The Moscow Ballet on Sept. 30 selected at least 50 Atlanta-area ballet students to perform in the “Great Russian Nutcracker” during local editions of the show’s 130-city tour across the U.S. and Canada.
The International City School of Ballet in Smyrna hosted the auditions, which were directed by Moscow Ballet Soloist Olena Pedan.
“There were a lot of very strong kids with good pointe technique,” said Ms. Pedan, referring to the ballet technique where a dancer supports his or her weight entirely on the tips of the toes.
Auditions were open to students ages 6 to 18 years with at least one year of ballet training. Roles included party children, mice, snowflakes, snow maidens and more.
Selected students will participate in seven weeks of weekend rehearsals that culminate in two performances at 1 p.m. and 5 p.m. on Sunday, Nov. 26, at the Robert Ferst Center for the Arts at Georgia Tech. The show is also traveling around Georgia to cities like Macon, Savannah and Carrollton.
This year is the 25th anniversary tour for the “Great Russian Nutcracker” across North America. The company includes award-winning principal dancers and 40 in the corps de ballet. They’ll perform the classic ballet in front of five elaborate, hand-painted backdrops wearing more than 200 hand-sewn costumes.
Georné Aucoin, artistic director of the International City School of Ballet, said the production is a unique chance for her students and others in the community to get real-world experience alongside professional dancers.
““I think that the performance opportunity is wonderful,” Ms. Aucoin said.
Ms. Aucoin founded the International City School of Ballet in 2004 in Warner Robins, Ga., before moving it to Smyrna. The studio provides extensive year-round training to young dancers as well as performance opportunities.
“We don’t just want people to think that it’s just for our school. It’s not what the intent of the performance is, and it’s not really how we work as a school. We like to promote art within the community and surrounding areas,” she says.
Ms. Pedan, the Moscow Ballet soloist handling the local auditions, has toured internationally throughout Europe and China. She danced for 10 seasons with the Dnepropetrovsk Academic Opera and Ballet Theatre in Ukraine, where she also received her dance training. In 2015, she was also a finalist in the 2015 Kiev Grand Prix International Ballet Competition.
She leads the Moscow Ballet’s “Dance with Us” program, which has provided 75,000 American ballet students with the opportunity to go on stage with the pros.
“It’s a very serious deal for these kids. It’s a very good opportunity to be a part of a professional ballet performance,” Ms. Pedan said.
Ms. Aucoin says the kids will be held to high standards as they create the “backdrop” for the professionals during the show, including during many variations, sort of like miniature solos within the performance.
“We want the standard that we present with the students to be at the same level with the professional standard is going to be,” Ms. Aucoin said.