To recognize 17-year-old Bonnie Moore as a winner one doesn't need to know that she earned a first prize at the international ballet competition in Lausanne early this year or that she took top honors in a National Society for Arts and Letters contest two years before that. All you have to do is watch her on stage at Lisner Auditorium, where she is alternating this season with Lynn Cote in the role of the Sugarplum Fairy in the Washington Ballet's production of "The Nutcracker."

Her look, facility, her style and spirit stamp her indelibly as an exceptional talent with an already burgeoning stage personality. Beyond the long exquisitely tapered legs and finely arched feet, the skyscraping extensions and electric rhythms, she has the inner fire of a born performer and the kind of joy in the act of dancing that puts one in mind of the New York City Ballet's current Wunderkind Darci Kistler.

In Tuesday night's performance, even though she didn't make her first appearance until Act II and danced only in the concluding grand pas de deux (with John Goding as her attentive Cavalier), Moore's presence brightened and sweetened the whole evening. The line of her figure in arabesques approaches perfection, and the sharp, thrillingly musical articulation of her legs in the "Sugarplum Variation" makes one aware of a penetrating dance intelligence.

To be sure, she has a lot of maturing and refining ahead of her--one becomes especially conscious of this in the occasional gangliness of her arms and hands, the sporadic carelessness of her head and shoulder carriage and other such stylistic minutiae that remind one of her relative inexperience. But it's also clear that if she doesn't proceed to a notable career in ballet it won't be for lack of excellent training or natural endowment.

Moore is one of a long line of impressive alumnae from Mary Day's Washington School of Ballet, and the current "Nutcracker," like its predecessors, affords tantalizing glimpses of still younger budding dancers from this same institution. Conspicuous among many Tuesday night were Kelli Martin as a rapt Clara, Amy Bauer as a scintillating Star, Bradford Willmore as the lively jumper in the Tea variation, Robert Wallace as an incredibly bounding Candy Cane, and Patrick Corbin as a stalwart Nutcracker.

Among the regular Washington Ballet members who assumed the major dancing parts, Hoon Sook Pak and Stephen Baranovics distinguished themselves as a serene Snow Queen and Prince. In the "Waltz of the Flowers" ensemble Alejandra Bronfman exuded that special combination of reticence and ardor that is hers alone. This year's conductor, Thomas Ludwig, has gotten the pit orchestra to play the familiar Tchaikovsky score more cleanly, clearly and stylishly than ever before with only a few traces of sluggishness in Act I to mar the picture.