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Christa Lawler column: For 2-year-old, ballet is something to crow about

Christa Lawler

I plunked down the plastic and slid it through the ticket window. “I’ll take your two cheapest tickets,” I said to my friend who was manning the Minnesota Ballet’s ticket office.

She placed me closer to the Aerial Lift Bridge than the stage at Symphony Hall, thankfully. I needed a place where I could watch “The Nutcracker” with an unpredictable toddler, age 2 years, 5 months. Chacha, as she calls herself, is like most people in her peer group. She can sometimes sink into a feature-length film. She is also the inspiration for a new measure of rage in our house: “Oh, yeah? Have you ever been so mad you barfed pizza in your bath water?”

I needed seats where she could have room to pirouette, if so moved, without knocking the opera glasses of a more serious Patron of the Arts, accent inferred. I also needed to be far enough from the stage that she wouldn’t distract Clara if she suddenly shifted into her alter ego, Witta the Dog. Woof. Woof-woof. Pant pant.

Every day, Chacha wakes up looking a little older, a little taller. More than ever, I like chucking stuff in her path to see what sticks, who she is, what she’s into. So far she likes hockey, pizza restaurants, Old Navy (“Old Maybe”), Sia. She’s anti-Adele. Loathes baths (see also: The Great Pizza Barf Bathtub Incident of 2015). And the last time I took her to storytime at the Duluth Public Library, she was a weeping lump of saliva barrel rolling toward the exit.

She loves music and dance, though. I’d call her a big clapper. She has a tutu, it’s a sort of Power Tutu that she saves for days when she really needs that extra oomph, you know. Her baby sitter had twice taken her to the Grain Exchange, home of the professional ballet company, so I sometimes hear her having imaginary conversations with the dancers in the back seat of the car.

“Blah, blah, blah, right Suzie Baer?”

It seemed she might be ready for “The Nutcracker.”

I wasn’t like this as a kid. I took ballet for a few years, totally against my will. Like, fingernails embedded in the doorway, pink shoes flung willy nilly. The only thing I remember is that one time we were running late for class and when we got to the studio, my mom unzipped my Vikings sweatshirt to find me naked underneath. I’d forgotten to wear my leotard. The other moms snickered.

This still feels like my truest metaphor, applicable in so many areas of my life.

Anyway, Chacha, her grandmother and I hiked to the attic of Symphony Hall for Sunday’s matinee. She hollered “WHERE’S THE NUTCRACKER!” as the lights went down, but then settled in.

For much of it she was rapt. Then she was less so. Just before the end of the first act, she lept from the seat and yelled, inexplicably, “COCK-A-DOODLE-DOO!” then turned and beamed at us. There was talk of leaving during intermission, but she got up off the floor, pulled her dress down, scooched back into her seat and assured us she was in it to win it.

Soon after the Dew Drop Fairy performed, Chacha shifted about 180 degrees in her chair and said, flat out, “I DON’T WANT TO WATCH THIS ANYMORE.” So we cut our losses.

There were other similar-aged defectors, defecting at the same time. I heard a man say to, presumably, his granddaughters, both beautifully wrapped in red velvet:

“You. Were the epitome. Of naughty.”

“He must not have heard the ‘Cock-a-doodle-doo,’ ” I whispered to my mom.

Anyway, confession: I also took Chacha to “The Nutcracker” last year when she was 1 year, 5 months old and extra not ready. She kicked a kid in the head and he told her to “Stop being a Halfway Herbert.” Not sure what that means, but I could tell by his tone that it wasn’t a good thing. Even then she liked the dancing and the clapping, but the taste of the railing really trumped anything that was happening on stage.

So I think we’re getting closer.

Christa Lawler is the arts & entertainment reporter for the News Tribune. She occasionally writes a column about pop culture — a broad topic that can include furniture, fitness trackers and sci-fi. Follow her on Twitter @dntane.

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