April 04, 2020

Artist chosen for ‘Nutcracker’ design > Exhibit to accompany Robinson Ballet tour through Orono, Millinocket, Ellsworth

When most people think of “The Nutcracker,” they think of, well, the Nutcracker, in his handsome coat and tall hat. Some think of the Sugar Plum Fairy’s glistening beauty or Clara’s sweet innocence.

Laura Z., an artist at Penobscot Valley Industries, had something else in mind: the Harlequin doll. Her design, a vivid clown on a black background, was chosen to promote Robinson Ballet’s production of “The Nutcracker.” It appears on posters and T-shirts for the event.

“I was excited when they first told me. I was like, whoa, mama!” said Laura, whose last name was not available due to PVI’s confidentiality policy. “I liked the colors. I like clowns. It was a challenge; I wanted a challenge. I wanted something bold and bright.”

A traveling exhibit of paintings, drawings, sculpture and mosaics, including Laura’s design, will accompany the ballet’s tour to Orono, Millinocket and Ellsworth. An opening reception will be held from 1 to 2 p.m. Sunday, Dec. 3, at the Maine Center for the Arts in Orono.

This year’s performance will feature the return of guest soloists Daniel Baudendistel of Chicago as the Cavalier and Amy Rose of Chicago as the Sugar Plum Fairy. Janessa Nason of Millinocket will dance the role of Clara. The Bangor Symphony Orchestra will provide musical accompaniment for the Orono performance.

For the exhibit, artists at PVI researched the characters by reading many versions of “The Nutcracker” book.

“A lot of the pieces were based on children’s books,” said Diana Willette, who teaches art at

Penobscot Valley Industries. “We did a lot of research on ‘The Nutcracker.”‘

For the first time, Robinson Ballet teamed up with PVI, a Bangor support and training center for adults with disabilities. Grants from the Maine Arts Commission, the New Century Community Program and the National Foundation for the Arts made the partnership possible.

Since September, Jeannette Larkin of the Bangor Art Studios and Maureen Lynch of Robinson Ballet have worked with PVI’s clients in art, movement and dance.

“It’s quite a collective effort here to get stuff out – a lot of hands, helping hands,” Willette said.

During a recent visit to Amicus, where PVI is based, Larkin was putting the finishing touches on mosaics created by the artists. The pieces for the exhibit were displayed on tables and on the walls, and the proud artists told of their inspiration and the process of creating art.

On the opposite side of the building, Lynch was leading a group of dancers through a series of ballet-based movements set to tunes from “The Nutcracker.” As the dancers finished stepping and twirling across the floor, their friends would cheer them on, giving them high fives when they finished.

“More people have been interested in the dance class than we originally anticipated,” Catherine LeClair of Robinson Ballet said.

A group of clients from PVI will attend “The Nutcracker” when it comes to Orono, but the program doesn’t end there. Lynch will continue to teach movement classes at PVI, and several of the dancers will take part in Robinson Ballet’s annual spring dance concert.

“My interest is to make this a continuing project,” LeClair said.

“The Nutcracker” will be performed at 2 and 7:30 p.m. Saturday, Dec. 2; and 3 p.m. Sunday, Dec. 3, at the Maine Center for the Arts in Orono; 7 p.m. Saturday, Dec. 9, in Millinocket; and 2 p.m. Saturday and Sunday, Dec. 16 and 17, at the Grand Auditorium in Ellsworth.

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