Local performers take on new role to raise awareness and funds
Natanael and Justin at rehearsal at the Ballet Fantastique Studio into Week 2 of Grow Your Mo.
Natanael Leal and Justin Feimster have played many roles over the course of their careers as actors and dancers, but neither have ever played a role quite like the one of “Mo Bro.”
These two passionate performers with big hearts are dancers with local nonprofit Ballet Fantastique. When we approached them about participating in our annual Grow Your Mo campaign to raise awareness and funds for Oregon Cancer Foundation, they agreed enthusiastically. Justin lost his grandfather to cancer and says this is a way to honor his memory.
“I also have a personal friend and coworker at the stagehand union who received help from Oregon Cancer Foundation,” Justin says. “I want to do something to help pay that kindness forward.”
Natanael chose to join the November fundraising campaign to honor his aunt who was diagnosed with cancer several years ago and currently lives in his home country of Brazil. He says his involvement in Grow Your Mo is surely making her smile.
Natanael Leal in Pride and Prejudice-a Parisian Jazz Ballet. Photo credit: Stephanie Urso
“She is a strong, independent woman who never wants people to be sad. She taught me that just because you have cancer doesn’t mean you give up,” he says. “When I lived in Brazil, she always wanted to spend time with me because I would distract her from her diagnosis with a movie or a book, or we would discuss whatever was going on in the world. I tried to do anything I could to make her day better.”
These two performers have made a career of making people’s days better through their art, and in turn, it has instilled in them an empathy for others.
“Anytime you take storytelling seriously you have to put yourself in other people’s shoes, in their place, and attempt to honestly feel the emotions you’re trying to portray so that your character is sincere. You begin to understand the emotions and stories of other people through the study of them, and in even a small way are able to look past yourself and get a glimpse of their life,” Justin explains.
Justin Feimster in The Odyssey. Photography credit: Greg Burns
Both men are happy to be involved in Grow Your Mo, and hope to raise as much awareness and funds as they can.
“I hope that the simple act of allowing my facial hair to grow lets local cancer patients know that people love and care about them, especially in the most difficult times, and that they are not alone. We have their back,” says Justin.
Justin and Natanael would like to note that their fellow dancers at Ballet Fantastique wanted to participate, but they were the only two who could actually grow facial hair. “And I don’t think our director would be happy if the female dancers let their underarm or leg hair grow out before a show,” Justin adds.
You can support the BFan Boys or any or all of this year’s Grow Your Mo teams at growyourmo.org through November 30. All proceeds benefit Oregon Cancer Foundation.