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Holiday Spectacular  Lead Character

Video Auditions:


Emily (young girl)

Bernice (eccentric old lady)

Holiday Spectacular Song choices:

"Have your self a merry little christams". - sung somber and sad

"I want to be a rockette"

"It's the most wonderful time of the year" 

"believe" - polar express

"smile" - judy garland

"silent night"


Little Leapers and the LEAP Performing Arts Academy is proud to announce their 11th Annual Nutcracker production on December 17-18, 2022 at the Moss Arts Center at Virginia Tech.

What makes our show different?

Little Leapers & LEAP Performing Arts Academy Nutcracker is by far the most unique and spectacular production in the NRV. From our unique approach to the narrative, and intricate costuming to elaborate set design, Little Leapers strive to think outside the box luring the audience into Clara’s sugar plum-filled world.

When watching Little Leapers' Nutcracker, you forget you are watching a local, children's dance studio.  Director Heather Leeper's imagination, which knows no limits, adds new and exciting elements each year. Over the past 10 productions, Little Leaper's version of the Nutcracker has boasted exciting elements such as a short film, flying mouse queen, aerial silks artists, a live orchestra (pre-covid), pyrotechnics, guest performers like Dylan from ABC’s hit show Modern Family, newly named Radio City Rockette Natalie Butt,  as well as local dance groups: Ballet Project, Olé, & Turkish Student Association at Virginia Tech, Mental Health and Motion (Roanoke, VA), Modern Dance Ensemble (Extention of Roanoke Ballet Theater), and more! 

Each scene includes larger-than-life sets from the two-level home in the party scene in act one, to giant cakes and gingerbread houses in the land of sweets of act two.

Always seeking to outdo herself, Director Heather Leeper pushes the boundary each year, making the production bigger and better. As a result, no two years of the Little Leapers Nutcracker are the same. Every year, the costume, and sets are updated and more dances are added to enhance the performance and the viewer's experience. 


In addition to the spectacle of sets and costuming, Little Leapers dusts off the old storyline and puts a fresh look on how Clara ultimately receives her Nutcracker. Don’t worry, it’s still the story you know and love, but sprinkled with a dynamic that will have you rooting harder for Clara. The narrative change was inspired in 2019 when Little Leapers produced their first Nutcracker Short Film (). Here we are introduced to a new character.  Traditionally the Nutcracker begins as we enter the wealthy household of the Staulbaum’s where their daughter (Clara/Marie - the name is interchangeable between production companies) receives a nutcracker from the magical toymaker Drosselmeyer. But, not long after her brother Fritz breaks it. PAUSE! REWIND!  In Little Leapers’ version, Marie Stalbuam is the Staulbaum’s daughter, however, Clara is the maid’s daughter. Every year Marie received the best gift from her Herr Drosselmeyer. However, this year, Drosselmeyer sees that Marie is spoiled and unkind and sees the gentleness in Clara and gives the annual gift to Clara instead. This causes jealousy and rage in Marie as she continues to find ways to ruin Clara’s new toy and take it away. Ultimately, the terror of Marie spins Clara into a terrible nightmare where Marie is transformed into a hideous mouse that continues to torment and destroy her Nutcracker. Of course, we all know, Clara saves the day with the wack of her shoe, and her Nutcracker is transformed into a real boy, a prince! To thank her for saving him he whisks her away to the Land of Sweets where they celebrate their triumphant victory with a performance of dancing candies, flowers, and fairies. Here you also find the Prima Ballerina (A unique character from Heather Leeper’s children’s book, The Secrets of the Prima Ballerina. An origin story of ballet widely beloved by the Little Leapers community. This character teaches all of the interesting things about ballet in a magical way like why ballerinas do not speak or get dizzy, and why they wear a bun and go en pointe).

The addition of the character Marie not only gives more opportunities for dancers to showcase their talents through more dynamic roles, it has the audience rooting for Clara in a magical way that is not achieved in the original version. It’s the perfect dash of soul-warming we all long for each holiday season. 


Little Leapers’ production strives to exceed boundaries by taking into account every detail along the journey to show the progression of our dancers, and visions throughout the years. 

Why should someone choose to come to see Little Leapers Nutcracker?

The show is performed by over 250 local community members and dancers. So you are sure to see some familiar faces which make the experience even more worthwhile! 


Little Leapers has all of your favorites from Candy Canes to Arabian Coffee, but they’ve also expanded to a broader celebration of cultural diversity in the second act featuring:  Turkish, Dutch, African, and Irish dance. 

We have phenomenal animated digital backgrounds, the most beautiful costumes that we update regularly, the most dedicated youth dancers, and the most adorable little children, as well as the excitement of seeing what we have changed and added for this year.  All of this in the backdrop of the beautiful Moss Arts theater is the perfect kick-off to the holiday season! 

Little Leapers and LEAP Performing Arts Academy provide our students, community members, and audience with a captivating experience for all! Our production is student-centered, with a cast of all ages, highlighting their talents to our community. We are in this amazing position to put on this full production because of our students! We are so grateful to give them the opportunities they are given through this production but really, we would not be able to do this if it was not for the support of our amazing students, the support of their families, and the dedication of our staff! 

Our production of The Nutcracker will mesmerize you with the holiday spirit through the gift of dance and will “keep you on your toes” with all of the special surprises and twists Little Leapers has to offer to this traditional classic. Our production is one of inclusivity, celebrating all abilities of dance and honoring cultural diversity while taking into account the changing times that we live in.

