MOUNT WASHINGTON - Christmas came early for one local youngster when she was selected to play in the Louisville Ballet's 2011 production of "The Nutcracker."
Old Mill Elementary fourth grader Whitney Fox, who has taken dance lessons since she was a toddler, auditioned for her part in August.
She was chosen out of 72 kids to play one of eight mice in the enchanted holiday classic about a little girl and her toy nutcracker, which comes to life and accompanies her through an epic adventure to defeat an evil rat king.
Whitney remembered she could hardly contain herself when she found out she got the part.
"I was so excited," she said. "It's a dream come true."
In a personal narrative she wrote for one of her classes, Whitney described the moment she received the confirmation letter from the Louisville Ballet.
"When I opened the mailbox I thought it was a bill, until I saw the shiny blue return address screaming Louisville Ballet at me. I was as happy as a kid on Christmas morning."
Whitney said her hands were shaking so bad she had to have her mom open the letter.
Leslie Fox, admitted she too was a little nervous, but their anxiety quickly turned to elation when she announced Whitney got the part.
"I'm so proud," she said, "not just because she got picked, but because she's shown so much perseverance and commitment over the years."
Leslie Fox said the news was especially welcome because over the summer Whitney was turned down for a role in Bardstown's Stephen Foster Productions "The Wizard of Oz."
"The Nutcracker" is Whitney's first major production, though she has participated in theater camps with Louisville's Stage One Family Theatre and Derby Dinner Playhouse in Clarksville, Ind.
Whitney began taking dance lessons when she was three. Today she studies at Louisville's Dance Fusion, where she has learned ballet, tap, jazz, hip hop and flamenco.
She spends 10-15 hours per week in dance classes while maintaining As and Bs in all her classes.
Old Mill counselor Kim Bleemel said everyone at the school was so proud of Whitney when they heard she was chosen to be in "The Nutcracker," especially because most of them knew how important performing was to her.
"It's obvious she loves performing," Bleemel said. "She's got it all: the talent, the brains and the attitude. We all hope she goes a long way."
Leslie Fox said keeping up with Whitney's demanding schedule has been hectic, but sharing in her excitement has been worth all the while.
"I wouldn't have it any other way," she said.
Whitney said practicing for "The Nutcracker" has inspired her to work harder and she hopes to be in the show again next year.
"I've learned a lot," she said. "It's not all about hanging out with your friends; you have to stay focused and concentrate on what you're doing."
"The Nutcracker" opened at the Kentucky Center for the Performing Arts in downtown Louisville on Dec. 10 and will run until Friday, December 23.
For more information, visit kentuckycenter.org or call 1-800-775-7777.