3/21/2013 - Amy Fortier remembers Michele Leslie, one of her first ballet teachers, as being “just so awesome, so full of life.”
When Leslie succumbed to cancer several years ago, Fortier used her grief as inspiration. She opened Ballet Misha in Manchester in 2008 — her way of passing on Leslie’s dance legacy.
In its first show, Ballet Misha, which was named after Fortier’s childhood nickname for Leslie, performed a memorial piece.
“We all had candles,” Fortier said. “It was a very somber way to reflect on her.”
Since then, Ballet Misha, which is affiliated with Dimensions in Dance, has taken a more joyous turn. The company first performed The Nutcracker four years ago at the Derryfield School and has performed it for the past three years at the Dana Center at Saint Anselm College. In the Hippo’s 2013 readers’ poll, Ballet Misha’s 2012 performance of The Nutcracker was named best of the best in the Art, Theatre or Classical Event category.
Hippo readers also named Ballet Misha “Best Ballet Company” in the “Best Thing We Forgot to Ask About” category.
Fortier thought back on how the first production of The Nutcracker included 40 people.
“Everyone played five parts and it was sheer chaos, but the last one, we had 120 people,” Fortier said. “It’s just blossomed into a lovely community affair.”
While many ballet companies are focused on children and students, Ballet Misha is also an outlet for adults who have studied dance. Fortier said it’s like the company has become a big family. And that’s just what she was hoping for. Growing up, she attended competitive dance schools in Boston.
“You were taught to see other dancers as the enemy,” Fortier said. “You were always measuring yourself against them. It’s absolutely not the environment I want for my kids.”
Ballet Misha is about friendship and support. When she was a child, ballet was mixed with tears, catfights and drama, Fortier said.
“My kids are so sweet,” Fortier said. “They’re sincerely excited for each other [when a student gets a part]. That’s really heartwarming to me.”
Fortier said her favorite production was A Midsummer Night’s Dream.
“It’s just really funny,” Fortier said. “It’s a show that, going into it, people are probably thinking, ‘Oh God, it’s a ballet and it’s a ballet of Shakespeare.’ ... Then they leave and they had a really good time. It really is funny. Sometimes I think dance is easier to convey the story than a play, which can get bogged down with the language. To see it acted out, dancers are so good at expression, using their bodies, to convey a story.”
Fortier said Ballet Misha tries to stay involved with the community and has participated in charity events, including an event to raise money for people who are terminally ill.