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Dunedin School of Ballet principal Robyn Sinclair said 22 of her pupils aged between 5 and 17 had spent more than 20 hours rehearsing for last night's performance of Tchaikovsky's The Nutcracker with the Imperial Russian Ballet Company at Dunedin's Regent Theatre.
"They are understandably nervous, but so excited to be on stage with dancers of this calibre. [The pupils] . . . are really impressed by their skills, like performing four pirouettes and the height of the jumps," she said.
The biggest challenge for pupils was learning the many musical cues, but they had picked up the moves "really well", she said.
Tahuna Normal Intermediate pupil Grace Dillon said appearing with the Russian dancers was inspirational, and she aspired to perform graceful, full pirouettes like the Russian dancers.
"I've seen [Royal New Zealand Ballet Company] performances like Peter Pan. You learn a lot from them. Maybe I could dance at this level, but it would be a lot of hard work."
Pupils from the Dunedin school last danced in the Nutcracker with a visiting Russian troupe in 2003, and two girls who appeared then reprised their roles last night.
The Imperial Russian Ballet Company was formed in 1994, and has up to 40 dancers from Russia's top ballet schools.