It's an exciting time for the Savannah Ballet Theatre.

Haven't heard of it? That's the new name of the former Savannah Danse Theatre, whose board of directors voted to change the name to reflect the growth and change in the company.

The Islands Dance Academy is now the Savannah Ballet Theatre School of Dance.

IF YOU GO

What: Auditions for "The Nutcracker in Savannah"

When: Aug. 25. Ages 10-13 will audition from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m., and ages 14 and older will audition from 2 to 5 p.m.

Where: Savannah Ballet Theatre Studio, 115 Charlotte Road

Cost: Free

Info: 912-897-2102, savannahballettheatre.org, abby@savannahdance.com, schoolshow@savannahdance.com"I'd love for the city of Savannah to know that they have a professional ballet company," says managing director Abby McCuen.

"Not even Charleston has one."

The name change was approved in November.

"It was time for a refresher," McCuen says. "Savannah Danse started in 1998. We've been nonprofit since then. It was time for a change and a facelift.

"The Savannah Ballet School of Dance has about 100 students," she says.

"The company is our crown jewel. We have 24 dancers, 10 of whom are professional paid members."

Furthermore, the company has been awarded two competitive grants. One is from the Georgia Council for the Arts.

The other, a Weave-a-Dream Grant, is from the City of Savannah's Cultural Affairs Department.

It will enable the SBT to offer a free matinee of "The Nutcracker in Savannah," with first priority given to CCPSS Title 1 schoolchildren, seniors and military families.

Weave-a-Dream will enable SBT to fully subsidize busing for at least 600 schoolchildren.

CitiTrends gave the company a corporate donation that will allow SBT to extend free tickets and busing to additional children.

The company has provided free performances for schoolchildren in the past.

"We've done that, but eaten the cost," she says. "The fact that the city is getting behind us is really cool. People can actually donate and earmark for certain classes to come."

Interested private and corporate donors can get more information at www.savannahballettheatre.org or by sending an email to abby@savannahdance.com.

Interested educators, assisted living facilities staff or military families should email schoolshow@savannahdance.com.

But there's more.

"For the first time, we are opening up our 'Nutcracker,' the biggest show of our season, to the dancers of Savannah and southeast Georgia," McCuen says.

"We are officially a professional company," she says.

"We have 10 professional dancers along with our younger company members, who are students at the school.

"We'll have three productions this year."

"Like Totally '80s" will be presented Oct. 4-5 at S.P.A.C.E.

"It's an all '80s show," McCuen says. "Who doesn't love '80s music?"

"The Nutcracker in Savannah" will be presented Nov. 30 at The Lucas Theatre.

"It's our biggest show of the season," McCuen says. "The tickets go fast.

"The matinee comes with a meet-and-greet afterward. The evening show is a little more of a date night out.

"This year is particularly exciting because we are opening up 'The Nutcracker' to the city of Savannah and surrounding areas," she says. "We're really hoping everybody will come out."

On April 12, the company will present "The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe" at The Lucas.

"It's really great for kids, who will be excited to see it come to life," McCuen says.

"We're really hoping everybody will come out. We are a local company and everything is 'buy local, support local.'"