Today marks the completion of week two of the Nutcracker marathon here in Pittsburgh. Though my injuries have limited my involvement to supporting my friends from the wings this year, I thought I might take this opportunity to clear up some answers to the most frequently asked questions we as young dancers encounter every December:
- Yes, we are in The Nutcracker. Performing in this show is essentially an annual rite of passage for all ballet dancers.
- No, we are not going to be the Sugar Plum Fairy. Try second snowflake from the left in the fourth row, or maybe flower number 17.
- No, The Nutcracker is not our favorite thing in the entire world. By show number 15 or 20, most of us resort to a flight response at the sound of any music from the ballet.
I don’t mean to soil your utopian visions of this Christmas tradition; I actually find it comical, the discrepancy between the general public’s experience of the ballet and ours.
The contrast has everything to do with perspective, a topic of which I’ve gained a much broader understanding through my time off the stage. One of the duties of the injured dancers during the winter season–and there are always injuries–is to help with “Sugar Plum Photos.” This fundraiser involves a student dancer dressing up into full stage makeup and costume as the Sugar Plum Fairy and standing in the lower lobby of the theater to take photos with children attending each performance. As this is my second December out of commission, I’ve had quite a bulk of experience playing the role. Generally, my attitude towards the photos is a bit bitter to start. Waking up on a weekend knowing I have to put on a thick coat of makeup and hairspray, stand in a freezing room in tights for three hours, and not perform in the ballet doesn’t leave the best taste in my mouth as I shut off my alarm in the morning. I’m often left feeling the sting of my ungratefulness from the days I was dancing three and four shows every week. See, perspective.
Probably the greatest lesson in perspective, though, doesn’t come until the photos begin. The second I see the first little girl bounce down the stairs and freeze with wide eyes and her jaw dropped when she sees me, my frustration and goosebumps and drowsiness melt away. There’s nothing like becoming a child’s hero for curing grumpiness. To me, this task can feel like just another day that I can’t perform. But for the dozens of kids that nervously inch towards me for a picture or hug me tight and then excitedly run back to their parents to tell them they met the actual Sugar Plum Fairy, it’s a real-life fairytale. All one needs to make it through the seemingly never ending season of Nutcracker shows is to view each night, each opening act, as the chance to bring magic to every kid in the audience. No matter how many dozens of times we perform the same choreography with the same costumes and the same music, it’s always someone’s first time watching. I think I may just look at The Nutcracker a little differently next time I dance it.
After a failed attempt at another baking project, I decided to bring out the bagels this week. These particular bagels were the result of six variations of the dough; you might say I looked at this recipe from six different perspectives. Anyway, they’re a bit of a break from my streak of sugary recipes, and they satisfied my recent desire to make bread again. They’re the perfect base for a sweet or savory treat: spread on honey or jam, or pack on lunch meat and cheese for a bagel sandwich. Whichever you choose, the hint of sage boosts the flavor and makes you convince yourself that you need to eat two or three because they’re definitely smaller than other bagels. Or maybe that’s just my perspective 😉
Jesus said, “Let the little children come to me, and do not hinder them, for the kingdom of heaven belongs to such as these.”
Sage Honey Wheat Bagels (makes 8 small bagels)
- 1 1/2 cups bread flour
- 1 1/2 cups whole wheat flour
- 1 1/2 tsp salt
- 1 cup warm water
- 2 1/4 tsp yeast (one packet)
- 4 TBSP honey (plus 2 tsp for boiling)
- 4 tsp ground sage
- Mix together two flours in a small bowl.
- In a larger bowl, combine together yeast, salt, and warm water. Stir in honey.
- Add the flour to the wet mixture in a few increments, mixing after each addition. Once all the flour is incorporated, turn dough out onto a counter top dusted with wheat flour.
- Knead dough until smooth and elastic, adding more wheat flour as needed to keep it from sticking initially. Sprinkle sage gradually into the dough as you knead until all of it is incorporated.
- Kneading will take about ten minutes. You may use the windowpane test to check (If a section of dough pulled from the side stretches enough to see light through it without breaking, it’s done).
- Place the dough in a lightly oiled bowl, and cover tightly with saran wrap. Leave in a warm place to rise overnight.
- Preheat oven to 425°F. Line a cookie sheet with parchment paper. Turn out dough from bowl onto a counter top. Separate the dough into 8 equal pieces.
- Form each piece into a bagel. There are two ways to do this: 1. Roll each dough into a ball, press your finger into the middle all the way through, and stretch the hole to form bagel. 2. Roll each piece into a thick rope, make a circle with the rope, and wrap the ends together to form a bagel. (I prefer the first method, but both will work).
- Place the bagels to rest on the cookie sheet, and cover with a wet paper towel.
- While the bagels rest, fill a pot 3/4 full with water and bring to a boil on the stove over medium-high heat. Stir in 2 tsp honey.
- After water is boiling, place bagels in water a couple at a time. Boil for 2 minutes on each side. Place them back on the cookie sheet when finished.
- Once all bagels are back on the sheet, bake for about 15 minutes, until tops are deep golden color. Check frequently around this time because bottoms will burn quickly (If heat source is on bottom of oven, bake them on an upper rack).
- Place on cooling rack, and allow to come to room temperature before slicing. Store in airtight containers once cool.