Tiny Dancers

The hopping, the hoping. Getting into The Nutcracker takes more than fancy footwork.

To play a Cherub, girls need to be between 4 ft. and 4ft. 6 in. tall. 8-year-old Fiona O’Keeffe (seen here being helped by volunteer Janice Steenhoek) measured up just fine. And got the part.

To play a Cherub, girls need to be between 4 ft. and 4ft. 6 in. tall. 8-year-old Fiona O’Keeffe (seen here being helped by volunteer Janice Steenhoek) measured up just fine. And got the part.

With visions of sugar plum fairies dancing in their heads, hundreds of nimble little children flock to the Sacramento Ballet studios every fall and audition for choice roles in the Ballet’s most popular production, The Nutcracker. This year was no exception, as 719 hopefuls as young as 6 went toe to toe with each other to score 470 parts, including those as Mother Ginger Children, Teeny Tiny Mice and Baby Bunnies. “We have beautiful professional dancers, but what makes our Nutcracker special is the number of children we use. I believe we have the largest cast of children of any company in America,” says the Ballet’s longtime co-artistic director Ron Cunningham. We were there during the tutu tryouts in September, and we offer you an exclusive glimpse behind the scenes—both at the thrill of victory and, the agony of the feet. Here, more than ever you’ll see that there are no small roles, just small dancers.