Constrained by time, language and culture, local dance students had their work cut out for them recently as they took their cues from the Moscow Ballet.

Forty-four area dance students, 26 from Christi Leonard's Dance Academy, were offered one day of instruction with the casting director of the Moscow Ballet before they meet up with the full Russian troupe in a final dress rehearsal of “The Nutcracker” in November.

Boris Basakakov, a dancer and director for the ballet, brought the best out of Miami's dancers, according to Leonard.

The students auditioned in Joplin, Mo., last month where the Moscow Ballet, joined by local dancers, will present the holiday favorite.

“It was a professional audition,” Leonard said. “It was a good experience for the students. They had a number … nobody knew their name … they just danced.”

The experience caused her dancers to dig deep, Leonard said as she recounted the satisfaction of watching one of her dancers “transform.”

At 9:30 p.m., hours into the auditions, a 6-year-old “floated to the top” of her game and landed herself a bigger part than what is normally offered to such young dancers.

“It was really neat to watch,” Leonard said.

But, across the board, Leonard said her students have declared a new level of excellence, pushing themselves to new heights and demanding nothing less than perfection.

“They don't want to make any mistakes,” Leonard said. “They are real troopers.”

“The Nutcracker,” a favorite of Leonard's, is difficult and time-consuming under the best conditions. Adding the challenge of a single-day of rehearsal with Basakakov and the logistics of staging the full Russian ballet increases the complexities of the show.

Leonard, who traditionally produces the show every two years through her dance studio, has agreed to serve as the children's director of the Moscow performance and is working closely with organizers as the production date draws near.

“I did it for the students,” Leonard said. “It accomplishes a goal - they will all have a memory of this and that is what is important.”

Local dancers who earned the opportunity to dance in the Moscow Ballet's Nov. 17 performace at Memorial Hall are:

€ Snowflakes - Natalie Gibson, Kierstan Cochran and Samantha Kennedy.

€ Party Children - Brenlee McPherson, Kylie Kennedy, Marriah Darnell, Mackenzie Cooper and Taylor Jarrett.

€ Mice - Tabitha DelliSanti, Kaitlyn Smith, Zayariah Sargent, Miranda Stone and Nicole Tarter.

€ Angels - Kortlynn Shaw, Kennedy Fitzgerald, Marriah Darnell, Keely Womack and Morgan Smith.

€ Chinese - Hannah Webb and Jennifer Stanley.

€ Russian - Makenzie Rector and Miranda Elliston.

€ Little French - Randi Tucker and Levi Smith.

€ Little Russian -Keely Womack and Morgan Smith.