Carroll County Times

Plum 'Nutcracker' role: Eldersburg senior featured in Baltimore School for the Arts ballet performance

By now, Brooke Mello knows how her December will play out: "The Nutcracker" first. Christmas second.

This year is no different. More rehearsals. More performances. More long nights.

Just the way she wants it.

Mello is the Snow Queen in the Baltimore School for the Arts' performance of Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky's full-length holiday ballet "The Nutcracker" at 2 p.m. and 7:30 p.m. Dec. 21 and 22 at the Modell Performing Arts Center at The Lyric in Baltimore.

Mello, of Eldersburg, is used to "The Nutcracker" being part of her holiday season. She's played various "Nutcracker" roles in the last decade.

This year is a bit different, though. Everything seems to be on a larger stage. The BSA is collaborating with the Baltimore Symphony Orchestra and the Maryland Institute College of Art for the first time in its "The Nutcracker" productions.

This means Mello, a senior, will dance with full orchestral accompaniment and a set designed by the Maryland Institute College of Art.

"This is definitely the largest I've been a part of," she said. "Normally, we just do them in our school theater. This year, we really do have the whole community together, and it's a great opportunity for all the dancers."

Mello's experiences in "The Nutcracker" are similar to many who grew up in ballet. She started as a wide-eyed youth participating in tiny roles as a party or toy girl.

Prior to enrolling at the BSA for her sophomore year of high school, she studied at the Carroll County Dance Center, which holds a performance of "The Nutcracker" annually.

She met her best friend Nicole Griffith through the Carroll County Dance Center, she grew up through the performances and she always looked forward to seeing the roles she would be cast in each year.

Ever since transferring from Liberty High School to the BSA two years ago, she's been involved in the Baltimore school's "Nutcracker" productions.

The BSA is an arts school, an academic high school and a family arts center. The students are admitted by audition only in one of four disciplines: Visual arts, music, theater or dance.

Mello is on the dance track. Her school days typically feature 12 hours worth of commitments. This month is particularly busy with "The Nutcracker" activities.

Mello is the Snow Queen, a prominent role. Dressed in white, all eyes will be on Mello as she moves across the stage. Her classmates stopped to take pictures of the venue when they first visited.

"She's worked so hard for this over the years," said her mother Diane, "and she's almost never complained."

So much has come full circle for Mello. At rehearsals, she babysits the tiny performers who were her age when she first got started with "The Nutcracker." They look up to the oldest students, Mello included.

Nearing graduation, Mello is nostalgic about her time in ballet and her many Decembers of "The Nutcracker" performances.

"It's going to be a lifetime memory, all of the Nutcrackers," she said, "and hopefully it won't be my last. If it is, it's a good way to end it."