This year, as always, Maine State Ballet’s “Nutcracker” is a feast for the senses, a treat for everyone from children with sugarplum dreams to experienced fans of theater and dance.

The production is a polished blend of old and new choreography, beautiful costumes and lighting, and a cast of student and professional dancers alongside an extensive troupe of well-rehearsed children.

In the matinee on Saturday, the first-act party scene was something of a reunion for a generation of Maine State Ballet ballerinas. Former principals and soloists Jessica Cook, Katie DeSantis, Becci Webb and Juliette Lauzier-Bridges portrayed party parents with elegance, led by real-life couple Janet and Glenn Davis as Clara’s parents.

Parts of the party-scene choreography hearken back much further, to the former Maine State Ballet, a Portland-Bangor partnership that was in its last years in the mid-1970s when artistic director Linda MacArthur Miele and her husband, Jonathan, left Broadway to direct his childhood dance studio in Portland.

This heritage brings even deeper meaning to the “made in Maine” nature of which Maine State Ballet is rightfully proud. The Mieles have nurtured local dancers for over 40 years, and enough accomplished artists have stayed in Maine or returned to Maine that the company truly deserves the “local” stamp.

This year’s party scene was as lively and entertaining as ever. Elizabeth Chadbourne, Caroline Chittum, Arie Eiten (alternating with Trevor Seymour) and Roberto Forleo are featured as delightful dancing dolls brought to the party by Uncle Drosselmeyer (Frederick Bernier). Adrienne Pelletier charms as Clara, combining mature artistry with childlike expression. (Pelletier alternates with Brooke Sowerby.)


After the party, the battle scene didn’t fail to elicit laughs and gasps from the audience, especially for the mouse who nibbles a slice of cheese throughout, the tiny galloping cavalry, the growing Christmas tree and the Nutcracker’s transformation into a prince (Boomer Druchniak).

The ballet’s centerpiece, in both placement and splendor, was “Waltz of the Snowflakes,” one of Tchaikovsky’s most evocative compositions. Maine State Ballet’s “Snowflakes” used the quintessential choreography of George Balanchine, legendary for his gift of making music visible, a talent shared by Miele, who learned this choreography while in New York City Ballet under Balanchine. Once you’ve seen or performed in this “Snowflakes,” nothing else quite meets the mark.

Dancers in flowing white with glittering tiaras flutter and float on and off the stage, in groups of increasing size, as the music builds in texture and tempo into a gentle, swirling snowfall. The lighting, by David Herrman, is absolutely magical, in wintry blue with a barely perceptible pink to complete the dreamy effect of snowy twilight.

Although the Maine State Ballet Orchestra has performed in some years without a choir, fortunately this year principal dancer and artistic assistant Janet Davis led a chorus for the brief treble choir portion of “Snowflakes,” which is such an integral part of the piece’s magic.

In the Palace of Sweets, Clara and the Nutcracker meet the Sugar Plum Fairy, who invites them to watch a series of divertissements representing sweets from various lands.

Veronica Druchniak is crystalline as the Sugar Plum Fairy. She has enough strength to make her pointework and balances appear natural and light, and her head and arms are very pretty and delicate.


On Saturday, Druchniak captured the Sugar Plum Fairy’s gracious, ethereal quality in her solo variation, and the pas de deux with Nathaniel Dombek brought out her musicality in such moves as a leg extension after pirouettes that perfectly illustrated a harp glissando. Dombek partnered Druchniak expertly, and his solo included clean turns and nice elevation in his leaps.

“Waltz of the Flowers” provided another moment of the past meeting future on Saturday. Balanchine choreography is featured again here, and Miele herself performed Dew Drop several times in earlier years, as did daughter Janet Davis more recently. This year, granddaughter Emma Davis is one of five demi-soloists in the rotating cast.

On Saturday, Emma Davis and Brooke Sowerby were demi-soloists, leading the corps of Flowers with sprightly grace and aplomb. These two dancers’ slightness of stature was a bonus; shorter than most of the corps and in lighter pink fluffy, flounced dresses, Davis and Sowerby were like rosebuds in front of a bouquet.

Rhiannon Pelletier, who alternates with Druchniak in the principal roles of Sugar Plum Fairy and Dew Drop, demonstrated strength and grace on Saturday as a quicksilver Dew Drop, returning in the coda for turns and an impossibly long balance in arabesque.

Maine State Ballet’s “Nutcracker” closes with Clara’s departure in a sleigh led by Santa and drawn by tiny reindeer, a role that many of the accomplished dancers in this company might just barely remember as their first. As Clara leaves, to the last strains of the score, the second-act cast fills the stage waving a fond farewell.

Jennifer Brewer is a Portland-based freelancer writer.

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