Kate Woodside of Windham, left, Eva McDonald of Portland, Ruby Driscoll and, Carmen Murawski of Westbrook and Claire Langan of Portland before the audition. Courtesy photo

WESTBROOK — At age 12, Ellen Woodside is a dedicated and serious dancer who can now channel her passion into the role of a Snow Maiden in the Moscow Ballet’s production of “Great Russian Nutcracker” in Portland in December.

Ellen, a Windham Middle School student, has been dancing for just a few years  and practices nearly every day. The opportunity to join a professional ballet troupe on stage presented an opportunity she couldn’t pass up. She and 21 other dancers from Westbrook, Portland and other surrounding towns had successful auditions Tuesday with the Moscow Ballet at Drouin Dance Center in Westbrook.

Ellen Woodside, 12, of Windham, was cast as a Snow Maiden for the Dec. 3 production of “Great Russian Nutcracker.” Courtesy photo

Moscow Ballet tours nationwide and invites youth in the communities where it performs to participate as part of its  Dance-with-Us outreach program. Woodside will be joined on stage by other young dancers from Windham,  Westbrook, Portland and other surrounding towns.

Ellen dances nearly every day, but in preparing for the audition, she packed even more hours of dance into her schedule.

“I really enjoy the competition. I love having that chance to do my best and possibly do it perfectly. If I mess up, I learn from that and try again, so there are always things to work on and competition gives me that chance to really show what I’ve learned, and work on it,” she said.

“I love being able to let it all out, moving my body and feeling free,” she said. “Another thing with ballet is that there is always something to learn and more to work on.”

Eight-year-old Ruby Driscoll of Westbrook was cast as a Party Girl. This is the second year she will dance with the Moscow Ballet.

“I have been dancing for six years, and it’s a lot of fun,” Ruby said. “Competing, doing special dances and being friends, that’s why I like ballet.”

The Dance-with-Us Program is a golden opportunity for young local dancers, said Danielle Drouin, owner of the dance center.

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

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

Rehearsals for the Dec. 3 show at the State Theatre in Portland began the day after auditions, meaning that the dancers will be preparing for four months before they take the stage.

“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,” said Sally Michael Keyes, the American public relations manager for the Moscow Ballet.

“You get to laugh, share the same jokes, and I think it’s a huge boost for peace and harmony and understanding.”

The dancers got to meet Moscow Ballerina Olga Pasternak, back left, who was present through the audition. Courtesy photo

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