The Moscow Ballet performs with children as a part of the “Dance-with-Us” program. Auditions for the program will be held at Drouin Dance Center in Westbrook Aug. 27. Courtesy photo

WESTBROOK — Young dancers who dream of sharing the stage with professional ballerinas have an opportunity dancing their way later this month.

Dance-with-Us is a nationwide program that looks to include local children into large productions by the Moscow Ballet, an esteemed dance company that performs around the world. The children will fill roles in the ballet’s “Great Russian Nutcracker” production Dec. 2 at the State Theatre in Portland.

“Moscow Ballet has been touring the U.S. for 27 years now, and we are now traveling to 143 cities and that means we are basically in one city for one day,” said Sally Michael Keys, public relations director. “When we started the tour, this meant that no one knew us, you come and leave.”

A choreographer and dancer with the company thought involving local children in their productions would help the troupe build an identity within the communities.

“It provides a unique experience a lot of kiddos don’t get,” said Danielle Drouin, owner of Drouin Dance Center in Westbrook. “Dancing alongside dancers from around the world is really fun for them.”

For the company, it brings in an audience that is more vested in the performance. For the students, it means that they get to work backstage, rehearse and ultimately perform with professionals.

“We are looking for beginner ballet students, and then it goes up in ages to 15- to 17-year-olds, so children of all ages have an opportunity to be in the performance,” Keyes said.

The company has about 60 slots open to students, though they often accept more, she said.

For the last two years that Moscow Ballet has performed in Portland, the Drouin Dance Center has hosted their local auditions.

“They have one of their directors come for the audition, so it’s a real audition with someone from their company,” Drouin said.

In Russia, Keyes said, ballet is as popular for both students and adults as baseball is in the United States. Children of all ages go to school for dance, and productions over there often include children.

“The dancers love having the kids around aspiring to what the pros do,” Keyes said. “They are comfortable, and in Russia that is how they do it, they have children from the ballet company on stage.

Aside from an opportunity to dance on stage, the students often take away other lessons.

“It’s great for communities in general, so many divisive things happen today, but when you meet someone from another culture and spend 12 hours dancing and eating with them, rehearsing, you get to know this different person as a person,” Keyes said. “You get to laugh, share the same jokes, and I think it’s a huge boost for peace and harmony and understanding.”

The free auditions are Aug. 27 at 4:30 p.m. at the Drouin Dance Center, 90  Bridge St. Moscow Ballet dancer Olga Pasternak will run the auditions. Hand-sewn costumes are provided. Dancers can sign up at www.nutcracker.com/dance.


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