The Tiny Dancers Who Make ‘The Nutcracker’ Sparkle

If last year’s production proved anything, it was that size and spirit matter. The littler the children are, the more enormous the stage seems, lending the tale enchantment. Yes, there are memorable adult characters: the Sugarplum Fairy and Dewdrop, Mother Ginger and the Mouse King. But the kids are the ballet’s heart, the glue — what guides us down that path to feel the feelings.

This year, rejoice! The tiny bodies are back — though, because of the pandemic, they have little experience. Of the 126 in the production (there are two casts) 108 are first-timers in the show.

Dena Abergel, City Ballet’s children’s repertory director, sees “The Nutcracker,” which opens Friday at Lincoln Center, as Balanchine’s training ground: It teaches children of the City Ballet-affiliated school how to become performers.

Generally, they start out as Angels, progressing to more technically advanced parts — like the Candy Canes and the…

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