The Hippo


Jul 17, 2019








Chloe Streitburger and Molly Boll. Courtesy photo.

See Mary Poppins by Dimensions in Dance

Where: Palace Theatre, 80 Hanover St., Manchester
When: Saturday, May 30, at 11 a.m. 3 p.m.
Admission: $16
Contact:, 668-5588

Extra dimension
Dimensions in Dance takes on Mary Poppins

By Kelly Sennott

Growing up, Amy Fortier’s brother was so bored by her dance recitals that her family would pay him to sit through them. It was an experience she never wanted for her students’ families at Dimensions in Dance.

So instead of presenting a traditional recital at the end of the year, she and the Dimensions in Dance crew — students included — work for three months every spring to create a not-boring theatrical dance production. Every performer, age 2 to adult, gets a role, and as they dance around sets, their aim is to dazzle while telling a story. 
Past shows include The Wizard of Oz, Cinderella, Rapunzel, The Lion King and Beauty and the Beast. Their 19th theatrical production, Mary Poppins, happens at the Palace Theatre this Saturday, May 30, at 11 a.m. and 3 p.m.
Producing a dance recital this way is no small feat, and Fortier doesn’t make it easy for the dancers, faculty or herself.
“Because we do The Nutcracker and also a March show, we usually don’t start these pieces until March or April. And I don’t want to take class time away, so I’m the worst. I don’t like to start until the last minute. I don’t want to take time away from their technical training,” Fortier said. 
Most of the backdrops are hand-painted by volunteers or, more likely, the dancers themselves, and the costumes are handmade or ordered. Because most stories don’t naturally come with two hours of music — even most musicals have dialogue — choreographing two hours of performance for 190 dancers in Mary Poppins also involved searching for additional music that fit the story, which follows the Disney movie and the P.L. Travers books.
“It’s a big undertaking. I believe we have 40 classes performing this year. We try to make sure there’s no redundancy,” Fortier said. “I think that for all of us, even though it’s so much more work, it’s really a lot more fun to work on a story together and get involved with the characters.”
In her eighth season as artistic director, Fortier’s finally gotten the hang of dance theater. She’s picked up a few tricks, like how to use special effects (this show involves flying props, changing scenery, a firing cannon and an epic fog machine), and also how to stretch a budget.
“The more theater and dance I see, the more I realize the different things we can do with our budget,” Fortier said. “It’s fabulous that the Palace produces professional caliber theater because it helps all the other little theater companies come up with ideas on how they can do things.”
She’s also learned how to get the kids pumped to perform. When she announces the spring show, she makes it into a big, dramatic reveal.
“I remember this year, I was joking with my little kids, saying, ‘What are you more excited for: Christmas or casting?’” Fortier said.
After the reveal, she noticed kids began wearing Mary Poppins T-shirts to class. The children playing birds (in “Feed the Birds” and “Spoonful of Sugar”) began sporting feathery hair clips, and the girls cast as leads became instant celebrities.
It can be easier and more fun to dance when you have a role to personify, as some of the cast demonstrated during a short number at the Myrtle Street dance studio last week, playing out the scene in which Mary Poppins is hired with twirls and leaps. Sarah Schultze, 18, said she’s normally very shy, but as Mrs. Banks, it’s easier to perform in front of people because she’s taking on an entirely different personality.
Hannah Olkovikas, 16, said performing in a story adds another dimension, another meaning.
“I think it’s important not just to go with the choreography, but also try to make the audience feel something,” she said.
Then there are the things you don’t expect you’ll learn. The rejected nannies needed to master maneuvering around while holding briefcases. Chloe Streitburger, who plays Mary Poppins, needed to learn how to dance with an umbrella without taking anyone’s eye out and, just as difficult, how to snap.
“There was this rough learning curve in that she didn’t know how to snap. We almost had to take the part away,” Fortier joked. 
Molly Boll, 13, and Megan Spencer, 14, who play Jane and Michael Banks, respectively, said that growing up watching the older girls perform in lead roles made them work harder — another reason Fortier likes this type of performance.
“A lot of schools will separate their recitals; they’ll have one for the little kids, one for the middle school-aged kids. I think it’s more important to see their progression; they have something to aspire to,” Fortier said. “Dance is really hard work, and unless you see that end goal, unless you can see where all that work gets you, I think it’s really easy for kids to kind of lose steam.” 
As seen in the May 28, 2015 issue of the Hippo.

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