Maria Mercieca — When I first moved to Vermont in 2003, I only knew a handful of people. I was eager to make friends in my new town, but since I worked from home full-time, my social opportunities were limited. Even though I hadn’t performed in a show since high school, I decided to audition for A Chorus Line in Stowe the summer of 2005. Following the three-week run, a few of my new friends convinced me to audition for Lyric’s fall production of A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum. That was when a handful of friends turned into hundreds of new connections. That was when I met my people in Vermont.

Forum was followed by many more shows with Lyric, plus more productions with Stowe Theatre Guild, Essex Players, and the Lamoille County Players. I was drawn to shows that featured dance — ballet being my true passion. I was thrilled to be a twirling napkin in Beauty and the Beast, to try out my ballroom skills in West Side Story, and to once again hit the stage in the ultimate dance show when Lyric presented A Chorus Line in 2008.

Joining Lyric made me realize how much I missed dancing. I wanted more. But, first, life happened. A quick move to New York, an even faster move back to Shelburne, a wedding, a couple of children, and I found myself living the suburban Vermont dream. I spent less time on stage and more time in the audience at this point. It was at a performance of Lyric’s White Christmas that I first learned about Farm to Ballet. I was so impressed with the choreography, and particularly with the technique of one of the women in the show. At intermission, I read through the program and found out she had been a part of the Farm to Ballet Project’s inaugural season, and that Chatch Pregger (Ballet Vermont’s Artistic Director) had choreographed her beautiful dance duet.

Farm to Ballet is an adult dance company in Vermont that is welcoming to all dancers, regardless of age, size, or experience. They perform outdoors, on farms, and their shows double as fundraisers for the venues. It had never occurred to me that I might be able to perform in a full-length ballet again. I had not trained in ballet for nearly 25 years. My flexibility wasn’t what it used to be. My body had carried two children, and my stamina definitely needed a boost. Still, my passion and desire to perform again won the battle. I auditioned for the troupe that December. The following summer, I danced the Lead Bee.

This summer will be my fourth season as a Soloist with Ballet Vermont. Besides the Lead Bee and various other parts, I also originated the role of the Butterfly, which is now a part of Ballet Vermont’s second production, Bees and Friends. In the fall of 2018, I was thrilled when fellow Lyric member, Jane Burchard, joined Ballet Vermont in the role of the Butterfly. This summer, I’m very excited to share the stage with another longtime member of my Lyric crew, Kim Nowlan Hathaway. I will also be meeting newer members of Lyric who are dancing with us.

My heart has been so happy to find a home with Ballet Vermont and my Lyric family has been there, blankets spread on the grass, supporting me every step of the way. For now, I’m content to spend my offseason attending Lyric productions as an audience member. Still, I do hope to be back on the Flynn stage one of these years. After all, it must be fate that Lyric and Ballet Vermont rehearse on opposite days of the week.