Ballerina selects local dancers for 'Nutcracker' performance at River Campus

Monday, October 19, 2009
Svetlana Todinova, center, leads Lauren Burnham, left, and Lindsey Breer, right, through a dance routine Sunday night at Dance Extensions. Lauren and Lindsey are two of the 43 dancers accepted to perform "The Great Russian Nutcracker" with the Moscow Ballet this December. (TIM BRUMITT)

When the Moscow Ballet's presentation of "The Great Russian Nutcracker" hits the stage at Southeast Missouri State University's River Campus on Dec. 14, 43 young area girls will help entertain the audience as backup dancers. A Jackson dance company, Dance Extensions, hosted auditions for dancers ages 7 to 16 for the traveling company for the third consecutive year.

The auditioners came from Dance Extensions as well as Miss Melissa's Dance Studio in Sikeston, Mo., Class Act Family Fitness in Jackson and The Academy of Dance Arts in Cape Girardeau.

All of the dancers who auditioned were granted parts in the ballet by Svetlana Todinova, the company's children's ballet mistress. Todinova has been performing with the Moscow Ballet for 10 years and holds auditions every three to four days while she travels around the country to fill spots for upcoming shows. She has danced in the company's productions of "Swan Lake," "The Nutcracker," "Futile Precaution," "Giselle," "Kopella" and "La Bayadere."

Todinova said most studios do a great job of preparing to perform in the ballet once auditions have been held. She said the beautiful costumes and sets brought by the company excite young dancers who participate and that she likes to share in the moment when the dancers are told they will perform.

"I like to see their eyes shine when I tell them they will be in the show," Todinova said.

She said she likes to work with children because it is interesting.

Lauren Burnham, a 15-year-old Dance Extensions student from Jackson, was chosen for a part where she will perform a Spanish dance in the ballet, also known as a Spanish variation.

She said she is looking forward to the weekly rehearsals leading up to the show, and will learn some new arm positions for her role, because Russians sometimes use different postures than she is used to. In last year's performance, Burnham had two roles, a Chinese dancer and a butterfly.

Jackie Robertson, owner of Dance Extensions, said the way dancers are selected tries to follow a rule of giving them a chance to try a different part each year,

Todinova ultimately casts the dancers but consults Robinson on their strengths and talents to see where each one will fit best.

Robertson said younger children often want to portray party guests, while older dancers covet the characters that will perform an Arabian dance.

"The mice and the party guests are the most fun for the dancers, because they don't have to be ballerinas, and there are four distinct parts in the show," Robertson said.

She said most older dancers will perform in smaller groups for shorter amounts of time, while younger dancers would be on stage for longer in larger groups, so exposure for each one would even out.

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