For Jennifer Moulton, a young American ballet student, this has been ''an exciting first year'' at the Royal Ballet School. For Lucinda Garner, a senior student, it has been ''the best ever.''
Both ends of this world-famous classical ballet training course came together recently at Covent Garden when the junior and graduating senior students took part in the 25th anniversary of the school's first performance at the Royal Opera House.
In an ambitious production of Tchaikovsky's classic ballet ''The Sleeping Beauty,'' Jennifer was one of the fairy pages in Act I who carries a cushion of presents for the newborn Princess Aurora. Lucinda had the enviable role of the lovely Lilac Fairy who watches over the Princess and finally guides Prince Florimund to the sleeping palace.
Thirteen-year-old Jennifer is from Berkeley, Calif., one of two Americans among the 123 pupils enrolled at the Lower School. With no system at home that combines full-time education with balletic training, she auditioned for the Royal Ballet School last year after seeing a book about it.
White Lodge, set in the depths of Richmond Park southwest of London, is a beautiful, historic Palladian villa, now the nursery home for budding young Fonteyns and Nureyevs up to the age of 16. It was here that the late Duke of Windsor was born - but today it is the scene of perpetual plies and pirouettes.
Dressed in blue leotards with their hair in two plaits tied on top, the first-year ballerinas-to-be and their future partners have a daily routine of regular schoolwork in the mornings and 21/2 hours of dancing in the afternoon. Seniority in the school means changes in costume color and hairstyles and more dancing per day.
Jennifer is dark-haired and petite - ''you'll be able to recognize me on stage, as I'm the smallest fairy-page,'' she said helpfully, since all six wore identical fitted jackets, long, curly, judgelike brown wigs, and floppy hats. She has no regrets about coming and swapping her own room for a dormitory with 11 other girls. ''The bedspreads are a horrible brown,'' she reported, ''but the atmosphere is homely and protected and we give each other moral support while learning to be patient and unselfish.''
For Lucinda, 17, the days have been filled with dancing classes. She has just completed two years at the Upper School at Barrons Court, Hammersmith (a subway ride from Covent Garden), after three years at White Lodge. Here she has learned not only the choreographical repertoires of Petipa, Fokine, Balanchine, Ashton, and MacMillan, but also mime, makeup, and modern dance.
''I've grown up so much,'' she said. ''The discipline makes you a much stronger person in every way.''
This school is nonresidential, so Lucinda, like other students, had to find ''digs'' (rented rooms). During her final year she was used many times in the corps of the Royal Ballet for performances at Covent Garden, which gave her important stage experience and confidence.
And ''Sleeping Beauty''? The school's production had a childlike innocence about it - the joy and freshness of doing something for the first time. Elegant court ladies had good, strong gestures, the varous Fairies showed individual talents in their solos, their Cavaliers were exuberant and light-footed and careful in their partnering. Jennifer's friends appeared in various supporting roles and were boosted on by non-dancing classmates in the audience.
Although the two leading roles were taken by full-fledged (though ex-Royal Ballet School) members of the Royal Ballet, the casting showed many promising future dancers. Lucinda's Lilac Fairy was controlled, authoritative, and serene. The discipline, structure, and dedication of her five years' training was evident. ''Her face was so beautiful - she really inspired confidence,'' said Jennifer, whose own toes had been neatly pointed, her back straight.
''School goes so quickly,'' said Lucinda sadly; ''the little ones think they have masses of time - but they don't.'' While Jennifer has some time at home with her family now and is planning for next year's turquoise leotards and bun hairstyle, Lucinda goes straight from school to join the Sadler's Wells Royal Ballet Company for six weeks of rehearsals and then a tour of the provinces.