Georgia Ballet’s ‘Nutcracker’ features two nuts from the AJC

Performance benefits Disabled American Veterans Georgia

“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” she meant us — my husband Charles Gay and me. We have inexplicably joined the Georgia Ballet for the party scene for one of its upcoming performances of “The Nutcracker.”

Fairrie began her professional ballet training in London at age 9, and has been an acclaimed ballet instructor and choreographer for decades. A graduate of the Royal Ballet and former soloist with Germany’s Stuttgart Ballet, she has taught at American Ballet Theatre Studio Company, Cleveland Ballet, Atlanta Ballet, Houston Ballet, Central Pennsylvania Youth Ballet and Rochester City Ballet, her extensive bio reads.

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

“Do you have any dance experience?” she asked, looking alarmed at Charlie’s cowboy boots and my overall lack of grace.

“No, but we have drinking experience,” I answered, figuring that’s 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 rounding up local “celebrities” for the party scene. Finding none, she asked me, and darling wife that I am, I volunteered Charlie, the AJC’s Senior Editor for Business, as well.

“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 said.

Yes, there is dancing, skilled and brilliant minus our part, with some extraordinary performances you won’t want to miss. At 7:30 p.m. Friday and Saturday, American Ballet Theatre dancers Sarah Lane and Luis Ribagorda will perform the roles of the Sugarplum Fairy and Cavalier. Friday night VIP ticket holders will enjoy the ballet as well as a private reception for Lane and Ribagorda at the Butcher, the Baker on the Marietta Square afterward.

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

Thanks to the patient 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 say “mastered”) our 30-second number.

“Follow your pretend-husband and walk this way,” Fairrie instructed during a recent run-through. Married nearly 18 years, we exude the onstage chemistry of strangers, so great is our technique.

“Well done,” Fairrie said finally, in the charitable tone you might use to praise a 3-year-old’s macaroni art project.

On a serious note, our participation is indeed a charitable endeavor. Each year, the Georgia Ballet dedicates a portion of proceeds to worthy organizations, and this year’s recipient (from the 5:30 p.m. Sunday performance) is Disabled American Veterans Georgia. Both of my grandfathers, Bill White and Herbert Brett, were wartime veterans as was Charlie’s Uncle Bill Hampton. All three returned home and lived long, happy lives before going to heaven, but so many servicemen and women return home with grievous injuries, physical and otherwise.

We dedicate our “performance,” such as it is, to the memories of my grandfathers and Uncle Bill, and to all the heroes in uniform defending our freedoms at home and abroad today. Please join us. Just avert your eyes when we appear.