Young, aspiring dancers dance alongside Moscow Ballet in Great R - KXLT - Fox 47 Rochester MN News, Weather, Sports #rochmn

Young, aspiring dancers dance alongside Moscow Ballet in Great Russian Nutcracker performance

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Dancing students rehearse with the Moscow Ballet prior to Monday night's performance. Dancing students rehearse with the Moscow Ballet prior to Monday night's performance.
Monday night's Great Russian Nutcracker performance. Monday night's Great Russian Nutcracker performance.
Monday night's Great Russian Nutcracker performance. Monday night's Great Russian Nutcracker performance.
ROCHESTER, Minn. (FOX 47) -

Now that we can breathe after all the food we ate on Thanksgiving and through the weekend, it's time to focus on the next holiday: Christmas.

And there's no better way to get in the holiday spirit than a performance of the Great Russian Nutcracker, with quite the special twist.

Monday night, some local young aspiring dancers got the chance of a lifetime, as they performed the Great Russian Nutcracker alongside members of the Moscow Ballet at Mayo Civic Center.

As part of a 23-year program called "Dance With Us", this opportunity brings dancing students on stage to perform side-by-side the professionals.

"I think it's very good chance for them. they can see all the professional teaching," said Olena Nalyvaiko, the audition director for Moscow Ballet, and also a ballerina who's been performing with the troupe for four years.

The Dance With Us program also teaches American dance students the Russian Vaganova Ballet training.

Thirty-five local student dancers, ages 7 to 17 (with at least one year of training) have been working hard for the last 8 or so weeks, rehearsing at host dance studio, Acclaim Studio of Dance.

The dancers held ancillary roles suited for their age and skill levels in the performance, such as party children, small mice, snowflakes, snow sprites, snow maidens, and junior dancers.

"I want to be a professional dancer one day so doing this is a huge opportunity and a great experience, and it's fun to see inside the company and kind of how things work and all the people and...yeah!" said 15-year-old Maggi Steele of St. Ansgar, Iowa, who danced the role of a Chinese Variation dancer.

One thing to note is that the Great Russian Nutcracker is different than the American or Canadian versions of the dance—there are more elaborate costumes and a Land of Peace and Harmony scene instead of the Land of Sweets.

"In the beginning of second act, our principal dancers, Maria and her Prince, they're going not to the Land of Sweets, how is in the usual nutcracker. But they're going to the Land of Peace and Harmony," said Nalyvaiko.

But one thing is for certain, not only does this classic performance bring out a sense of Christmas cheer, but it also ignites a fire in student dancers to continue dancing down the road of pursuing their dreams.

Since the Dance With Us Program's start in 1994, it's expanded from 8 cities to over 100, with roughly 50 students each, this year.

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