The two are among five Kennebunk residents and 300 dancers taking the stage in the production, which runs Nov. 24 through Dec. 2.
According to their mother, Robin Bartlett, dancers must audition for “The Nutcracker,” but Maine State Ballet classes are open to anyone who wants to sign up. As students progress, the school determines their skill level based on observation.
“Jillian was old enough to do a placement audition and Jessica was young enough that they put her in a class with kids her age,” said Bartlett.
Jillian, 12, has been taking dance lessons since she was 6 years old, while her sister Jessica, started lessons at 3. Bartlett was a dance minor in college, but said she doesn’t know how much of an influence she was on her children.
Between the two girls they’ve taken lessons from the Maine State Ballet, the Portland Ballet, Studio 408 and Casco Bay Movers.
Jillian and Jessica both take ballet and jazz lessons; however Jillian also takes pointe, which requires different shoes and strong feet and ankles.
Both girls practice for an hour on Saturdays for “The Nutcracker,” although Bartlett said practice can last up to three hours for Gillian because she’s an understudy in the Russian dance.
Jillian performed in last year’s production as an angel and said this year she will be playing a sugar plum page.
“Its really, really fun. It’s my favorite thing ever,” said Jillian about dancing. The only thing she doesn’t like is the wear and tear on her feet.
“I’m on pointe, so my toes get sore after class sometimes,” she explained.
Besides dancing, Jillian also enjoys playing the fiddle, which she has been playing for approximately three years, and said she loves to read. Her favorite book is “Real Mermaids Don’t Wear Coverings.”
“It’s kind of funny,” said Jillian, who wants to be a dancer and a writer when she grows up.
Jillian’s younger sister Jessica was a soldier in last year’s production and will play a soldier in this year’s as well. She said, “It’s pretty fun” when asked about being able to dance and hang out with her sister.
“Sometimes we need a break from each other, but usually we have a lot of fun together,” Jessica said.
The most frustrating thing about dance for Jessica is learning a difficult new move, but she said she doesn’t let it get to her any more.
“I know if I keep trying, I’ll probably be able to do it,” Jessica said.
Jessica wants to be a dance teacher when she grows up and already has her first student: her 4-year-old sister, Aubrey.
“I do little dance classes for her in our basement,” said Jessica, who also wants to be a farmer. Jessica said she loves animals had has a couple of chickens she likes to play with.
Both Jillian and Jessica are homeschooled by Bartlett, who said that type of education works for her family.
“We do home schooling things with other kids a couple days a week. Jillian did volleyball for a little bit and Jessica also did soccer,” said Bartlett, who added both children participate in Odyssey of the Mind, a creative problem-solving competition for children.
Bartlett said she’s proud of both her daughters.
“I’m happy that the girls get a chance to do what they love. The school does a great job, and they have a wonderful time,” said Bartlett.
Jillian will appear in all seven performances of “The Nutcracker” and Jessica will appear in four.
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