Ava Gordley-Smith, a senior at Belfast Area High School, took her first dance class at age 3. Since she was 9, she has spent each holiday season dancing in the Robinson Ballet’s “Nutcracker,” which tours every year in November and December from Machias to New Hampshire. This year’s tour continues Saturday and Sunday, Dec. 11 and 12, at The Grand in Ellsworth and concludes Saturday and Sunday, Dec. 18 and 19, at the University of Maine’s Collins Center for the Arts.

After moving through the corps from a girl in the party scene and one of Mother Ginger’s candies to more distinctive roles, such as an Arabian Coffee dancer and the Dew Drop Fairy, Gordley-Smith is performing what is likely her last “Nutcracker” as the Snow Queen.

“She gets to wear a real big tutu, do lots of bows and get roses,” said her proud mother, photographer Beth Anne Gordley.

As all ballet parents know, it takes a lot of commitment of time, resources and gasoline to be a ballet dancer, especially one who performs in the “Nutcracker.” The Robinson Ballet, which holds classes in Belfast and Bangor, began rehearsing the 2010 production in September. The five-weekend tour began Nov. 20. On the Sunday of Thanksgiving weekend, Gordley-Smith was up at 4 a.m., drove to Bangor for the long bus trip to Caribou, where she danced two performances, bused with the company back to Bangor, drove home to Belfast about 9 p.m. The next morning, she was up and off to the high school.

“It just amazes me, the sacrifice and dedication they have to do this,” said Gordley. “I can’t imagine her without it!”

Gordley-Smith has written about her thus-far lifelong passion for dance in one of her college application entries and while she said she does not yet know what she wants to be when she grows up, she “will always be a ballerina.” She credits her instructor, Keith Robinson of Northport, with stressing that ballet is neither a hobby nor a sport but a discipline. That discipline, she said, has taught her determination and given her a set of tools that can be used in whatever her future holds.

Gordley-Smith’s immediate future holds two more weekends to be the Snow Queen. Robinson Ballet performances of “Nutcracker” at 7 p.m. Saturday, Dec. 11, and 2 p.m. Sunday, Dec. 12, at the Grand. Tickets are $14, $10 for senior citizens and $8 younger than 19; call 667-9500 or visit grandonline.org/events.

The final performances, accompanied by the Bangor Symphony Orchestra, will take place Saturday, Dec. 18, at 2 and 7 p.m. and Sunday, Dec. 19, at 3 p.m. For tickets — $20 to $36, depending on seat location — call 581-1755 or visit collinscenterforthearts.com.

VillageSoup Art/Entertainment Editor Dagney Ernest can be reached at 207-594-4401 or by e-mail to dernest@villagesoup.com.