For the past two months the young dancers have practiced on a weekly basis, working to perfect their roles as snowflakes, butterflies and angels in the "Great Russian Nutcracker." On Thursday all of the hard work will pay off for 18 area female dancers ranging in ages 8-16 in their once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to perform with the Moscow Ballet at the Show Me Center in Cape Girardeau.
"These are real Russian ballerinas and if we do one thing wrong, it will show," said 11-year-old Caroline Martin of Sikeston.
Dancers must keep their elbows up, be on their tippy-toes and spread out in order to deliver a flawless performance. Sound a little demanding and nerve racking? Maybe, but Martin said the experience is well worth it.
"It's a really good opportunity for us -- not many people get to dance with real dancers," said Martin, who plays an angel.
Moscow Ballet, a 50 all-Russian cast, is one of the top ballets in the world, noted Sikeston Academy of Dance instructor La'Krisha Graf.
"They study the Russian technique and other different techniques and are very strict. They produce some of the best dancers in the world," Graf explained.
Dancer Cayse Richey of Sikeston is an exception to the once-in-a-lifetime experience. Thursday's performance will be the third time she's danced with a professional ballet; she's danced with the Moscow Ballet once before and the Minnesota Ballet.
Richey admitted when it comes to ballet, the Russians expect a lot from the local performers.
"They assume we know it all perfectly," said Richey, also playing an angel. "Being selected to perform with the Moscow Ballet is a really big honor -- and it's fun."
Plus the guys aren't too bad to look at either, the 16-year-old pointed out. "They're so sculpted!" she said. Other than performing well, the biggest advice Richey can give her fellow dancers is to bring something to do for the down time during the three-hour show.
"We have to sit in a room and wait for them to call out our part and keep quiet so I suggested to everyone to bring something to keep them busy," Richey said.
On average, 60 children, ages 8 through early teens are selected per city to perform with Moscow Ballet. Auditions for the Cape Girardeau performance were conducted in September in Carbondale, Ill.
Following the selection at auditions, Boris Baskakov, children's ballet master with the Moscow Ballet, demonstrated the choreography to the dancers. Since then the girls have practiced on a weekly basis at the Sikeston studio and also in Carbondale periodically.
"We've just been working on the choreography and the routines," Graf said, adding her students are very excited about dancing with some of the world's top professional dancers.
Graf pointed out the Russian version of the "Nutcracker" is a little different than the other American "Nutcracker" productions.
According to Moscow Ballet Producer Akiva Talmi, one of the main differences in the Russian and American performances is the portrayal of "Clara," who is "Masha" in Russian. In American performances, two ballerinas play Clara, but in Russian performances, she is played by only one ballerina, the prima ballerina. Other different performance pieces is there are 26 male and female dancers in the waltz of flowers and the second act is set in the Land of Peace and Harmony. In addition to Richey and Martin, local performers include: Jessica Rataj, Erica Garrett, Kelsey Dacus, Hannah McClellan, Alyssa McClellan, Sara Mickey, Kyleigh Branch, Anna Catherine DeHart, Haley Bedell, Alyssa Haynes, Kramer Schuerenberg, Hannah Stennett and Abie Enax, all of Sikeston; Dannielle Perry of Benton; Katie Gibson of Dexter; and Taylor Martin of Bernie.
Kim DeHart, mother of 12-year-old Anna Catherine DeHart, admitted the parents are just as excited as their children. "From a parent's standpoint, we're all excited about the experience for our daughters and for the wonderful opportunity for something as big as the Moscow Ballet to bring such a great culture to a small community," DeHart said. "It's just awesome, and we're expecting a big show."
To purchase tickets to Thursday's 7:30 p.m. show, contact the Show Me Center box office at (573) 651-5000.