Only 10 years old, Malaika Kamau already knows she wants to be a ballet dancer. But for now, the Ottawa resident, who has been dancing for four years, is content to be a chipmunk.

Clad in a black leotard and pink tights, she spent yesterday morning rehearsing with 18 of her peers for the upcoming production of Ballet Jorgen’s Group of Seven Nutcracker.

Over the past eight weekends, young dancers from the Ottawa area have been rehearsing their roles as dragonflies, frogs, chipmunks, and squirrels for the production, which will allow them to share the stage with professional Toronto-based ballerinas — some for the very first time.

For Kamau, who takes two dance classes a week at the Greenboro Community Centre, the opportunity is a dream come true.

“I’m very excited to be here,” she said.

Nine-year-old Terek Kerr has only been dancing for one year, but already knows he wants to be a professional dancer. He also takes Irish dancing and hip-hop, but ballet is his thing.

On Friday and Saturday, the young dancers and the pros come together for three performances at the Centrepointe Theatre.

“This is a huge opportunity for young dancers,” said Ballet Jorgen spokeswoman Laura Denker.

The dancers were chosen among hundreds in an audition that drew from ballet schools across the region.

While a role in the ballet won’t likely lead directly to more professional work, it does give young dancers a taste of what the business is like, Denker said.

This year is the third that Maegan Mason, 12, will be performing in the Group of Seven Nutcracker. The Ottawa dancer, who studies dance seven days a week, has already been accepted into a full-time dance program.

It’s important to support local dancers, she said.

“It gives them the courage to go out there and do it,” she said.

Group of Seven Nutcracker will be performed at the Centrepointe Theatre Friday and Saturday.

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