For a kid, "The Nutcracker" is an opportunity to move up from small parts to bigger ones with each passing year. When you're six or seven, you run onstage briefly dressed as something like a snowflake, with only a few rehearsals. But as you get older, you can get a solo part with a name. Last year, when he was 10, Jonathan Dole rehearsed for weeks to dance the role of Fritz. He was excited about dancing alongside the grown-ups
"But I broke my arm, so I couldn't do the show."
His arm's better now, and this month, Jonathan got a second chance at the part. He says his friends are really impressed.
"Um, they're just like 'the Sacramento Ballet Nutcracker?' Oh my gosh."
Eleven year old Maya Gorman likes the challenge of dancing the prominent role of Clara this year.
"You get a lot more rehearsals, and it's really fun, 'cause you get to practice more with company, and you get to go to promotions by yourself, and it's really fun."
Sophia Bonenfant is a Nutcracker veteran taking part in her eighth production. Even at age 13, she says she's come a long way..
"Well, I remember when I first started, I was just like one of those little girls, I was sort of like a deer in the headlights, they have no idea what they're doing. Now it's just like another day, you walk in the studio and you have your little hoop skirts on and everything, and it's so much fun. I love being here with all these people."
(HUDSON) "What's it like wearing one of those hoop skirt. I have not had the opportunity to wear one.
"(Giggle). They're fun, but they take up a lot of space around you."
For the professional dancers of the Sacramento Ballet, helping the youngsters come along as performers, provides moments of déjà vu. Brik Middlekauf is in her 19th Nutcracker production with Sacramento Ballet. She did ten seasons as a kid, two as an apprentice, and now seven as a pro.
"I've enjoyed it a lot. All the kids are great, and they are so excited. I used to BE that kid, so it's fun to seeing it from the other perspective, the person I used to look up to."
Company member Christopher Nachtrab is in his 16th Nutcracker, though not all of them were in Sacramento. He says the rehearsals in the late fall are transformed when the kids start to participate.
"And when they come in, it's almost like a breath of fresh air, because you remember what it's like to be them, to look at the other dancers in inspiration for what you want to do when you're older, It's really good to have that, to ground us to this foundation of what it's like, the joy of dancing and performing. And The Nutcracker is such a great venue for that."