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Kinley Porter sat rapt watching the Moscow Ballet perform its “Great Russian Nutcracker” last year. After the show, the 10-year-old had her picture taken at a photo booth with one of the ballerinas at the Casper Events Center.

The same smile in the photo greeted the young dancers at Beautiful Feet Academy of the Dance Arts last week during auditions for this year’s show.

Mariia Skoruk of the Moscow Ballet spent three days in Casper leading the young dancers through their choreography after the students selected their parts during auditions at the local studio.

The kids are excited to perform with professional ballet dancers on stage during the Dec. 7 Moscow Ballet’s “Great Russian Nutcracker” at the Casper Events Center.

The ballet company recruits a cast of young locals to dance the parts of snowflakes, mice, Christmas party children and other roles on the stage alongside them.

Kinley and Ava Palmer, 8, mirrored Skoruk as the girls rehearsed their duet as Spanish dancers Wednesday evening at the dance studio.

Skoruk called directions through the music as the pair danced at either end of the studio.

“Outside leg, inside leg,” she said, as the girls traced arcs on the floor, one toe followed by the other. They held their arms arched above their heads as they turned in unison. The girls finished the steps facing their teacher with hands on their hips.

After rehearsal, they admired the ballerina’s skill and how her toes can almost bend backwards.

“She can so dance,” Ava said.

Kayla Higgins, 7, and Brynnlee Frank, 8, were also among the dancers preparing this week at the studio. Their roles include a duet as French dancers and as snowflakes. Working with Skoruk is a little different than anything else she’s done in dance so far, they agreed.

“She has an accent, and she’s famous, and we don’t know her very well,” Kayla said.

Skoruk is the soloist and audition director with the Moscow Ballet. She was born in Kiev, Ukraine, and was invited to join the famous Ballet School of the Kiev State Opera and Ballet Theater at age 10, according to her Moscow Ballet biography. She went on to the prestigious Kiev State Academic Opera and Ballet Theater’s company. She’s also been awarded honorable mention at the Fifth Serge Lifar International Ballet Competition and graduated in 2009 with her choreographing teaching degree.

The students also look forward to wearing the dance company’s ornate costumes, which Kinley has been checking out in videos, she said.

After working with Skoruk this week, the dancers will be practicing at home and in their dance classes, Kinley said. She and Ava learn the movements and picked up some new dance techniques. Now it’s time to memorize the order of their steps and practice as they prepare for the big night, they said.

“It’s hard work,” Kinley said. “But it’s fun.”

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Follow reporter Elysia Conner on Twitter @erconner

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