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As a dancer, the New York Times called Nicholas Leichter ’94 “one of the best New York has to offer.”
But as founder of Nicholas Leichter Dance, a company he formed in 1996, Leichter wears many shoes. Choreographer, fundraiser and teacher to name a few.
“When you’re younger, you want to focus solely on passion,” Leichter said, “but as you get older, it’s really important to be multifaceted.”
Leichter first remembers dancing in kindergarten, but it wasn’t until he became a Connecticut College student that he decided to focus on dance as a career. Influenced by dance professors like Martha Myers and David Dorfman MA’81, he was encouraged not only to perfect his skills but also to choreograph and teach his fellow classmates.
“Even as a freshman, Nick was so sharp and ready,” said Dorfman. “He could have stepped right into a professional company.”
Dorfman, who Leichter still calls to bounce ideas off of, said that Leichter’s pieces were already sophisticated as a student.
“When you see him perform one of his solos, he’s so joyous that you almost want to get up and dance with him,” said Dorfman.
Because Leichter is trained in many techniques – from ballet to hip-hop – his choreography often blends different styles, including disco and West African as well as classical and street. He has created more than 25 productions for his company, and they often take place in urban environments.
“One of my students once described my work as ‘very New York,’ and I thought that was fitting,” said Leichter, who grew up in Brooklyn.
He describes his next project, The Whiz: Emerald City, as an updated version of The Wiz. It debuts March 18 in New York City at Joe’s Pub at The Public Theater.
“Creating a fantasy world isn’t unique in times of depression,” Leichter said of the piece. “In recent history, every time you come across an economic crisis, someone revives a Wizard of Oz. It seems appropriate to relook at the story.”
Though he’d like to focus on dancing and teaching full time, Leichter said that the greatest challenge is fundraising. “Staying in the game is a fight,” he added.
Holly Handman-Lopez ’93, who along with Clare Byrne ’93 and Amy Larimer ’91 helped Leichter start the company, remembers the financial challenges but said that Leichter always had a way of making things work.
“We had a joke that if there were seven people in the company, we’d get there in a six person vehicle,” she said, “but it was an amazing time, and I’m so glad I had it.”
Handman-Lopez, today a visiting assistant professor of dance at Oberlin College, said that Leichter always led with a “calm confidence” no matter what the circumstances.
“Even at Connecticut College, he was so determined and definitely someone you noticed,” she said. “Anyone around him knew his calling was dance.”