All eyes were on longtime ballerina Rhiannon Pelletier of Raymond as she twirled and leaped across the Maine State Ballet stage in rehearsal wearing a bright smile and pink tutu.

Pelletier, a 20-year-old college student, is in her 12th year performing in the Maine State Ballet’s “The Nutcracker,” though her extremely active dancing career began a couple years before that. This fall is her third time playing the part of the Sugar Plum Fairy in the company’s annual production, set to kick off Saturday at Merrill Auditorium in Portland.

This year, however, is the first time Pelletier’s performed as one of the company’s principal dancers, a role she earned in the spring and for which she receives a stipend. Principals are considered the stars of a ballet company, achieving the highest rank. Principal dancers often appear in leading roles.

“I went to see ‘The Nutcracker’ before I started here, and I fell in love with it,” said Pelletier, while stretching and warming up before last weekend’s rehearsal at Maine State Ballet’s studio in Falmouth. “I remember watching the prince and the Sugar Plum Fairy, and I was totally awe-struck.”

“I was like, ‘I want to do that,’ so my parents put me in (the program) here, and the rest is history,” said Pelletier.

While it’s “straight-up fun,” Pelletier said there’s also a lot of pressure involved as the Sugar Plum Fairy. She also performs the part of Dew Drop, another major role, in the upcoming production.


“You’re completely in charge and everyone is watching you, so it’s a little scary,” she said. “It feels like an honor to do it. It’s so rewarding. I can remember being a little girl, looking up at the Sugar Plum Fairy and saying, ‘That’s the coolest thing.’”

Pelletier performs in more than 50 shows a year on the stage at Maine State Ballet. Next spring, she is set to take the stage in “Sleeping Beauty.” She also recently performed in “Peter and the Wolf,” and “Coppelia,” where she played the lead role, Swanhilda.

“That was my first time, other than Sugar Plum, being the lead in a ballet,” said Pelletier, who teaches tap and jazz at Center Stage Performing Arts in Raymond on Mondays and Wednesdays.

Pelletier, who was home-schooled through high school, is a senior at Saint Joseph’s College of Maine in Standish, where she is majoring in writing and publishing and minoring in business administration. She started the early education program at the college when she was 15, which means she’s graduating early. She completed an internship with Taproot Magazine this summer, where she is now working part time as an editorial assistant for the online publication. She also manages her own blog, “A Dancer’s Days,” which she updates regularly. To top it off, she got engaged this past September.

She also plans to continue dancing – at least for as long as she’s physically able. The seasoned ballerina has recently been coping with a back injury and ankle injuries sustained from dancing. Along with overcoming the physical challenges of dancing, Pelletier said, time management is also key to being a successful ballerina.

The most rewarding part of performing is being able “to give back,” she said. “It’s really special. I can’t describe it. It’s just a really great feeling.”


Though she’s putting in less than 40 hours a week, being a principal dancer for the Maine State Ballet Company has been like a full-time job.

“It’s just (all about) rolling with the punches, and taking care of one thing after the other,” Pelletier said. “You have to make adjustments in your everyday life to be able to do this.”

Linda MacArthur Miele, Maine State Ballet’s artistic director, commends Pelletier for her dedication to the company through the last several years. Pelletier became one of five principal dancers – she is also the youngest – for the company this April. A total of 25 dancers are employed with the company.

“She’s lovely,” said Miele. “She’s just a hard worker. She has a natural strength and ability. We love having her here. She is always upping her performance.”

According to Miele, “The Nutcracker” has a cast of 285, including boys and girls of all ages, from throughout Maine.

Dancing “is her life,” said her mother, Beth Pelletier, who volunteers her time with the company. “She puts 100 percent of herself into everything she does. I am very proud of her. She has a good head on her shoulders.”


Beth Pelletier said she enjoys watching her daughter perform. Rhiannon Pelletier was born with a heart condition, her mother said, and she was told that she wouldn’t be able to do any physical activity.

“A big part of who she is, is overcoming that obstacle,” Beth Pelletier said. “Every time my husband and I, and my mother, see her dance, it’s overwhelmingly emotional for us.”

A closer look:

Maine State Ballet’s two-hour production of “The Nutcracker,” accompanied by the Maine State Ballet Orchestra, will run Sunday, Nov. 29, at 2 p.m.; Friday, Dec. 4, at 7 p.m.; Saturday, Dec. 5, at 2 and 7 p.m.; and Sunday, Dec. 6, at 2 p.m., at Merrill Auditorium, Portland. Tickets range from $15-60. For more information, see

Rhiannon Pelletier, 20, of Raymond, rehearses at Maine State Ballet in Falmouth this past weekend for the company’s annual production of “The Nutcracker.” Pelletier became a principal dancer for the company this past spring and will play the part of the Sugar Plum Fairy for her third time.Beth Pelletier, a longtime volunteer for Maine State Ballet and mother of Rhiannon Pelletier, helps her daughter put on her tutu before a rehearsal for “The Nutcracker.”Rhiannon Pelletier spends time warming up before a rehearsal of “The Nutcracker” at Maine State Ballet.

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