Finding her niche | SteamboatToday.com

Finding her niche

Heidi Meshurel-Jolly always knew she'd live in Steamboat

Autumn Phillips

In the Steamboat Springs landscape, there are a few characters who have talents larger than their tiny town, but they live here because they love it. And they stay because Steamboat Springs has made a place for them.

Heidi Meshurel-Jolly is one such person.

Six feet tall with bright red hair and wide blue eyes, Meshurel-Jolly has a stage presence that isn’t soon forgotten. Since moving to town in 2001, she has performed in every dance production staged locally, from the Promethea Dance Project to Jolly Holidays. She was a stilt-walker during the Beaux Arts Festival and choreographed Emerald City Opera’s “The Magic Flute.”

She recently joined the board of Perry-Mansfield Performing Arts School and Camp and was elected artistic director of the Steamboat Dance Theatre.

Despite all her performing and community involvement, Meshurel-Jolly moved here for one reason — to teach.

Her parents lived in town and she had been coming to Steamboat since high school on ski trips. During college, she taught horseback riding at Perry-Mansfield and took dance classes.

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“Once we found Steamboat Springs, we kept coming here,” she said. “While I was still in college, my parents bought property here. I always knew I would move to Steamboat. I just didn’t know it would be so soon.”

She was working for Disney World in 2001 when she heard that the owner of Ballet Northwest was putting the dance studio up for sale.

“It was a hard decision,” she said. “I had a great job at Disney. I wasn’t sure if this was the right time.”

After two months of debate and discussion with her husband and fellow Disney employee, David Jolly, the couple decided to uproot and build a new life in Colorado.

She changed the name of the dance studio to Northwest Ballet. She opened a small dancewear shop at the front of the studio and offered classes to everyone from toddlers to adults.

Meshurel-Jolly has been dancing since she was 3 years old.

She was given dance lessons as a birthday present and by second grade, her parents enrolled her in performing arts schools that offered dance and academics.

Her initial dream was to grow up to be a Rockette at Radio City Music Hall in New York City, but the height limit at the time was 5-foot-9

“I was too tall,” she said. “I passed that height limit in high school, but I still wanted to perform. I don’t know why dance took ahold of me.”

She was a shy child, she said, and as an adult, she is not a small-talker. At social gatherings, she will be watching from the corner.

“I’m a people watcher,” she said, “but put me on the stage. That’s where I feel comfortable.”

Disney offered Meshurel-Jolly a contract before she graduated from college. She attended a grueling five-hour audition in her senior year where judges narrowed a field from 300 dancers to 15 in one day.

She started by dancing in Beauty and the Beast, performing in five shows a day, five days a week.

“I was having a blast,” she said. By the time she left Disney, 10 years later, she was the dance captain of “Beauty and the Beast.” Her job was to teach new dancers, run rehearsals and know all the parts.

She met her husband on the set of “B and B,” as she calls it. He proposed to her on stage during a live show in front of 1,500 people, she said. David Jolly worked in the character department, playing the part of the Beast.

To propose, he had to learn a dancer’s part.

“He can move, but he is not a dancer,” she said. “It took him a while to learn.”

He replaced one of the dancers during the second waltz, she said. “I noticed a wireless microphone and I knew.”

It was a hard decision for David Jolly to move here, she said. She was moving for a reason. He would be walking into a town where he would have to create a niche for himself.

By trade, he is a puppeteer and there is not a puppet theater in Steamboat.

“But if he got a job in New York as a puppeteer, I would follow him there,” she said. “We are a team.”

But in two years, David Jolly has become a familiar face on Channel 10 TV and on the stage of Cabaret, just as his wife has become a familiar face as a dancer.