Tag Archives: The Nutcracker

ASSEMBLÉ – A Famous Sugar Plum: Darci Kistler

Image via ballerinagallery.com

By Alexa Jean Capareda and Danielle Savka, Ballet Austin Trainees

As the Sugar Plum Fairy in George Balanchine’s The Nutcracker, New York City Ballet dancer Darci Kistler captivated audiences with her charming, yet innocent, performing quality and grace. Her sparkling performances gave her the status of the “It” Sugar Plum Fairy.

Born: June 4, 1964
Hometown: Riverside, California


Darci Kistler received her early training from Irina Kosmovska at Riverside Ballet Arts in southern California. In 1979, she was selected to study at Balanchine’s School of American Ballet.

Most Famous For:

Dancing the role of the Sugar Plum Fairy in the New York City Ballet’s 1993 film version of The Nutcracker. Her long, slender body, effortless charm, strong technique, and genuine personality made her perfect for the role. She became the successor to Suzanne Farrell, George Balanchine’s muse, and was awarded many roles, including leading roles in Balanchine’s Jewels (“Diamonds”), Agon, Prodigal Son, and Symphony in C. She always danced with confidence, and added depth to many of her signature roles.

Fun Facts:

  1. Darci Kistler joined the New York City Ballet as a member of the corps de ballet in 1980 and became a soloist in 1981. In 1982, at the age of 17, she became the youngest-ever principal dancer.
  2. Before she began studying ballet, Kistler enjoyed many sports, including skiing, waterskiing, swimming, tennis, football, and dirt biking.
  3. In 1991 she married dancer, choreographer, and New York City Ballet director Peter Martins. They have one daughter, Talicia, born in 1996.

To learn more about Darci Kistler, explore these resources:

  • Lincoln Kirstein’s Thirty Years New York City Ballet. London: A & C Black, 1979. Print.
    Lincoln Kirstein gives his first-hand account and thoughts on working with Balanchine and famous dancers with the New York City Ballet.
  • Frank Augustyn and Shelly Tanaka. Footnotes – Dancing the World’s Best-Loved Ballets. Brookfield: Millbrook, 2001.
    An in-depth exploration of the roles in famous ballets; The Nutcracker and the Sugar Plum Fairy role are described.
  • George Balanchine’s The Nutcracker (1993). Emile Ardilino. New York City Ballet. 1993. New York City Ballet’s The Nutcracker on film, with Darci Kistler dancing in her famous role of Sugar Plum Fairy.

Clara Revealed

What’s it really like to dance the role of Clara? We sat down recently and asked this year’s two performers that and a lot more. Check out the video of Macrina Butler and Rachel Fresques to get an insider’s view of all that goes on behind the scenes of The Nutcracker.

Click here for more info on Ballet Austin’s 47th Annual Production of The Nutcracker.

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).