Ballet takes Falmouth students 'Behind the Curtain'

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FALMOUTH — Second-graders on a recent trip to the ballet were anything but spectators.

The annual “Behind the Curtain” visit to Maine State Ballet’s  headquarters on U.S. Route 1 was a chance to learn what goes into a production, from set and costume design to dancing.

Linda Miele, artistic director of the ballet, said the program gives the students a kind of artistic education and appreciation they might otherwise not get in a regular day in class. She said it also helps foster an appreciation of the arts.

The program, now in its eighth year, was originally organized by Kevin Grover, a Falmouth Elementary School teacher and former Maine Teacher of the Year, who died in 2012 of a heart attack. Miele said the ballet company wants to keep the programming going in his honor.

About 80 second-grade students came in two shifts June 9 to the nonprofit organization’s studio. Miele showed them costumes, which are made by volunteers, as a way to demonstrate that there is a great amount of artistic work other than dancing that goes into ballet.

“Ballet can seem like an exclusive art,” Miele said. “(But) you can do a lot of different things and be a part of ballet.”

Students also had the opportunity to learn about scenery and lighting, and experienced a dance lesson.

Second-grade teacher Laura Merrill said for students who might not be comfortable getting up on stage and performing, a program like this shows them there are other things they can do to be part of a group effort.

“A lot of kids don’t know this is right here in Falmouth,” she said.

Students Penelope Johnson and Reese Harder said they both enjoyed the experience.

“I didn’t even know how to do ballet (before),” Johnson said.

Miele said the ballet loves having the students come through and learn about the program, and Merrill said Maine State Ballet had been “unbelievable” by donating its time each year.

“We feel so fortunate that they continue to contact us,” Merrill said.

Colin Ellis can be reached at 781-3661 ext. 123 or cellis@theforecaster.net. Follow him on Twitter: @colinoellis.

Linda Miele, artistic director of Maine State Ballet, shows second-graders from Falmouth Elementary School costumes from various performances. Students spent a morning learning about costume and set design, dance and other aspects of production.

“Behind the Curtain” was created by the late Kevin Grover, a Falmouth Elementary School teacher. Maine State Ballet has continued to offer the program free of charge for Falmouth students.

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Reporter covering the Portland Public School District as well as the town of Falmouth for The Forecaster. Can be reached at 781-3661 ext. 123 or cellis@theforecaster.net.