It's the tiara, the beautiful clothes, the attention. It's dancing with the prince. Most little girls dream of becoming a princess.

For Stephanie Bandura, 11, of Mount Airy, the dream came true when she was selected to dance the role of Marie in Pennsylvania Ballet's Nutcracker. And she would be dancing it twice: during Thanksgiving week at the John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts in Washington - the first time any company has danced George Balanchine's enchanting version in the nation's capital - and in December at the Academy of Music.

To accommodate the extra performances, Pennsylvania Ballet had to do some planning. So last spring, Stephanie was notified. A student at the Rock School for Dance Education, she had been elevated from last year's party scene to dance the main children's role.

She "screamed and jumped on the bed" when she was told, Stephanie said. "And then I went to tell my cats," Lucas and Lily.

To make it even more special, her best friend, Maria Santangelo, 12, of Abington, was chosen as Marie for the second cast.

The dream continues for Stephanie through Dec. 31, as the Pennsylvania Ballet stages its Nutcracker at the Academy of Music. - Ellen Dunkel

See a gallery of more photos at http://go.philly.com/banduraEndText