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Strike a pose .. The Imperial Russian Ballet Company will bring The Nutcracker to the Timaru stage on November 25, a production that will also feature about 40 young Timaru dancers. They will join principal dancers Nariman Bekzhanov (left) and Lina Seveliova.

by Alexia Johnston

Aspiring young dancers will shine on stage alongside their Russian idols this month.
About 40 dancers have been selected to perform on stage with the Imperial Russian Ballet Company when it presents classic Christmas tale The Nutcracker at Timaru’s Theatre Royal on November 25.
The young dancers have been selected from two schools – Timaru Dance Studio and Ranger School of Dance – for the one-off South Canterbury performance and have been perfecting their routines since August.
The ballet company has welcomed ballet schools into the production, in which the young dancers of various levels will perform as children, mice, angels, gnomes, gunners and cavalry.
Former Imperial Russian Ballet dancer and tutor Alena Zhelnina visited the young dancers last week to ensure their routines were on track.
Timaru Dance Studio tutor Melanie Wheeler said the Timaru dancers were aged from 6 to about 13 and all had to be under 150cm tall to meet the criteria. They also had to fit into the costumes, which would be supplied by the company.
“They have all coped very well – they are all nice little dancers,” Mrs Wheeler said.
“It’s a great opportunity for the children. It’s a [once in a] lifetime opportunity to say they’ve danced with the Russians.”
And the children were looking forward to what would be one of the highlights of their dancing careers.
“They are over the moon. They are really very excited about it, which is great to see. They’ve worked really hard.”
Their training, which has included an intensive workshop over the school holidays, has equated to about 30 hours, “if not more”, Mrs Wheeler said.
“Timaru will enjoy it,” she said of The Nutcracker. “It’s a really good Christmas story – a happy story for young and old.”
Mrs Wheeler hoped other such opportunities would be offered in Timaru for youngsters to get involved in and for the general public to enjoy, across all forms of dance.