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ASSEMBLÉ – Bon-Bons Across the Nation

By Marlys Norman, Ballet Austin Trainee

So you’re in The Nutcracker this year – congratulations! Now that the initial excitement is over, it’s time to worry about costumes, choreography, and of course always pointing those feet. But where do you fit into the story of The Nutcracker? Well, it depends on your part. If you’ve been cast as a Bon-Bon, I am here to help!

In Ballet Austin’s The Nutcracker, the second act opens with Clara’s journey into a magical land. A beautiful Sugar Plum Fairy greets her and introduces her to a cast of mystical characters who dance and entertain her. The Bon-Bons enter second to last, right before the Waltz of the Flowers and the dance the Sugar Plum Fairy performs with her cavalier, or king. After a series of ethnic dances from Spain, China, and France, the Bon-Bons serve to put a little fun back into the show!

As you may have discovered, Ballet Austin is not the only company to put on a show of The Nutcracker and there are countless versions found across the country. For instance, Pacific Northwest Ballet (PNB) in Seattle, Washington puts on a world-renowned show that is famous for its elaborate costumes and more modern twists on the story. If you are cast as a Bon-Bon at PNB, your part is called the Commedia and the Toy Theatre. In their story, Clara’s old uncle accompanies Clara to the magical land of the Sugar Plum fairy. During this scene, he opens his long cloak to expose a toy theatre where little dolls are dancing around. Now, when you perform this part, you don’t actually have to dance inside a cloak, but the old uncle will flourish his coat and all of you will seem to magically appear!

Another company whose version of The Nutcracker is world-famous is the New York City Ballet (NYCB). You may have heard of a choreographer and director named George Balanchine. This is his arrangement of the beloved Christmas story. To begin with, if you have been cast in NYCB’s The Nutcracker, congratulations; only about twenty kids from their school are chosen each year to perform with the company! Here, the Bon-Bons are called Pollichinelles, which is a fancy name for clowns. Like The Nutcracker at Ballet Austin, this part is supposed to be funny! The little Pollichinelles, or “Pollys,” as the company calls them, surprise their mother (Mother Ginger) by running out of her big skirt and beginning to dance. Four girls and four boys dance in pairs until Mother Ginger calls them back under her skirt. In Mr. Balanchine’s choreography, however, Mother Ginger has already started to move off-stage while her children are doing emboités to catch up to her. In all, the kids have to do a total of 32 emboités to get back under the skirt, and that’s at the end of the dance!

To learn more about different productions of The Nutcracker, explore these resources:

Ballet Austin’s The Nutcracker Interactive Dance Resource

Pacific Northwest Ballet’s The Nutcracker Video:
Nutcracker,The Motion Picture (VHS 1984).

New York City Ballet’s The Nutcracker Video:
George Balanchine’s The Nutcracker (DVD 1997).