Falmouth students dance into the spotlight in 'Nutcracker'

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FALMOUTH — Michael Holden and Elise Bickford started dancing when they were each 3 years old, making their first attempts to plie and pirouette at the Maine State Ballet.

This year, though, the two Falmouth High School students will take center stage, dancing the lead roles in the company’s annual production of “The Nutcracker.”

“I’ve grown up in this school, with all these people,” said Holden, a junior, last week before a rehearsal. “It’s been the best time here. It’s like a little dance family.”

Holden recently auditioned and was accepted to the School of American Ballet in New York City, where he hopes to begin studying next near.

Holden, whose bright red hair and outgoing personality almost certainly assure him a future in the spotlight, said dance has been the only life he’s ever known.

“When my friends were outside playing, I was dancing,” he said.

Holden has played nearly every male role in “The Nutcracker,” and he said he’s excited to be dancing the role everyone who has ever seen the show knows so well.

“I’m hoping people are going to get a fresh idea of what (“The Nutcracker”) is,” he said. “I’m really hoping they enjoy the show.”

As his partner, 15-year-old Bickford is a shy, quiet girl, whose passion for ballet is clear.

“I love everything about it,” she said. “I love being able to express myself through dance.”

Bickford has never had a lead role in “The Nutcracker,” but has played her share of roles in the annual production, from being a reindeer as a little girl, to dancing in the Arabian and Spanish dances. She also plays the trumpet for her school band.

“I think Falmouth has a great art community,” Bickford said.

She said sometimes it’s difficult to balance everything going on in her life, but that she prefers it that way.

“I like having a well-rounded life,” she said.

Bickford said she is nervous preparing to be Clara in this year’s production, but that she’s extremely excited about dancing the famous role.

“I just have to let go that everyone’s watching me,” she said. “I have to dance like no one’s watching.”

Nearly 300 children from all over southern Maine participate in the Maine State Ballet’s performances of “The Nutcracker” every year.

“You can see talent in little, bitty kids,” said Artistic Director Linda MacArthur Miele, who will direct her 35th performance of the show this year.

“But talent is only part of it,” she said. “You have to have dedication, and a family that will back you up.”

Performances of “The Nutcracker” begin at Merrill Auditorium in Portland on Nov. 26 at 2 p.m. and 7 p.m., continuing through Dec. 4. A complete list of performance dates, tickets and discount options is available at mainestateballet.org.

Emily Parkhurst can be reached at 781-3661 ext. 125 or eparkhurst@theforecaster.net. Follow her on Twitter: @emilyparkhurst.

Sidebar Elements

Falmouth High School junior Michael Holden and sophomore Elise Bickford practice for their roles as The Nutcracker and Clara, respectively, in this year’s Maine State Ballet production of “The Nutcracker.” Performances begin Saturday, Nov. 26, at Merrill Auditorium in Portland.