WATERVILLE — For students at Maine Central Institute’s Bossov Ballet Theater, the annual performance of “The Nutcracker” at the Waterville Opera House is one of the most exciting productions of the year.

High school students from the Pittsfield school fill most of the roles in the Christmas time production, while elementary school students and a few adults also partake. This year’s lead roles were filled by two 17-year-olds and a 16-year-old who said they looked forward to the show not just for the opportunity to dance, but a chance to help the local community.

The students at the Pittsfield ballet school recently started an initiative called Attitude — Art Taking a Position, a student-run group that aims to connect with and serve the community through their art.

Their first project, raising money and toys for the Maine Children’s Home for Little Wanderers Christmas toy drive, was planned to coincide with the annual Christmas time production, one of their biggest of the year.

Members of the audience who came to the production, which had its last performance on Sunday, were asked to bring a gift to donate to the children’s home toy drive and to leave it under a tree in the Waterville Opera House. About two dozen presents were under the tree before Sunday’s performance got underway.

“It’s kind of similar to something I’ve done before at my old dance school, and I thought ‘The Nutcracker’ would be a good place to start,” said Felicity Audet, 17, a senior at MCI who came to Pittsfield four years ago from Indianapolis, Ind., to become a student in the Bossov Ballet Theater.

The students spend about 20 hours per week dancing, sometimes arriving at school at 7:45 a.m. and dancing before classes and sometimes staying after school, sometimes as late as 8 p.m., rehearsing.

They begin their preparations for “The Nutcracker” in September each year, said students Erol Kurtz and Julia Bluhm, who along with Audet also have lead roles in this year’s production.

Audet and Bluhm shared the role of Marie, a young girl who witnesses a toy nutcracker transformed into a handsome prince and travels with him to a fairytale land called the Land of Sweets. Kurtz played the role of the prince.

The toy drive and the performance are just two examples of how talented the students are who perform in “The Nutcracker,” which is held at the opera house annually, said Diane Bryan, executive director of the Waterville Opera House.

“They’re extremely talented dancers because they all work hard,” Bryan said. “But it’s also very important to them that they’re involved in their community. Sometimes I think people think dancers are just dancers and they don’t do anything else, but that’s not true. They’re all good students and well-rounded young people.”

This is the last year that Kurtz and Audet, who are both seniors, will perform in “The Nutcracker.” They both plan to pursue professional dance careers, with Kurtz hoping to attend the University of Utah to study dance and metallurgical engineering, and Audet hoping to become an apprentice in a professional dance company.

“I don’t really get nervous although there’s always a bit of excitement. You have to make sure you’re calm enough to dance. Usually as a show goes on, I get more comfortable and I can put more emotion into it,” Audet said, just minutes before her final performance of “The Nutcracker” at the Waterville Opera House.

Rachel Ohm — 612-2368

[email protected]

Twitter: @rachel_ohm

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