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Lodi’s tiny dancers leap, twirl into classic Christmas ballet

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Posted: Wednesday, December 11, 2013 12:00 am

Preschool is all about make-believe and fairy tales. At the city of Lodi’s production of “The Nutcracker,” 3- and 4-year-olds will dance out their dreams on the biggest stage in town.

Director Judy Pittman has been teaching ballet in Lodi for more than 10 years, and this is her ninth production of the holiday favorite.

Many of her dancers have been with the company for 10 or more years and are now principal dancers for lead solo roles. Her talent for encouraging a long-lasting love of dance begins with that first step onto the stage.

“Every year we have a large number of students for which this is their first public performance. They are both excited and a little nervous,” Pittman said.

As a veteran working with the youngest of dancers, Pittman is always prepared for the performer who bursts into tears.

“We whisk them away really quickly, because you can’t let one cry, because if one cries it’s contagious,” she said.

Pittman said that crying is rare, and that she pinpoints those who may be frightened and encourages a parent to be close by for comfort and encouragement should it be needed.

In fact, she said, hamming it up rather than tearing up is more common at this age.

“Some of them just take to the stage naturally. We have a harder time getting them off stage then we do with crying. They hear that applause, and everyone laughing and looking at them, and they just fall in love with it,” Pittman said.

Baby Mouse teacher Tricia Stockar, who danced with the company for years, said that seeing the youngest girls perform brings her much joy.

“One of the most rewarding things about working with a young group of dancers is that there is never a dull moment,” said Stockar. “I have had a passion for dancing since I was little and it always makes me so excited to see a new group of young ones each year with the same kind of excitement and passion I felt.”

The Baby Mice can be seen on stage at Hutchins Street Square on Friday and Saturday. Both shows begin at 7 p.m.

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