For the second year in a row, aspiring dancers from Maine will join professional dancers from Moscow Ballet to perform in the “Great Russian Nutcracker” at the State Theatre in Portland on Dec. 5. About 20 local dancers, most from the Dance Studio of Maine in Gorham and ranging in age from 7 to 16, will perform side by side with the Russian dancers in roles tailored to their ages and skill levels. They will dance as party children, mice, snowflakes, snow maidens and more.

The Dance Studio of Maine began collaborating with Moscow Ballet last year, said Trish Moulton, who owns the studio. “Last year, one of the best things was seeing how the kids reacted to the professional ballerinas. Seeing them warm up and stretch before they go and how they prepare and handle costume changes and prop changes, the kids were pretty wide-eyed. That was pretty awesome,” she said. “Having the experience of seeing how rigorous it is and seeing what it’s like to tour with a company is invaluable.”

Moscow Ballet offers the opportunity through its Dance-with-Us education program. Since 1994, the program has enabled more than 100,000 aspiring dancers from North America to dance with a company of 40 professional dancers from Russia. This is Moscow Ballet’s 25th year performing the “Great Russian Nutcracker” and other ballets in the United States.

Akiva Talmi, Moscow Ballet’s North American producer, said many youngsters who dance with the company pursue careers in the field. Soloists from the ballet led the local auditions in September. About 60 kids auditioned, Talmi said.

“We are not looking for them to be the next Baryshnikov,” he said. “For the youngest, we are looking for students who show creative movement and who move in rhythm. For the older students, we are looking for those who have studied point.”

Moscow Ballet travels with costumes in many sizes to fit the local dancers, and the chance for dancers to wear those costumes on stage is thrilling, Moulton said.

“It’s just such a great experience for these kids,” she said. “What it really does, it gives us an outside-of-Maine perspective. The Russian dancers work in a whole different way. They really do. They’re very disciplined, very hard workers. There are so many beautiful ‘Nutcrackers’ around here. This one is a little different.”