“The Nutcracker,” which the Pittsburgh Ballet theatre has been performing since 2002, is set on Christmas Eve during the 20th century at the Stahlbaum home in Shadyside. On the street outside, Godfather Drosselmeyer—who Bourbonniere portrays—and his nephew unload mysterious packages from their carriage for a party. The guests begin to arrive and Drosselmeyer introduces them to his nephew and they are repelled by his deformed face.
Drosselmeyer consoles his nephew and unveils the nutcracker, revealing its role in the night of magic. In her bedroom, Marie Stahlbaum is reading a book and her parents present her with a scarf and pair of toe shoes—that signifies her coming of age.
Drosselmeyer and his nephew finish preparing for the party and Drosselmeyer clutches the nutcracker and remembers how his nephew was cursed by the seven-headed rat king.
Drosselmeyer’s magic tricks delight the children and he gives Marie the nutcracker and he introduces her to his nephew. Marie sees beyond the nephew’s affliction and sees the goodness in him. After the party is over, the rest of the family goes to bed and Marie steals downstairs to find her beloved nutcracker. Instead she finds mice and human-sized rats all around her. As a result she faints.
When Marie comes to, she finds the whole house is under a spell and everything is growing, even the nutcracker, which has become life-sized. The mice and rats try to scare Marie off but the nutcracker rallies the toy soldiers and characters from the storybook that Marie was reading to save her. The nutcracker is transformed into a handsome prince who invites Marie on a sleigh ride through the Land of Enchantment, guided by the snow queen and king.
Drosselmeyer prepares the way for the arrival of Marie and the prince. The prince tells how Marie saved his life and the Sugar Plum Fairy presents Marie with a bouquet of flowers. A grand festival begins and dancers from many lands entertain Marie and the prince. Christmas day dawns on the street outside of the Stahlbaum home.
Drosselmeyer and his nephew make their way to their carriage stopping to reflect on the night’s happenings. Marie’s compassion has broken the Rat King’s curse and the prince’s face is restored. Marie awakens in her bedroom wondering if the events of the night were a dream. She finds her scarf and she rushes to the mirror and there is her nutcracker prince.
Adapted from E.T.A. Hoffman’s 1864 story titled “The Nutcracker and the Mouse King,” the original ballet was created in Russia in 1892. Music for it was composed by Peter Tchaikovsky.
“The ‘Nutcracker’ is a very entertaining and exciting show. The audience gets to see magic tricks and they get to see ethnic dancing, I just love to see the magic that occurs with the scenery changes. That’s very magical.” Bourbonniere said. “The majority of the people on stage are students so people will get to see the next generation of dancers on stage. It’s wonderful to see.”
Bourbonniere and the 150 other performers have rehearsals five days a week for six hours. Each dance is rehearsed separately and as the week goes on, all of the dancers come together to run through the whole ballet from start to finish.
“The other dancers help you learn your part. ‘The Nutcracker’ has become a Christmas tradition. People bring their families each year. It’s cool to see the dance evolve. It’s great to see the growth over the years. Audiences can’t wait to see the show again each year,” he said.
The Pittsburgh Ballet Theatre will be offering an Autism-friendly performance to allow children and adults along the autism spectrum to experience the magical spectacle that is “The Nutcracker.”
“It’s great that we’re able to do that. The house lights will be up a little so that people can see and the ushers will be lenient with the audience. The Pittsburgh Ballet Theatre is making it OK for kids who wouldn’t be able to see the ballet. It’s great that they are trying to make it possible and available for them to see something they may not have been able to see before,” Bourbonniere said.
Pittsburgh Ballet Theatre was founded in 1969. It is currently under the direction of Terrence S. Orr, a former American Ballet Theatre ballet master and principal dancer. The group has more than 50 performances annually in Pittsburgh and on tour.
Bourbonniere joined the Pittsburgh Ballet Theatre company from the Pittsburgh Ballet Theatre School’s graduate program. Since joining the company, the pilates enthusiast has performed in numerous productions including “The Three Musketeers,” “Peter Pan” and of course, “The Nutcracker.
“It’s important for me to set an example and show people that men can be ballet dancers,” Bourbonniere continued. “A lot of schools don’t teach a lot about dance. We learn about sports, but not much about dance. Art is just as important as education and it’s important to bring ballet to schools.”