Maine State Ballet: Giving Back During The Holidays

By Carol McCracken

Almost three hundred students from the East End Community School attended a special performance of the Nutcracker yesterday morning as guests of the Maine State Ballet – it was part of an annual program that invites students from area schools to watch this seasonal favorite – “Clara and the Nutcracker Prince as they travel through a snow covered forest into the Palace of the Sweets where they are greeted by the Sugar Plum Fairy and her spectacular court,” according to “MSB” literature.

Prior to the 11:30 am performance Eliza Miller,  board member and unofficial volunteer executive director of the MSB said “this is a wonderful opportunity for children to attend the ballet who might not otherwise have an opportunity to do so.” Bill McKinley, president of the board added that with all the cut backs in arts programs in the schools, special performances like this are more important than ever. Miller said that this performance has certainly put her in the “holiday spirit – it’s the kickoff to the holidays.”

As children were filing into Merrill Auditorium, silent, huge mice from the Nutcracker were there to welcome them  while the youngsters waved, talked and laughed with them. A loud and excited buzz of voices vibrated through the auditorium until the curtain on the stage arose for the start of  “backstage at the Nutcracker”  – a performance that is narrated at different intervals throughout – giving backstage details of the performance. It’s also an abreviated performance – lasting abou one hour. Following the rise of the curtain, a dramatic hush fell over the audience.

But when narrator Judy Kimball asked the audience of children to boo at the bad mouse or to cheer for the good nutcracker,  they did with gusto! For most of the hour-long production, the hush returned over the auditorium as the audience was mesmorized by the beautiful dancing, loved music, gorgeous costumes and lovely scenery. Occasional questions like: “Are those really fairies?” “Where did the living room go?” “Is that real snow?” were heard around MHN. One youngster insisted – “I have to go the bathroom, now.” There were wows and gasps as the audience saw gorgeous changes of dancing. “I want to be a ballet,” said one little girl sitting behind MHN.

Kimball told the audience three important things to remember: First, when you see something you particularly like, it’s okay to applaud – unlike the symphony. Second, when you see a male dancer you especially like, you can shout out “bravo.” Third, when you see a female dancer you especially like, you can shout out “brava.” For much of the rest of the performance there was much applause, bravos and bravas coming from the audience – all of it well deserved.

At the end of the performance, adults and children left the Merrill Auditorium much better educated about audience protocol for the ballet as well as extremely enthusiastic about the entire MSB production and all of the volunteers affiliated with it. Full length performances of the Nutcracker continue – running from Friday evening, December 5, Saturday, December 6th, evening and afternoon and finally on Sunday, December 7 in the afternoon. Call Port Tix at 842-0800 for tickets and prices. The box office is open 12 – 6 pm. Or www.porttix.com You’ll be soo glad you did!