Who will you see dance?

Little Leapers & LEAP performing arts students along with special guests. The LL show provides opportunities for other community members and groups to share in the performing arts experience.  Our LEAP students have achieved a high level of ballet technique earning them training opportunities with various professional institutions and companies such as Houston Ballet, Nutmeg Conservatory Ballet, Youth American Grand Prix, Joffrey Ballet, Ballet Chicago, Nashville Ballet, The Rock ballet, Roanoke Ballet Theater, Charlottesville Ballet, Russian Masters Ballet program (Alicante, Spain), and more! 

OUR JOURNEY: Watch our Show Grow

As a director, “My favorite part about producing The Nutcracker each year is continuously evolving and growing our show.  The Nutcracker is a special part of so many people’s holiday traditions and memories. Whether it is performing, or getting dressed up on a Sunday with Grandma to see the show, our production plays a meaningful part in so many people's lives. It is an honor to be given this amazing opportunity on the most prestigious stage to use our creative energy to make the most spectacular Nutcracker our audience has ever seen. 

Little Leaper’s Nutcracker production has undergone its own magical journey similar to Clara’s. In 2012, Little Leapers put on their first Nutcracker at the Lyric Theatre in Blacksburg despite doubts that a new (and at the time small) local performing arts company could handle such ambitious production demands. The first cast of 40 dancers wore costumes handmade or donated from thrift stores. Each year, their Nutcracker has grown resulting in moving production to Virginia Tech's Moss Arts Center in 2015 during which the show was heralded as the “most successful community production” at the prestigious Moss Arts Center with stunning sets and professional costuming.

“Every year, I get teary-eyed o stage reminiscing on how we have gone from a tiny show and cast of 30 people at the Lyric Theater (Blacksburg, Va) to the ‘most successful community production put on as the Moss’ (as stated by a Moss Arts Center staff member).  Our journey is a wonderful metaphor for our students. Our success didn’t happen overnight. It happened slowly, one show at a  time, always trying to outdo ourselves from the year before, and each time getting better and more creative.  I’ve seen so many Nutcrackers, and every year I think…I’ve never seen anything like this, our own included!” 

What is Nutcracker Season?

For Little Leapers is far more than just the production. It’s a season filled with decorating their multi-award winning tree at the Inn at Virginia Tech, participating in the local holiday parade, and providing an outstanding educational event that allows students from across the area to get an inside look on just how the magic of the nutcracker (or any story they come up with) can come to life through lighting, sounds, engineering, and acting! 

From Auditions to Performance

For the Little Leapers cast, it is more than a yearly holiday production, it is a learning experience. From audition day to the last curtain call, our production parallels the experience of any major ballet company throughout the country. We feel this is an important aspect of the learning and preparation for the production because it prepares our students, families, and collaborators for their future either in dance or theater. As not only an opportunity to learn, our production also allows our students an opportunity to give back. Our mission is to help our dancers strive to be not only great dancers but leaders both inside and outside the dance studio. Whether it is assisting with rehearsals for our younger dancers or contributing to the education of our community school-aged students through our Educational event, our dancers are utilizing their gifts to grow as artists and leaders within their community.

Ultimately, the best part about doing the Nutcracker is experiencing the children’s excitement.  Watching our dancers progress from a little Gingerbread to the role of Sugar Plum fairy is such a fulfilling journey to experience.

Auditions are typically at the end of August / Early September.

Fun Facts:

Little Leapers Nutcracker was the first Nutcracker to be at the prestigious Moss Arts Center and is acclaimed to be the most popular Nutcracker in the NRV with massive crowds, and the only Nutcracker to have sold out the Moss Arts center. 


About the Director

Director, Heather Leeper has studied dance and choreographed for over 20 years studying under NY City Ballet esteemed alumni Michael Steele, Olga Kostritzky, Deborah Wingert, and Garielle Whittle, as well as under Darlene Myers of the Pennsylvania Ballet Company at the Myers School of Dance.  She has performed with New York City Ballet, Northeast Ballet, Saratoga City Ballet (soloist), Northeast Ballet (soloist), Burklyn Ballet, Blacksburg Ballet (soloist), Albany Berkshire Ballet (soloist), and the Dance Company at VT. 

Follow us on Instagram @littleleapers or @nrvnutcracker to get a sneak peek at the upcoming sets and choreography.


The Holiday Spectacular

December 2nd

The Lyric Theater Blacksburg, VA

Written & Heather by Heather Leeper

Auditions:  Aug 26 (levels 3 and under), August 27 (level 4)

The Nutcracker 

December 15th

Moss Arts Center, Virginia Tech 330 Turner St. N.W., Blacksburg, 2406

Directed by Heather Leeper

Music by Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky

Auditions:  Aug 26 (levels 3 and under), August 27 (level 4)


Educational Event

December 15th, 2023



The Clara Experience

Where you are the lead of the show! 

We're bringing it back in 2022! During the pandemic, we had to come up with a way to save The Nutcracker during a time that we were all on lockdown. What was born was an idea that we want to keep going! 

Does your child dream of playing Clara in the Nutcracker? Well, now that dream can come to life! 

The Clara experience is a class taught weekly where your child will learn the iconic dream scene. They will receive their very own Clara nightgown and Nutcracker to use and perform on stage! 

Cost: TBD

Sign up: TBA

more info to come
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