ELDERSBURG - Slender and sylphlike, Anna Kirker is a vision of what she hopes to become.
Her dream -- to dance with the American Ballet Theatre -- comes a step closer to reality this weekend, as she portrays the lead Arabian dancer in the Ellicott City Ballet Guild's performance of "The Nutcracker."
"I've just always wanted to dance," the 16-year-old said. "I don't think I'd be happy doing anything else."
Along with her first solo role, Anna will be dancing in the Snow Scene, the Waltz of the Flowers and the Dance of the Toy Flutes.
"The Nutcracker" -- by Russian composer Peter Tchaikovsky -- follows young Clara through the dreamworld she visits Christmas Eve with her nutcracker-turned-prince.
While in this magical world, she is a guest of the Snow Queen and enjoys dances by the flowers, toy soldiers, Arabian dancers and other royal attendants.
"The Arabian dance is my favorite," the Eldersburg resident said. "I'm the lead, and the music is different and mysterious.
"But I really like the music for the flutes," added the daughter of Jan and Susan Kirker. "It's a catchy, lifting tune."
There is only one male in the company of 25 dancers, so danseurs must be imported from other areas, Anna said.
A ballet student for seven years, she became interested in dance when a middle-school friend described her experiences in class.
"I started taking dancing lessons, and I was hooked," Anna said.
However, after six years at Linda Dymerski's school in Mount Airy, Anna decided she wanted to study a more classical style.
A search through newspapers led her to Caryl Maxwell -- director of the Ellicott City Ballet Guild -- in Howard County.
"I knew from her reputation that she just taught classical ballet," Anna said.
Maxwell, who has danced with the National Ballet of Canada in Toronto and the New York City Ballet, said she teaches a variety of styles, including the Soviet Vaganova and the Italian Cecchetti.
"I've been exposed to them all, so I like to use all that are appropriate to the situation," she said.
Students of Maxwell's have been accepted at the ABT, the Sacramento Ballet in California and with Alvin Ailey after studying through high school programs like that of the Maryland School of the Arts.
But Maxwell said Anna's class should be accepted into dance companies right from her program.
"There were enough (skilled dancers), so we were able to make a separate class and give them the challenges necessary," she said.
So the Liberty High sophomore voluntarily began a schedule of 1 -hour classes six days a week in pursuit of her dream. The three productions each year add two days of two-hour rehearsals each week.
"Before it was hard, but it doesn't seem like a long drive when you go every day," Anna said, adding that she drives to dance class directly from school.
Her dancing schedule makes for long days, forcing her to squeeze her homework into odd hours at night.
"I manage to get my schoolwork done," Anna said. "I've got a medium class load this year -- not too hard but not too easy."
Pursuit of her dream also puts a damper of her social schedule, leaving Friday as the only night to go out with her friends.
"A lot of (her schoolmates) don't really understand why I want to go to class every day and miss out on social events," Anna said. "But my friends understand."
Anna's hard work has paid off, and Maxwell said she could realize her dream.
"She has quite a lot of potential," Maxwell said. "She definitely has the makings of a professional dancer."
College right now is a distant vision, because all her attention is focused on pursuing her career.
"If I go to college, it would have to be one with a really good dance program," she said. "To be accepted into a dance company right after high school would be my dream."
Someday, Anna hopes to dance the role of Juliet in Tchaikovsky's version of Shakespeare's tragedy.
"It's really dramatic, and the part is really moving," she said.
For now, she said she is happy improving her skills.
"I just wish I could dance all day."2 Performances, at Howard Community College's Smith Theatre in Columbia, are at 2:30 and 7:30 p.m. Saturday and 1:30 and 3:30 p.m. Sunday. Tickets are $8 to $12. Information: 465-3547.