Originally created 11/30/97

`Nutcracker's' appeal crosses gender lines



Ever been to the ballet?

"No I have not," says Danny Hentges firmly, and emphatically. He's a man.

Have you seen The Nutcracker?

Yeah, he saw it in New York two years ago.

"My girlfriend made me go," says the 27-year-old warehouse manager. "I'd rather have done something else, but it was nice. I expected something worse - but it wasn't too bad."

The Nutcracker is the easiest ballet to get men to see, says Meredith Head, administrative director of the Augusta Ballet. It's the only show all season that has equal numbers of men and women in the audience, she says.

Maybe it's the name, says Jim Bryant. "It's not a fairy tale, sissy, prissy-type name," says the 55-year-old retired Air Force officer, who lives in North Augusta.

Exactly.

"Swan Lake you think tutus, ballet and femininity," says Joe Nagy, a 28-year-old radio ad salesman. He first saw The Nutcracker at the National Theater in Washington when Chelsea Clinton danced in it. "The Nutcracker has a masculine appeal. The name is not as flowery."

Still, every Christmas for the past seven years Chris Bewley's girlfriend has told him that The Nutcracker's playing and it's her favorite ballet and she'd really like to go. Every year he has gotten out of it.

Ballet scares men, says John Winans, a civil engineer in Aiken. They don't know what's coming, so they don't want to go.

"If it doesn't make sense to a man, he's not gonna spend a lot of time trying to figure it out," says Tim Greer, a 36-year-old auditor in Augusta, who has seen The Nutcracker the past two years. "Everybody can hum something from The Nutcracker. They know the music and the basic story."

It's the only ballet Mike Kitchens know by name. But he still doesn't want to go.

"I've only seen it on TV when I'm flipping through the channels," says the 24-year-old Augusta salesman. "I keep right on going."

"If a man likes ballet he will go to see every ballet," says Edith D'Addario, director of the Joffrey Ballet School in New York. "Not just The Nutcracker."

If a man's not a ballet kind of guy but likes a woman who likes a ballet, tickets to The Nutcracker can make a great Christmas gift, says Robert Daniel.

"It's gonna be the girl's idea to go. ... Normally he'd say, `Let's skip Swan Lake and go to the Outback and get a steak,"' Mr. Nagy says.

But The Nutcracker is a great date.

"It's a good chick kinda thing," says Mr. Daniel, 23. "A real good chick thing - you could take them to make them think you're sensitive to the arts. It would make them think you were sensitive and well rounded and versatile."