancing very nicely.”
My eyelids were drooping faster than I could control.
“And then the music cut out!”
“It was complete silence. Except for the footsteps of these girls – who kept dancing. In perfect time, following each other.”
Well at last this was getting interesting.
“Of course, no one can keep their timing exact, but they kept going, always with these lovely smiles, moving around the stage, watching whoever was in front at any time, since anyone up there couldn’t see the others behind her, and adjusting to that person or persons’ pace.”
Okay, so I’ll admit, that sounds pretty difficult. I have trouble concentrating on anything for more than a few seconds, unless there’s potential eating involved.
“All of us in the audience were on the edges of our seats. Could they make it through? Would one of them break character and laugh or cry or give up? Would the sound engineer make the terrible mistake of putting the music back on, with no chance of timing it exactly to the dancers’ steps? Would some adult walk onto the stage and end it all?”
So okay, what happened?
“And when it finished, and they’d done it perfectly, everyone in the audience just ROARED in applause, and a bunch of us leapt to our feet. It was amazing! Think of it, puppy! The Nutcracker is danced all over the world, all the time. But we saw something astounding, something none of us will likely ever see again! And every one of those girls will never be the same. They did something grand, that no one will ever take away from them. They’re each like the kid who kicks the winning goal or shoots the winning basket. Or you, Shirelle. They amazed me the way you do every day!”
He got onto the phone and must have yammered about this to different people for hours. While I lay on the floor and thought more about it. Was it really that big a deal?
After all, we dogs dance without music every day. If there aren’t any squirrels or birds to chase, especially when we’re young, we’ll just go nuts, running around, jumping, just to feel good and get our energy out.
And as far as that cool thing of them following the changing one in front? I see birds do that all the time, especially when migrating. And they’re doing it up in the air!
But then I thought a bit more. And had to admit – no dog has ever danced in perfect extended time to music. And no bird has ever had to keep a perfect smile on its face while following alternating leaders.
It’s true. There are things that come naturally to dogs, to birds, and to humans. And they’re not the same things.
What those girls did was amazing. And now I wish I’d been able to see them in their glory (though it might have been more fun to watch backstage to see how they reacted after it was done!).
And this led me to think about a quality you humans have, which you are better at than anyone else: making plans, and following your dreams.
You see, it’s easy to pursue goals when everything is directing you how to go (say, if you want to do well in a class, just pay attention and study hard!). But what about when you aren’t getting any direction? Like if you pick up a paintbrush and look at a blank canvas and wonder what to paint. Or you see someone you’d like to get to know, but have no idea how to meet them. Or you want to be successful in a career, but can’t think of anything you’d like to do.
That’s dancing without music. And just as those girls all worked as one unit to make their beautiful magic, the best way to meet your dreams is to get all of yourself working together. So, to meet that person, can you manage to look your best, convince yourself you’re confident about yourself, and be as friendly and fun as possible – all at the same time? Now that’s a ballet corps, all in you!
Now 2022 is coming to an end. For each of us, some things have gone well and some horribly. I have some big wishes for 2023, like for some wars to end and for this stupid virus to go away. But I can’t make them happen, and neither can you.
What I can do is to do my best to be my best, and pursue what I want. And you can do the same.
And my biggest wish, for you, is not just that you pursue wonderful dreams, but that, at some point, the music gets cut off. And you find yourself led only by your best instincts, trusting yourself, making creative choices.
Because then, whether or not the dream comes true, you will have been as alive as you can ever be. And just like those dancers, you will always know you had that moment of glory.
So maybe your painting isn’t a Rembrandt? So that person you pursued already had a date to the dance? So that career didn’t work out and you need to try something else?
Still, you were your best, and did your best… with no Tchaikovsky to guide you.
In other words, my wish for you for 2023 is that you get to be just as awesome and astounding to yourself as you are to me, every day.
HAPPY NEW YEAR!!!