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Using The Force to spread the love of ballet

Esther J. Cepeda on

CHICAGO -- On Friday, I will be subjected to several hours of inscrutable "pew-pew"-ing when I flock, reluctantly, with my husband, my son and a substantial portion of America to the new "Star Wars" movie, "The Last Jedi."

Enduring another installment of a movie franchise that seems to have no end in sight (especially now that it has mastered the art of re-creating deceased actors in beloved roles) has somehow become a new Christmastime tradition in America. And it has gone far beyond getting on my nerves.

The holidays are busy enough as it is. Having to shoehorn in an annual two-and-a-half-hour space opera leaves even less precious time for other holiday traditions.

Yes, I recognize I'm coming across as some sort of sociopath for not loving "Star Wars" as much as the next light-saber rattling guy or cinnamon-roll-hair-wearing gal. What can I say? My aunt took all the kids to see "The Empire Strikes Back" when I was but a wee 6-year-old and I was bored nearly to tears. I fell asleep.

However, I've negotiated a 2017 Christmastime accord: I swore to show up to the theater with love and joy in my heart for "Star Wars: The Last Jedi" and to not fall asleep. In exchange, I get something similar from my husband and son the next day.

I'm dragging them to a big-screen presentation of the Bolshoi Ballet's "The Nutcracker." (In movie theaters across the country on Dec. 17 only.) Don't miss it -- no one does "The Nutcracker" like the Russians. There are no cute kids cast for the family party scenes at the beginning like in American productions -- professionals play all the roles to ensure the top level of perfection at each performance.

They'll enjoy "The Nutcracker" as much as I will enjoy "The Last Jedi" -- and this isn't sarcasm or mere wishful thinking.

The truth is that you'd have to be practically dead not to feel a full load of adrenaline drop into your bloodstream once the endless movie trailers and sundry in-house ads for gourmet nachos finally fade to black and a full orchestral score comes up under the iconic opening crawl, "A long time ago in a galaxy far, far away ... "

But there is just as much ritual, pomp and majesty in the choreography and costuming of the sci-fi blockbuster as there is in the classic ballet.

Plus, both offer sinister, magical guys in long, billowing black capes.

Of course, I'm referring to Herr Drosselmeyer, the shadowy godfather figure who brings young Clara the titular nutcracker in the famous ballet, and "The Last Jedi's" Kylo Ren, the film's stand-in for Darth Vader.

I really like Darth Vader -- not as much I liked the totally underrated Darth Maul, who was too short-lived for the taste of this non-true "Star Wars" fan. But still, Vader's the undisputed top dog of the franchise. He's the moneymaker.

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I'm not alone in thinking this. For as many people who love the "Star Wars" lore for the plucky upstarts, organized under the banner of "The Resistance," who stage never-ending rebellions against the "Empire," far more people dress up as Darth Vader for Halloween.

Sure, crowds like to cheer on The Resistance because it represents the underdog fighting for justice. For instance, the main government of the universe, the "New Republic," considers this Resistance a bunch of "dead-enders with an unfortunate fixation on the past," according to the StarWars.com database.

But just as many revel in the dark side.

The dark side is seductive, passionate and just plain fun.

And this is why "Star Wars" has been such an enduring, beloved hit -- it plays to the human experience of embodying both darkness and light.

It's no coincidence that the big to-do going into the premier of "The Last Jedi" is that Luke Skywalker, who is a Jedi, and the putative good guy, appears on both the "light side" and "dark side" movie posters promoting the upcoming movie. It seems like shadows are always hanging over "the force."

In the end, it's all good, because when it comes to our entertainment, we can have it both ways -- we can be slightly frightened of Herr Drosselmeyer and beguiled by his magic just as we can revile, but savor, the raw power of the Sith.

And if you're doing your family a favor this holiday season by indulging them in one of your less-than-favorite favorite traditions, bless you -- and may the force be with you.

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Esther Cepeda's email address is estherjcepeda@washpost.com.

(c) 2017, Washington Post Writers Group

 

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