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Paw-rouette: Dog named 'Pig' dances ballet in 'Mutt-cracker'

Associated Press logo Associated Press 12/13/2016 By JAY REEVES, Associated Press
In a Thursday, Dec. 8, 2016 photo, performing as the Sugar Plum Fairy, Katherine Free, left, dances with Pig, the dog, during the Birmingham's Ballet Mutt-cracker, a rendition of the famous ballet "The Nutcracker," in Birmingham, Ala. Pig was a featured performer, wearing a pink tutu and dancing alone with the Sugar Plum Fairy in Act 2. Born with a condition called short-spine syndrome, the 3-year-old dog hops somewhat like a frog to stand up and has hunched shoulders that make her gait appear somewhat gorilla-like. (AP Photo/Brynn Anderson) © The Associated Press In a Thursday, Dec. 8, 2016 photo, performing as the Sugar Plum Fairy, Katherine Free, left, dances with Pig, the dog, during the Birmingham's Ballet Mutt-cracker, a rendition of the famous ballet "The Nutcracker," in Birmingham, Ala. Pig was a featured performer, wearing a pink tutu and dancing alone with the Sugar Plum Fairy in Act 2. Born with a condition called short-spine syndrome, the 3-year-old dog hops somewhat like a frog to stand up and has hunched shoulders that make her gait appear somewhat gorilla-like. (AP Photo/Brynn Anderson)

BIRMINGHAM, Ala. (AP) — Even casual dance fans have heard of the Christmastime classic "The Nutcracker," but what about "The Mutt-cracker?"

In a Thursday, Dec. 8, 2016 photo, performing as the Sugar Plum Fairy, Katherine Free, left, dances with Pig, the dog, during the Birmingham's Ballet Mutt-cracker, a rendition of the famous ballet "The Nutcracker," in Birmingham, Ala. Pig was a featured performer, wearing a pink tutu and dancing alone with the Sugar Plum Fairy in Act 2. Born with a condition called short-spine syndrome, the 3-year-old dog hops somewhat like a frog to stand up and has hunched shoulders that make her gait appear somewhat gorilla-like. (AP Photo/Brynn Anderson) © The Associated Press In a Thursday, Dec. 8, 2016 photo, performing as the Sugar Plum Fairy, Katherine Free, left, dances with Pig, the dog, during the Birmingham's Ballet Mutt-cracker, a rendition of the famous ballet "The Nutcracker," in Birmingham, Ala. Pig was a featured performer, wearing a pink tutu and dancing alone with the Sugar Plum Fairy in Act 2. Born with a condition called short-spine syndrome, the 3-year-old dog hops somewhat like a frog to stand up and has hunched shoulders that make her gait appear somewhat gorilla-like. (AP Photo/Brynn Anderson)
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The humane society fundraiser features a misshapen little mutt named "Pig" as the pirouetting pet of the Sugar Plum Fairy. The show has been performed by the Birmingham Ballet for the past five years. This year's version was staged Friday to a near sellout crowd at the city's main concert hall.

In this Thursday, Dec. 8, 2016 photo, performing as the Sugar Plum Fairy, Katherine Free, left, dances with Pig, the dog, during the Birmingham's Ballet Mutt-cracker, a rendition of the famous ballet "The Nutcracker," in Birmingham, Ala. Pig was a featured performer, wearing a pink tutu and dancing alone with the Sugar Plum Fairy in Act 2. (AP Photo/Brynn Anderson) © The Associated Press In this Thursday, Dec. 8, 2016 photo, performing as the Sugar Plum Fairy, Katherine Free, left, dances with Pig, the dog, during the Birmingham's Ballet Mutt-cracker, a rendition of the famous ballet "The Nutcracker," in Birmingham, Ala. Pig was a featured performer, wearing a pink tutu and dancing alone with the Sugar Plum Fairy in Act 2. (AP Photo/Brynn Anderson)

During the show, a black Great Dane cavorted with Drosselmeyer, who presented his niece Clara with a magical Nutcracker, and a spaniel trotted out on stage with cast members. A pack of pugs did what pugs normally do: They sat and snorted.

In this Thursday, Dec. 8, 2016 photo, Carl Dean, as Drosselmeyer, walks to the stage with Pig the dog to meet the Sugar Plum Fairy, Katherine Free, during the Birmingham's Ballet Mutt-cracker, in Birmingham, Ala. Pig was a featured performer, wearing a pink tutu and dancing alone with the Sugar Plum Fairy in Act 2. Born with a condition called short-spine syndrome, the 3-year-old dog hops somewhat like a frog to stand up and has hunched shoulders that make her gait appear somewhat gorilla-like. (AP Photo/Brynn Anderson) © The Associated Press In this Thursday, Dec. 8, 2016 photo, Carl Dean, as Drosselmeyer, walks to the stage with Pig the dog to meet the Sugar Plum Fairy, Katherine Free, during the Birmingham's Ballet Mutt-cracker, in Birmingham, Ala. Pig was a featured performer, wearing a pink tutu and dancing alone with the Sugar Plum Fairy in Act 2. Born with a condition called short-spine syndrome, the 3-year-old dog hops somewhat like a frog to stand up and has hunched shoulders that make her gait appear somewhat gorilla-like. (AP Photo/Brynn Anderson)

Pig, outfitted in a pink tutu, was a featured performer, dancing alone with the Sugar Plum Fairy. Born with a condition called short-spine syndrome, the 3-year-old dog hops somewhat like a frog to stand up and has hunched shoulders that make her gait appear somewhat gorilla-like.

Owner Kim Dillenbeck said being around so many people and dogs in the theater was unnerving for Pig, whose Facebook page has more than 100,000 followers.

"She is so easily startled because she can't move her head at all; her head is fused at her shoulders," Dillenbeck said. "So for her to come to a place that has lots of noise and stuff is very difficult."

But Pig was a trouper, especially when given an incentive: During a rehearsal, ballerina Katherine Free held a treat up in the air to get her to twirl about at the end of a leash.

Free marveled at Pig and the 28 other dogs cast for the show. Only a few of the animals were trained performers, and many were rescues.

"They give so much to the stage and project to the audience more than you might think, and it's amazing to see them grow from even their rehearsals to being on the stage," Free said.

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