Scarlett and the Ballerina Girl

One of the more glorious rites of being a girl, at least in my family, is seeing The Nutcracker onstage for the first time. My mom would give us a real Nutcracker doll of our own to encourage enchantment, dress us in ruffles when the night finally arrived and whisper when it was almost time for the dance of the Sugar Plum Fairy. I saw Ballet Arizona at Gammage when I was 8, and the wonder of that night still tingles.

Last night, it was Scarlett’s turn. Ballet Arizona invited me to read the story of the Nutcracker to little girls before the show, and my mom and sister bought tickets and came to join the fun.

The day began, most appropriately, with Scarlett’s ballet class. She’s 2 and she loves to twirl and twist like Angelina Ballerina. My sister encourages the tutu dreams.

When the curtain went up that night, revealing Clara dancing beneath a giant Christmas tree, Scarlett said, “Look at this!” and the magic took hold.

“Ballerina!” she whispered during The Waltz of the Snowflakes, which was the most beautiful thing I’ve ever seen on a stage:  shimmering costumes, tulle for days, and toe shoes making paths in the snow. (Scarlett wanted to get down and twirl in the aisle.)

The Sugar Plum Fairy that night was Paola Hartley, a ballerina from Chile whose arms seemed to fill the whole stage. I loved watching the joy on her face while she danced. When Scarlett saw her, she whispered, “I love you, princess.”

And after, in the lobby, Scarlett twirled around in her tutu, playing ballerina, the happiest little girl in the world.

(And then she took OFF her tutu and ran through the lobby in her underwear, squealing.)

Ballet Arizona’s Nutcracker plays through Dec. 26 at Symphony Hall in Phoenix.