Cinderella's youngest stars
For lots of little girls, being a ballerina is something dreams are made of - the chance to perform in front of an audience, finally get to wear pointe shoes and travel the world dancing for a living.
But for three little local dancers, that dream has become a reality.
Monet Hewitt, Erin Mallan - both 10 years old - and Stella Byers, eight, appear in the Royal New Zealand Ballet's production of Cinderella, which opened at Auckland's ASB Theatre last night.
The girls play the young roles of Cinderella and the two (adorable rather than ugly) stepsisters at the very beginning of the performance, before the core cast take up the roles as adults.
While the roles are small - they are only onstage for about two or three minutes - the experience is exactly what the trio imagined it to be.
Backstage yesterday afternoon, after their first official run through with the company, the three school girls were ecstatic - all giggles and excitement, trying to decide who is the shortest, like only under-10's can.
But when you ask them how it feels to be on the verge of dancing in front of a rather large audience, they reply in the type of unison trained dancers would be proud of.
They have little to be worried about though; they are under the strictest guidance of the RNZB cast, who perform alongside them and have offered them lots of helpful tips (apparently the ones that stuck out were "follow that line" and "walk over here").
And even if a mark is missed or a step goes awry, the fact these three girls have been lifted from their Auckland dance classes, where they have been studying for as little as a year (Hewitt) to almost six years (Byers) to perform on the stage is a big moment for them.
And from the costumes to their very own dressing room, placed alongside the dancers they have come to idolise - Lucy Green, who plays Cinderella is a collective favourite - the three prima ballerinas-in-training are enjoying every minute of it.
Cinderella was last seen on New Zealand stages in 2007, and this version has been choreographed by British ballet icon Christopher Hampson.
As well as stunning sets and lighting, Tracy Grant Lord's costumes, including Cinderella's tutu and the cloak she wears to the ball, are sprinkled with crystals made especially for the RNZB by the Swarovski factory in Austria.
Crystals have also been used to give sparkle to insect costumes and wings, the stepmother's negligee and the spider's web.
RNZB artistic director Ethan Stiefel said Cinderella was one of the most iconic rags-to-riches stories, and one of the most exciting to bring to life.
"As one of the most loved fairytales, Cinderella has been enchanting audiences of all ages around the world for many years. Our rendition of the story lifts the magic from the page and embraces the belief that dreams can come true, whilst elegantly showing off the dancers' talent and versatility."
WHERE: ASB Theatre
WHEN: Until September 9.
Tickets are available from Buy Tickets.