Caroleina Hassett has dreamed of playing Clara in "The Nutcracker" since she was 4.
That's when her parents, Sheri and Tom Hassett, took her to see a cousin perform in the Christmas classic.
"(My cousin) didn't play Clara," said Caroleina, 12, of Belleville. "She played a Party Girl. But it looked like fun with all the costumes and dances."
Caroleina has performed in the Belleville School of Ballet's annual production of "The Nutcracker" for the past seven years.
This year, her wish came true. She will play Clara for the school's Saturday evening performance at the Scottish Rite Bodies Cathedral.
"I'm really excited," said Caroleina, a seventh-grader at St. Teresa Catholic School in Belleville. "I'm always nervous (before a show), but once I'm on stage, it all goes away."
Caroleina is sharing the role with Abril Hunter, 11, of Belleville, who will play Clara for two Sunday afternoon performances.
Abril is a seventh-grader at Governor French Academy and the daughter of Sabrina and Forrest Hunter.
"My favorite scene is the Battle Scene," Abril said. "You're dancing while the Nutcracker and the Mouse King are fighting, and you're in the middle trying to stop it."
This is the 29th year for "The Nutcracker," a joint venture of Belleville School of Ballet and the Belleville Philharmonic Orchestra.
About 115 dancers, mostly ballet students, will join actors and New York-based professional dancers Anna Liceica and Vitale Krauchenka.
"We've some new Spanish costumes and a new Chinese dance in Act II," said founding director Patti Woods Harrington, who likes to make changes each year to keep the production fresh.
Also, the role of Drosselmeyer is going to Belleville School of Ballet teacher Octavio Nieto, a native of Mexico, formerly of the St. Louis Ballet.
James Saia played the role in Belleville for 15 years, but he moved away. Nieto still plays Drosselmeyer when the St. Louis Ballet performs "The Nutcracker."
"James was great, but he was an actor instead of a dancer," Harrington said. "So now Drosselmeyer is a little more involved with Clara. He does a few lifts with her and helps the prince and Clara transition into the Land of Snows."
At a glance
What: "The Nutcracker"
Who: Belleville School of Ballet and Belleville Philharmonic Orchestra
When: 7:30 p.m. Saturday and 1:30 and 5 p.m. Sunday
Where: Scottish Rite Bodies Cathedral, 1549 Frank Scott Parkway in Belleville
Tickets: At the door
Reservations: Not required but can be made at number below
Information: Call 277-1373