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Bob Keyes

Bob Keyes has written about the arts in Maine since 2002. He’s never been much an artist himself, other than singing in junior high school chorus and acting in a few musicals. But he’s attended museums, theaters, clubs and concert halls all his life, and cites Bob Dylan as most influential artist of any kind since Picasso. He lives in Berwick.

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Posted: November 17, 2016

Get Nutcrackin’: The holiday tradition starts this weekend

Written by: Bob Keyes
Glenn Davis Photo courtesy of Maine State Ballet

Glenn Davis
Photo courtesy of Maine State Ballet

As he approaches his final performances as a principal dancer in Maine State Ballet’s “The Nutcracker,” Glenn Davis is doing his best to keep the three rules that have guided his dance career at the top of his head: Don’t drop the girl, don’t drop the girl, don’t drop the girl.

It’s been a good career, he said. He doesn’t want it to end with a human fumble.

Davis, who lives in Windham, is stepping away from his principal role as Cavalier after 20 years. He will fill smaller roles in future productions.

“In the ballet world, when male dancers retire, they do other things in the show, but less luminary,” he said. “I am just really happy I have been blessed with the health and stamina to do it and the opportunity to do it. It’s a great blessing to share what I have with the audiences and the state of Maine.”

Maine’s State Ballet’s “Nutcracker” kicks off the season of holiday entertainment in Portland. The run begins with a matinee performance on Friday and continues through Dec. 4.

A scene from Moscow Ballet's "The Great Russian Nutcracker." Photo courtesy of Moscow Ballet

A scene from Moscow Ballet’s “The Great Russian Nutcracker.” Photo courtesy of Moscow Ballet

Also this year, the Moscow Ballet stages the “Great Russian Nutcracker” at State Theatre, and Portland Ballet is back with its Portland-centric version, “The Victorian Nutcracker,” in Westbrook and Portland.

Davis is retiring from principal roles at age 47, which is relatively old for a dancer of either gender. He’s kept himself in good shape, but has dealt with two serious health issues in the past decade. He ruptured an Achilles tendon while dancing in another holiday show a few years ago and, in 2009, had a stent installed to clear up a blocked artery to his heart.

“It felt like I pulled a muscle in my chest. I couldn’t get my breath back,” he said, recalling how he felt before having surgery.

Two weeks after the operation, he was back dancing.

Maine State Ballet has presented “The Nutcracker” for 40 years. Davis has danced a lead role in half of those.

“I still feel great, but I can look in the mirror and say, ‘I am not 25 any more.’ My partners are 25 years younger than me. Twenty years is a great round number. It’s time to move on,” he said.

Davis will remain director of the Maine State Ballet school.

The Moscow Ballet returns with “The Great Russian Nutcracker” at 7 p.m. on Dec. 1 at the State Theatre in Portland. The ballet is traveling across the United States, and about two dozen local dancers will complement the professional traveling troupe of 40.

Most of the local dancers train at Dance Studio of Maine in Gorham. Local dancers will fill roles suited for their ages and skill levels, said Dance Studio of Maine owner Trish Moulton. They will dance as party children, small mice, snowflakes and snow maidens, among other roles.

Moscow Ballet has toured the United States for 26 years. This fall, local dancers auditioned for a Moscow Ballet ballerina, who cast roles on the spot. They’ve been rehearsing at Dance Studio of Maine through the fall and will join Moscow Ballet dancers on stage for two run-throughs and the performance on Dec. 1.

“When it comes to Russian ballerinas, they are serious about things at all times,” Moulton said. “It’s good for our kids to be exposed to them culturally and on stage. It’s a great opportunity to learn.”

Glenn Davis and Lizzy Dragoni in a previous production of "The Nutcracker." Photo courtesy of Maine State Ballet

Glenn Davis and Lizzy Dragoni in a previous production of “The Nutcracker.”
Photo courtesy of Maine State Ballet

Meanwhile, Portland Ballet prepares for “The Victorian Nutcracker” at Westbrook Performing Arts Center on Dec. 17 and 18 and at Merrill on Dec. 23. This performance offers audiences a Portland-rich interpretation of the classic holiday tale. Set in Portland’s Victoria Mansion, “The Victorian Nutcracker” makes use of Portland people and places, turning the ballet into a local story with a universal message.

Maine State Ballet’s “The Nutcracker”

WHEN: 2 p.m. Friday, 2 and 7 p.m. Saturday, 2 p.m. Sunday, 2 p.m. Dec. 2, 2 and 7 p.m. Dec. 3, 2 p.m. Dec. 4
WHERE: Merrill Auditorium, 20 Myrtle St., Portland
TICKETS & INFO: $21 to $66;, or 842-0800

The Moscow Ballet’s “The Great Russian Nutcracker”

WHEN: 7 p.m. Dec. 1
WHERE: State Theatre, 609 Congress St., Portland
TICKETS & INFO: $28 to $68, or (800) 745-3000

Portland Ballet’s “The Victorian Nutcracker”

WHEN: 2 p.m. Dec. 17 and 18
WHERE: Westbrook Performing Arts Center, 471 Stroudwater St., Westbrook
TICKETS & INFO: $39 and $45, or 842-0800
WHEN: 7 p.m. Dec. 23
WHERE: Merill Auditorium, 20 Myrtle St., Portland
TICKETS & INFO: $23 to $58, or 842-0800

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