A little bit about Robin

I was born in raised in Alabama and am proud of my Southern roots. I love to write and share life experiences, thoughts, and crafty ideas about interesting things past and present. Welcome to my neck of the woods. Sit down and swing a while.

Tuesday, December 10, 2013

Tis’ the Nutcracker Season! Cue the Drama.

This blog is dedicated to my mother, Joan Marcus May and my late grandmother Manya Robbins Marcus.  For all their hard work over the years championing for the Arts in Huntsville and serving as a volunteers and board members for the now Huntsville Ballet for 50 years combined. Thank you mom for pushing me out the door 4 and sometimes 5 times a week, even when I did not want to go.  When I finally got there, late or not, I always loved Ballet Class. 

It was a long, crazy day this week for me.  Things get that way working at an elementary school two weeks before Christmas.  I am not the type of School Secretary that sugar coats everything.  Two fifteen until right after carpool is what I call the witching hour.   Schedule changes, check-outs, lost and found, kids calling mom to ask,

“PLEEEASE can I ride home with Rachel instead of going to Bible Club?” 

The call at two minutes to the bell from the mom saying,

“ I'm stuck behind three dump trucks on 280 and one Mountain Brook Policeman. You must tell -insert-popular-name-here- to walk!”

I welcome all these shenanigans and much, much more with a wink and a smile, I promise times 100,  I do.  I love my job.  I do, until two weeks before Christmas.  By that time I have had too many Magic Muffins and chocolate covered pretzels, I am checking myself out or into a mental insitution. I was all bah humbug today then two mothers walked in about 2:15 to check their daughters out for Nutcracker practice.

“Nutcracker Practice!  Yes, I will call them right away!”  I said with enthusiasm!! 

With my newfound holiday cheer for the end of the year I proceeded tell the mother standing in front of me my Nutcracker life story.  I named every part I danced in my career with the Huntsville Ballet ( Huntsville Community Ballet Association) until my senior year of High School.   Let me see:  party child, solider two years in a row, trained animal, rat, maid of the mist (my first point part), sunbeam, sheppardess, snowflake, orchid, Arabian and finally Spanish. TADA, Encore, Encore…no flowers, please.

My Nutcracker life story begins when I was cast as a party child in 1983.  I was eight years old and they lined us up according to size. We only had two real boys so girls had to play boy roles. Mr. Lloyd B. Tygett, the Artistic Director, started tapping us on the heads and said in his theatrical, sing song voice, 

“Boy, Boy, Girl, Boy, Girl, Girl, Boy, Girl….”   

Please don’t say boy, please don’t say boy, I prayed as he glided down the line of little girls in their black leotards and white tights, hair in tight buns.  I was one of the tallest and near the end of the line. When he got to me he stood up right for a moment.  He had just head tapped my best friend Lauren Doyle who looked EXACTLY like me….she was tapped, girl. He stood there, one foot turned out, hand rubbing his forehead, his blue eyes piercing down at my brown ones. He took his time as his other hand slowly tapped down on my head and he pronounced,


NOOOOOOO!! NO.  I was not going to be a boy, never.  Not when Lauren was a girl, not when my other friend Hill and Kate got to wear a pretty dresses and Becky Lenning too!  What happened next goes down in Community Ballet History, well my CBA history at least.  All that danced there have one.  I picked up my little pink ballet slipper and stomped it hard on the floor in Robin May tantrum fashion.  They should have cast me as Clara right then and there for my performance. They really missed out. 

 ”GO. TO. THE. CORNERRR... until you get over it. “You are lucky to be in it at all!” He droned.

So the corner I went tears rolling down my flushed cheeks, hairs flying out of my haphazard bun, my hand pulling my leotard out of my bottom. I was looking at my mom out of the corner of my eye, as she glared me down with her “you will take the part he gave you or all be dammed” look.  I was about to walk back over and suck it up then, God willing I do not know what changed his mind.  He was in the middle of teaching the party child dance when he declared me, you guessed it...a party girl. I would like to think it was my convincing pout or my tousled bun, brown hair falling out in curls.  But I think he realized he had met his match in me and simply gave in.  We did after all share the same birthday, I found out way later.  This is the appropriate time to say something like, “Bless his heart.”

I was partnered with another party girl, Christina, in the Party Scene since the boy girl match-up was uneven because of my Robin May fit. It was not odd for the time, Mr. Tygett had said, for girls to dance with one another.  Ok y'all, he said that to make me feel better, bless his heart again!  I got my way that time and started a 10 year relationship with Lloyd Tygett that I am sure for him was at times rocky, but in the end filled with mutual love.
Community Ballet Party Children and Clown, 1983.  Clown Melissa Vandiver.  Party children from left bottom, Lauren Doyle, Robin May Seale and unkown.

Nutcracker every year has one of those unique memories for me.  Mr. Tygett and crew typically cast me in character roles, and that is not always what I wanted.  But every decision he made along with the Ballet Mistress Karen Gibb was a lesson learned for all of us who danced under them.  We all endured blood, sweat and tears on that stage every December. We underwent long practices locked up in the Von Braun Civic Center with our homework in one bag, toe shoes, mischief and adventure in the other. Warm up class took place on the stage, all of us in mixed match leg warmers and sweat pants, stage make-up painted on, the occasional paper snowflake drifting down from the rafters above as Mrs. Gibb kept time with her own snap.

The Snow Scene in the Nutcracker, listening to the music alone, can bring a grown man to tears. But if you have ever danced the Snow Scene, you will know what I am talking about when I say it stays with you forever.  Your experience on stage is the flight and fight of the snowflake, the push and pull of boney bodies in white, just barley colliding. Then, wait for it, the gut-wrenching climax where the music comes to a halt, pauses, and ripples back up like a roller coaster, satin clad feet whirling into the snow lit light.  Every time I hear that music I close my eyes, and in my head the seventeen-year-old version of myself starts to dance the chorus.  I remember the fleeting footwork, the beautiful choreography, fast and intense movement of our arms in unison.  I can even feel my toes bleeding under my toe shoes with every RelevĂ©' it is so ingrained in my core. And then the snow starts to fall and I am on stage looking out into the audience at the little girl on the edge of her seat, program in hand.  I use the red bow on top of her head to spot my next three Pirouettes.  Oh Holy Night, the glory!

Sunbeam, 13 or 14 years old?
Yes, those were the glory days.  The days when I was ushered out my parent’s front door to ballet lessons or pulled out of bed Saturday morning for company class. My only wish is that I had danced harder.  Danced harder for Mr. Tygett and Mrs. Gibb. Danced harder for myself.  I can never get those years back but it does not make me sad.  I feel privileged to have been trained as a dancer when and where I was, at such a special time when the Arts in Huntsville was finally in demand. The discipline and confidence, even though I fought it at times, shaped and molded all the girls and boys I danced with to be the strong confident people we are today.

So mothers and fathers of dancers, check you sons and daughters out of school, take them to rehearsal and wait in the wings.  Sit in the empty seats of the concert hall and gossip, just not during the Pas de Duex please.  Watch them kill the Mouse King over and over and over until his death is perfect.  Wrap their little toes when they bleed and dry their tears when it almost seems like too much.  One day it will not be too much, it will be part of who they are.  And inside each one of their young hearts is a glow that will shine every time the curtain opens in the second weekend of December, until they are 80+ years old.

Sheppardess, 15 years old
Spanish, 17 years old

Arabian, 16 years old