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'Russian Nutcracker' thrills young ballerinas

December 23, 2003|by PEPPER BALLARD

pepperb@herald-mail.com

As a mouse in her own version of "The Nutcracker," Elizabeth Sutton twirled under the idea that she would see the Moscow Ballet perform the classic dance at the Maryland Theatre.

On Monday the 7-year-old, waiting in line to enter the ornate auditorium for the performance, stood balanced on the tips of her gray sneakers as she talked about ballet and what she likes about it.

"What I like is when you get invited to do something in one of their plays," she said, moving from side to side, occasionally grasping her mother's sweater for balance.

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Invited to pirouette with 46 dancers in the Moscow Ballet Monday night, about 60 Ballet and All that Jazz dancers took the stage of the Maryland Theatre for a sold-out performance of "The Great Russian Nutcracker." By Dec. 28, the Russian ballet company will have given 71 performances in 45 cities.

Elizabeth, who has been a ballerina for four years, had just performed as a mouse in a Chambersburg production of "The Nutcracker," the same production in which 8-year-old Abigail Koontz danced as a fortune cookie.

Abigail, who was dolled up for the ballet, said she wanted to see "beautiful dancers."

Nine-year-old Jared Shackelford wasn't motivated to come to the show because of beautiful dancers. He said he came "because it looked really good."

But to Jared, who can do "The Worm" and "The Wave," ballet is "for girls."

He sees ballet in gym class when his classmates warm up by twirling and he warms up by breakdancing.

"I like dancing, but I don't like ballet," he said.

For 6-year-old Natalie Bye, ballet is tough to do, but something she loves to watch.

She said ballerinas are special "because they can twirl on their toes."

Natalie recently traded in her ballet slippers for a pair of tap shoes. Even though she can recite the storyline for "The Nutcracker," she said ballet for her is a fling of the past.

"Well, you have to wear these shoes, and sometimes they're really sticky to your feet," she said.

Shoes aside, grace is what makes ballerinas so special, Heather Frost said.

Heather, 11, said she's seen "The Nutcracker" in Philadelphia and has performed it on roller skates, but she looked forward to Monday night's performance because she loves to watch professionals dance.

"I wish I could be that flexible," Heather said.

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