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Ballet Talk for Dancers

How is Nutcracker casting different for male dancers (both boys and


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I've just been pondering this....


There has been a lot of discussion about Nutcracker casting on other forums, and I was just thinking about how Nutcracker casting is so different for boys.


We are at a small studio with pre-professional training, and we put on a full-length Balanchine-style Nutcracker.


A lot of the roles my ds had when he was younger were non-dancing roles. Fritz and the party boys don't dance much (we bring in non-dancers to fill in). My son didn't like the non-dancing roles that much. He also didn't really like Nutcracker Prince, which he had to do for three years, and which involved just a pantomime and a lot of sitting still beside a girl. :yucky:


His duties as Prince meant he never got to be a soldier or a rat. Other boys did dance these roles, and they seemed fun!


As he moved into the Nutcracker, party scene Soldier Doll, Rat King, and the divertissement roles, the dancing definitely improved. But there's no Snow or Flowers corps equivalent for the boys in Nutcracker, so even the advanced boys are often on stage for just a short piece, maybe two.


With the exception of Arabian and Spanish (which were partnering pieces), any lead my son got was a lead that a girl lost. So, the Candy Cane, Chinese, and Soldier Doll roles, etc., did not make him popular. The boys were made leads because it looked awkward if they weren't.


Since a lot of studios bring in professionals for Snow King and Cavalier, these roles are not often available to the male students. My son has been lucky to be Snow King for two years while a professional did just Cavalier. That was a treat. This year, he has finally been invited to be Cavalier, but it has been made clear that it's a one-time thing. He's definitely not complaining this year!


Does anyone else feel that Nutcracker casting is just a different experience for boys? Maybe your studio has figured out some interesting ways to cast the boys and get them into dancing roles! Or maybe your training program is associated with a professional ballet company, and the roles are limited to just the little guys. Do tell!

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Or maybe your training program is associated with a professional ballet company, and the roles are limited to just the little guys.

That is the case for my son. As a tall-for-age 11yo he is too big this year for any parts. The only boy (child) parts are party scene or toy soldiers in the battle scene, Fritz and Nutcracker Prince. It was clear to me at his very first audition when he was 8 that he would never get to do a "lead" kid role due to height, and he realized it last year.

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My DS13 didnt have to dance. He was only measured and photographed with other kids. He was pre-cast in something but we won't know til the list goes up Monday. At our school, boys are a precious commodity!

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My DS is doing nutcracker at his small studio this year. He is Fritz again for the second year. He'll (and another boy, two shows) most likely continue to be Fritz for quite a while I've been told by the studio. There are three upper level boys and they have the roles as Nutcracker Prince, Cavalier, and for the first time in FIVE YEARS a Rat King!! all of the other roles except for party boys is a girls role in their nutcracker. They have class dances for various roles such as mice, soldiers, Bon bons, flowers, Spanish etc.. But the boys class does not have a class dance sadly...so the lays at our studio dont have too much to hope for in terms of roles, but maybe as they counting to grow and develope they can join in dances like Arabian, soldier dolls, Chinese etc...just like they did by turning Rat queen back to Rat King

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My son was just itching to dance when he was that age and playing Fritz, and he didn't understand why the party girls had a balletic dance but all the party boys did was march forward and backwards. I think our A.D. greatly simplified the boys' choreography so that the non-dancers could keep up. Other productions probably have more exciting dancing for the party boys. All of our rats are now played by advanced girls--boys are never cast as rats.


It sounds like your boys will end up leaping right from party scene to partnering roles in divertissements.

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My son is doing his last year as a student in Nut. There school joins a professional. Company and does a Russian version. The students are pretty much on stage the whole show. They have Maria and Misha who are equal. Then there are about 20 boys in the party scene ( and they dance). Then in the second act they are courtiers of the Sugar Plum. There are also 4 little chefs and baby mice for tiny boys.

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For my son, being a boy meant he couldn't participate in Nutcracker for a few years.


My son attended a company-affiliated ballet academy, so the only Nutcracker he was in was the huge, professional production (35+ shows! It was exhausting!). Young children (around 8-12) can audition to be party-children, so my son was a party-boy for 4 years in a row. Intermediate girls (around 11-14) can audition for the role of one of Mama Ginger's bon bons. But, there was no comparable role for intermediate boys, so my son simply didn't participate in Nutcracker for a few years. The professional division teen boys dance the role of soldiers, so once he was 15 he was back in the Nutcracker. However, soldier was the only role available to him whereas the professional division teen girls could be cast in one of three different roles.


So, yes-- being a boy limited how my son was able to experience Nutcracker. Nothing major, but definitely different from the girls.

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When my DS did Nutcracker, there were about a half dozen boys in his age range. Besides the usual party scene roles, the directors always saved a cast of soldiers for them (supplemented with girls), and always had a cast of another role for them. So far, they've done a great chinese dragon dance (there were also several other chinese tea dances, more traditionally cast, and they rotated them), and a polichinelle dance. The older boys have had parts in Mereleton (as a Pas de Trois), Mouse King, Snow Cavalier, and Arabian Prince. The Grand Pas has always had a hired cavalier, but they do try to use our homegrown boys as often as they can.

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My son is now considering auditioning for another smaller production where being a boy will likely help him-- not many boys audition so most of them get a nice dancing role

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  • 1 year later...

Our son is Fritz this year, and me and my hubby are Clara's and Fritz's parents. DS is also dancing in chinese dance with his own level group and he will be one of the cats too. 

Nutcracker is not something we do annually here in Northern Finland, we had to travel 600 kilometers to see The Nutcracker and the Mouse King in the Finnish Opera two years ago. In Helsinki it seems to be an annual thing. We are very excited to be a part of it this year.

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My ds has moved to a new training program attached to a company, so no cavalier this year (he won't even have time to guest), just minor roles as part of the scenery or the rodentia.  

Although cavalier was a great gig for him last year, he got in over his head with three different nutcrackers and not enough time to really perfect the variations.  Most rehearsal time was spent perfecting the pas work, which was brilliant, but he felt that his variations could not match those of the seasoned professionals who have danced cavalier for his studio in the past.  It was almost as if his studios forgot he was a student.

This experience is part of the reason he moved on.  Now he's getting the consistent male training, but, of course, not the big Nutcracker roles.  This was definitely the right decision for this year, however. 

I can't tell yet how Nutcracker casting differs for the male students; the dancing roles are few and far between for all of the students, so it probably doesn't matter.

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Hah! I had to smile at this discussion. My DS has NEVER been in a Nutcracker! He has been too tall for any of the children's parts since he was old enough to be considered (and not advanced enough for a serious role). Now that he is serious enough, he isn't interested. :o C'est la vie

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