Georgia Ballet's "Nutcracker" features two nuts from the AJC

"Can we run through the dance with the party guests again?" asked Fiona Fairrie, Artistic and School Director of the Georgia Ballet. "They don't know what they're doing."

By "they" Fairrie accurately meant us - my husband Charles Gay and me. We have inexplicably joined the Georgia Ballet for the Party Scene during its upcoming performance of "The Nutcracker." (Dec 5-7 at Jennie T. Anderson Theatre at the Cobb Civic Center; get tickets here).

Credit: Jennifer Brett

Credit: Jennifer Brett

Fairrie began her professional ballet training in London at the age of 9, and since coming to America in 1975, has been an acclaimed ballet instructor and choreographer. A graduate of the Royal Ballet and former soloist with Germany’s Stuttgart Ballet, she has taught at American Ballet Theater Studio Company, Cleveland Ballet, Atlanta Ballet, Houston Ballet, Central Pennsylvania Youth Ballet and Rochester City Ballet.

She looked understandably askance when we came stumbling in to our first rehearsal.

"Do you have any dance experience?" she asked, looking alarmed at the cowboy boots Charlie was wearing and at my overall lack of grace.

"No, but we have drinking experience," I answered, figuring that's all the training you need to be a party guest.

Fairrie's eyes widened, like she wondered if we might be carrying a live hand grenade. Surely that could be no more disastrous than setting these two dopes loose on her stage.

My friend Condace Pressley from WSB radio is to blame here. She serves on the Georgia Ballet's board and was tasked with finding local "celebrities" to participate in the Party Scene. Finding none apparently, she asked me and darling wife that I am, I volunteered Charlie, the AJC's Senior Editor for Business, as well.

Credit: Jennifer Brett

Credit: Jennifer Brett

"I was told there would be no dancing," Charlie growled halfway through our first rehearsal.

"There's not much dancing," I said.

"There's dancing," he observed.

Credit: Jennifer Brett

Credit: Jennifer Brett

Yes, there is dancing, all of it brilliant with a number of extraordinary performances you won't want to miss.

At the 7:30 p.m. performances Friday and Saturday, Amerian Ballet Theatre dancers Sarah Lane and Luis Ribagorda will perform the roles of the Sugarplum Fairy and Cavalier. Other performance times include 1:30 p.m. Saturday and Sunday and 5:30 p.m. Sunday.

Friday night VIP ticket holders will enjoy the ballet as well as a private reception featuring Lane and Ribagorda at The Butcher The Baker on the Marietta Square following the performance.

That last performance, at 5:30 p.m. Sunday Dec. 7, is when we will make our mercifully brief appearance.

Thanks to the patience and kindness of Georgia Ballet company artist Elizabeth Chapman, who trained with American Ballet Theatre, Joffrey Ballet School, The Rock School of Pennsylvania Ballet, and Nashville Ballet before evidently losing a bet and getting saddled with us, we have more or less learned (I wouldn't dare say "mastered") our 30-second number.

This is what our little dance looks like when performed by people who actually know what they're doing:

When we dance it looks .. different.

"Follow your pretend-husband and walk this way," Fairrie instructed. Married nearly 18 years, we exude the on-stage chemistry of strangers, so great is our technique.

"Well done," Fairrie finally said after our last rehearsal, in the charitable tone you might use to praise a 3-year-old's macaroni art project.

Actually Charlie did pretty well. Here's a video of Elizabeth showing him the moves. Not bad for a first try!

And here's me dancing:

Credit: Jennifer Brett

Credit: Jennifer Brett

On a serious note, our participation is indeed a charitable endeavor. Each year the Georgia Ballet partners with a community organization and this year's is Disabled American Veterans Georgia. Both of my grandfathers, Bill White and Herbert Brett, were veterans as was Charlie's Uncle Bill Hampton, a veteran of World War II, Vietnam and Korea. All three returned home and lived long, happy lives before going to heaven, but of course so many servicemen and women return home with grievous injuries, physical and otherwise.

Credit: Jennifer Brett

Credit: Jennifer Brett

Our nation owes a great debt to the men and women in uniform who protect our freedoms home and abroad. While we approach our ballet "debut" with some justifiable temerity, we are proud to dedicate our "performance," such as it is, to the memories of my grandfathers and Uncle Bill, and with our appreciation and admiration for the service personnel defending our flag today.

Please join us. Just avert your eyes at right moment. For tickets and information please see this link.