Evalina Lentini. 17, is on her toes as the Columbine Doll...

Evalina Lentini. 17, is on her toes as the Columbine Doll during a rehearsal in Bethpage of the Eglevsky Ballet's "The Nutcracker." Credit: Newsday/J. Conrad Williams Jr.

For young dancers, “The Nutcracker” is a rite of passage. They start out as sweet little angels and baby mice and work their way up the ranks.

Erica Pereira, who grew up in Plainview, dances the Sugar Plum Fairy in Ohman School of Ballet’s New York Dance Theatre production, Dec. 16-17 at Hofstra University’s John Cranford Adams Playhouse in Hempstead. The soloist with the New York City Ballet first performed in the Tchaikovsky classic when she was around 7 playing a mouse and a lamb.

Looking back on dancing with the professional guest artists when she was young, Pereira says she was “star-struck … it gave me that spark that I really want to do this when I get older.” Now as a professional, she says she is looking forward to inspiring another generation of dancers. “You can start out dancing at any small little school,” she says, “not many make it. It’s like sports, not many people get to be in the NFL or MLB.”

Nicole Loizides Albruzzese rehearses "The Nutcracker" with the children of...

Nicole Loizides Albruzzese rehearses "The Nutcracker" with the children of the Ohman Ballet. Credit: Elizabeth Sagarin

Pereira says that while the Sugar Plum Fairy is very regal, she always tries to bring a nurturing spirit to the role. “You’re surrounded by all these little angels, around 6 or 7 years old, and it’s probably their first time on stage,” she says. She smiles and tries to help them be calm. “I let them know it’s not so scary.”

WHERE TO SEE 'THE NUTCRACKER'

DIAMOND DANCE

WHEN | WHERE 2 and 6 p.m. Dec. 9, Patchogue Theatre for the Performing Arts, 71 Main St.

INFO $29-$60; 631-207-1313, diamonddanceli.com

AMERICAN DANCE THEATRE OF LONG ISLAND

WHEN | WHERE 2 and 7 p.m. Dec. 9 and 1 p.m. Dec. 10, Van Nostrand Theater at Suffolk County Community College, 1001 Crooked Hill Rd., Brentwood

INFO $40-$55; 631-472-3455, adtli.org

PECONIC BALLET THEATRE

WHEN | WHERE Noon and 7 p.m. Dec. 9 and noon and 5 p.m. Dec. 10, Westhampton Beach Performing Arts Center, 76 Main. St.

INFO $35; 631-591-1539, peconicballettheater.com

SEISKAYA BALLET

WHEN | WHERE Dec. 15, 7 p.m., Dec 16, 2 and 7 p.m., Dec. 17, 1 and 6 p.m.; Staller Center at Stony Brook University, 100 Nicolls Rd., Stony Brook

INFO $45, $38 ages 11 and younger and children and 63 and older; 631-862-1722, seiskaya.com

EGLEVSKY BALLET

WHEN | WHERE 1 and 6 p.m. Dec. 16 and 2 p.m. Dec. 17, Tilles Center at LIU Post, 720 Northern Blvd, Brookville

INFO $54-$84; 516-299-3100, eglevskyballet.org

OHMAN SCHOOL OF BALLET'S NEW YORK DANCE THEATRE

WHEN | WHERE Noon and 5 p.m. Dec. 16-17, John Cranford Adams Playhouse at Hofstra University, 1000 Hempstead Tpke., Hempstead

INFO $45, $35 ages 11 and younger and 65 and older; 631-462-0964, ohmanballet.org

LUMIERE BALLET

WHEN | WHERE 4 p.m. Dec. 17, Boulton Center, 37 W. Main St, Bay Shore

INFO $25-$35; 631-969-1101, lumiereballet.com

BALLET LONG ISLAND

WHEN | WHERE 3 and 7 p.m. Dec. 27 and 3 p.m. Dec. 28, CM Performing Arts Center, 931 Montauk Hwy., Oakdale

INFO $45; 631-737-1964, balletlongisland.com

In the Seiskaya Ballet’s “Nutcracker,” Dec. 15-17 at the Staller Center at Stony Brook University, the sole guest artist is David Wright of the Dance Theater of Harlem, who plays the Cavalier (basically, the Sugar Plum Fairy’s partner).

“The dancers hold up their end, the guest artists hold up their end,” says administrative director Dimitri Papadakos. “It’s good synergy.”

He adds that the guest artists bring “a high level of professionalism” to the production. They clearly raise the barre, he says (pun purely intentional.) The biggest thing with a professional, he says, “is the consistency, that’s the thing that separates amateurs from professionals.“

Sevin Ceviker, left, and Nickemil Concepcion play Frau and Dr. Stahlbaum...

Sevin Ceviker, left, and Nickemil Concepcion play Frau and Dr. Stahlbaum in the Eglevsky Ballet's "The Nutcracker." Credit: Newsday/J. Conrad Williams Jr.

LEARNING BY EXAMPLE

Bringing in soloists from professional companies gives the younger students quite an experience, says Maurice Brandon Curry, artistic director of the Eglevsky Ballet, which performs Dec. 16 and 17 at the Tilles Center for the Performing Arts at LIU Post in Brookville. The young dancers get so excited when they see the professionals watching them, he says and they learn “by example. It really changes the way they work … they see what it takes.”

This season, Buddy Casimano, Debbie Gibson’s choreographer and backup dancer, takes on the role of Herr Drosselmeyer (the nutty toymaker). It’s his Nutcracker debut, and the Point Lookout resident says he’s wanted to try ballet for a long time. “The transition to ballet is a bit challenging,” he says, because of the very specific choreography required. But, he adds, “I’m having a lot of fun making the role my own.”

Taking the lead roles in the production are two Asian dancers from the Boston Ballet. Ji Young Chae dances the Sugar Plum Fairy, while her Cavalier is Jeffrey Cirio, whose first Nutcracker performance was at age 10, dancing the young prince for the Central Pennsylvania Youth Ballet. Curry is especially excited about being able to focus on diversity. “We have students across all spectrums, white, black, Asians … for them to see the representation for themselves is super-important,” he says. “I’m hoping they see the possibilities.“

Nicole Loizides Albruzzese,right, plays the mother in the Ohman Ballet...

Nicole Loizides Albruzzese,right, plays the mother in the Ohman Ballet 's "The Nutcracker" with Eileen Huntsman, 12, as Clara, a role Albruzzese played as child.  Credit: Elizabeth Sagarin

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