Maine State Ballet seasonal favorite features talent from throughout southern Maine
FALMOUTH — For many, hearing just a few bars of "The Nutcracker" conjures up nostalgic memories of the first time they heard Tchaikovsky's enchanting music and saw the magical ballet.
For many of the dancers in the Maine State Ballet Company, who have grown up performing annually in the ballet, they're making memories now that will always be a special part of their lives.
And they're helping create and revive memories for all who will attend their performances – whether for the first time, or the 21st.
Artistic Director Linda MacArthur Miele has her own, deeply rooted memories of the traditional holiday ballet. A protege of George Balanchine, Miele danced nearly 10 years with the New York City Ballet, performing "The Nutcracker" 50 to 55 times annually during that time.
"That's a lot of 'Nutcrackers' for me at Lincoln Center," she said. "I remember it fondly – that's what you did in November and December. It would seem very odd without doing a 'Nutcracker.'"
Now, in her directorial role, Miele said she "never" gets tired of the popular ballet. For so many of her students, the dance studio is a safe place to come – a way to express themselves other than on the sports field, she said. And the studio's yearly production of "The Nutcracker" – every year for the past 32 years – has given Miele the opportunity to watch many of her dancers mature and progress from reindeer and pages to major roles in the company.
"For me, bringing up the younger dancers is like watching your children grow up," she said.
During a Nov. 21 rehearsal, performers sat in the audience, waiting patiently for their cues to scramble backstage and then into the spotlight. Many of the younger dancers sat entranced as they watched the principals move so fluidly – each hand perfectly positioned, each satin-slippered foot precisely en pointe. A group of young boys in black tights and white T-shirts stood to one side of the room, re-enacting the sword fight between the Nutcracker and the Mouse King.
Though the rehearsal lacked most of the imaginative costumes that will transform the dancing during actual performances, for those who know the story, the stripped appearance of practice leotards, Ts and mismatched tights served only to expose and accentuate the beauty of the dance.
And perhaps the young dancers who watched their role models were too busy picturing themselves in the the part of Clara, the Sugar Plum Fairy or the Nutcracker even to notice the missing costumes.
More than 200 dancers from 35 towns in southern Maine will perform over the run of the show, with 50 additional children performing as reindeer. Music will be provided by the Maine State Ballet Orchestra conducted by Karla Kelley. Singers during the snow scene hail from two different Portland area childrens' choirs: the Musica de Filia Girlchoir, directed by Jaye Churchill, will sing the first weekend's performances, and the Wescustago Youth Chorale, directed by Ann Dillon, will perform during the second weekend's shows.
Peggy Roberts can be reached at 781-3661 ext. 125 or firstname.lastname@example.org.