JAY — Mallory Merrill, 14, is a freshman at Spruce Mountain High School who spends hours each week in a dance studio.

Mallory Merrill of Jay performs last year as Clara in “The Nutcracker,” which she will be reprising this year. Performances will be held in Belfast and Farmington in December. Submitted photo

For the second year in a row, she has been chosen for the role of Clara in local performances of “The Nutcracker” ballet being put on by Thomas Performing Arts Center (TPAC) in Farmington. This is also the second year the center is performing the ballet, with performances scheduled in Belfast and Farmington.

Merrill studies under Lauryn Thomas at the center, where she is in her 12th year of dance.

“I started dancing at TPAC when I was four and a half but before TPAC I danced at Sandy’s School of Dance for two years,” she wrote Nov. 16 in an email to the Livermore Falls Advertiser. “Dancing started out as just something fun that I really enjoyed. I enjoy performing on stage and taking classes to become better. Now it is a passion and the air I breath. It’s just something that has come natural to me my whole life.”

Performing is what Mallory loves most about dancing. “I think once I get to the performance, I just let everything go and I am deep into my movements and choreography,” she noted.

Something she finds difficult is balancing school and dance.


“I have very late nights at dance,” she wrote. “For me, it doesn’t matter that much because I would never give up dancing for anything. I also know how important school is. I’ve always maintained honors and high honors.”

Merrill thinks it will be easier to perform Clara again. “I will know what to expect when I hit the stage,” she said. “Also, the role of Clara fits my personality a lot and is easy for me to perceive.”

Mallory Merrill of Jay, a Spruce Mountain High School freshmen, spends 12-15 hours weekly at the Thomas Performing Arts Center in Farmington. For the second year in a row, she has been cast as Clara in “The Nutcracker” ballet. Submitted photo

In addition to classes and preparing for “The Nutcracker,” Merrill is the first ever apprentice at TPAC this year.

“This means that this year I will be learning new teaching skills so that next year I can be a dance teacher for the younger dance students on my own,” she noted. “I had told my dance teacher, Lauryn Thomas, at the end of last season that I was serious about wanting to be a dance teacher when I grow up and that is when she offered me the apprentice opportunity, and I am very thankful for that.”

Merrill is involved with community activities, some outside of dance. “Each year our studio participates in the Blueberry Festival parade in Wilton and also the Chester Greenwood parade in Farmington,” she wrote. “This year I volunteered for the United Way at the Halls of Horror. I hope to find more opportunities to volunteer in my community as time allows.”

At a young age, Mallory chose dance over sports. “When I was 10, I had to make a choice of whether I wanted to dance or do basketball,” she recalled. “I obviously chose dance because something about it makes me feel at home and I felt that I absolutely couldn’t leave. Later that year, I joined the dance competition team and ever since then dance has been a top priority for me.”


Merrill’s dance schedule would be daunting for many adults. She indicated she is at the dance studio 12-15 hours a week between her regular classes, the classes she teaches, her competition team rehearsals and “The Nutcracker” rehearsals.

For Merrill, dancing is fun. “I recommend it to many others because it is a way to relax and de-stress,” she wrote. “Dance class is a very safe place, and it can help you find your piece of mind. It’s a place to develop friendships.”

After high school, Merrill plans to go to college and major in business. “My dream is to own my own dance studio,” she noted.

Through dancing on the competition team, Merrill had the opportunity to travel in New England and work on making connections to the dance world. “I’ve gotten to meet and learn choreography from celebrities like Misha Gabriel and Melanie Moore,” she explained.

“The Nutcracker” will be performed at 6 p.m. on Dec. 8 and 9 at The Crosby Center in Belfast. Performances at Bjorn Auditorium on the Mt. Blue Campus in Farmington are at 6 p.m. Dec. 15 and 16, with a matinee at 11 a.m. Dec. 17.

Tickets are $20 plus a processing fee. They are available at https://30921.danceticketing.com/.

More information may be found on the TPAC Facebook page.

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