Ben Malone in Raymonda while at Richmond Ballet, and in his police uniform. From left: Sarah Ferguson, Courtesy Richmond Ballet; Courtesy Malone.

Former Richmond Ballet Dancer Ben Malone Followed His Childhood Dream to Become a Police Officer

At age 15, Ben Malone made his Nutcracker debut in the party scene. But unlike many of his peers, dancing had not been his childhood dream. While other tiny tots aspired to tutus or tunics and can remember the days of being chin high to the barre, Malone dreamt not of costumes, but of a uniform. "I've thought about being a cop since I was quite young, maybe three or four," he says. "My mother [a federal prosecutor] worked very closely with law enforcement, so growing up I'd be running around her office and see the FBI agents and state police officers and think how cool they looked, and how I wanted to be like that someday." But before Malone dedicated his life to serve and protect, he found the thrill of the stage.


Malone in his role as a teaching artist with Richmond Ballet's MIM program.

Sarah Ferguson, Courtesy Richmond Ballet

Malone's leap into the studio happened inadvertently, with a shove from a high school friend recruiting boys for the Nutcracker party scene. The requirement to be in the local production was taking one ballet class a week, and Malone showed a natural affinity for movement and placement. Soon one class a week became three, which turned into summer programs at Boston Ballet and an acceptance at Nutmeg Conservatory. Malone's long limbs, generous lines, natural charisma and tireless work ethic allowed him to progress at a rapid pace, and he soon landed at the Virginia-based Richmond Ballet. After spending one year as an apprentice, two in the second company and one year in the professional company, Malone stepped off the stage in 2015 and into Richmond Ballet's outreach program, Minds In Motion. As an MIM teaching instructor, Malone shared his knowledge and joy of dance with fourth graders in local elementary schools, cultivating an appreciation for movement and art in new generations. In 2018, Malone pirouetted back to the yearnings of his youth and entered the Richmond Police Training Academy. He graduated last month, and officially entered the city's force.

Malone at his police academy graduation

Courtesy Malone

A sense of childlike fascination surfaces for Malone when asked about what he finds so appealing about being a cop. "Let's start with the obvious: Driving fast and catching criminals," he says. "It may sound cliché, but it is thrilling responding to Code 1 calls [critical calls that warrant lights and sirens]." And while car chases and stick-ups are a far cry from life in the studio, lessons learned from ballet aid Malone while he's on the beat. In fact, embedded in every mention of his new career is an acknowledgement of the significance of his dance background. "Ballet and law enforcement share the importance of hard work, working together, the ability to be a leader, communication, and plenty of working out and physical fitness," says Malone. After the rigorous physicality of ballet, Malone relishes using his body as an instrument again, and he's quick to point out that both professions provide dramatic day-to-day highs and lows. "There are small moments in ballet that bring you joy every day, and there are also larger milestones that you achieve through hard work and pushing through obstacles," he says. "The same goes for police work."

Since joining the force, Malone has continued to realize new parallels between his passions. He points to one particular role in his ballet career, the Prince of Verona in Romeo & Juliet, that seems to have foreshadowed his career change. "It's not a huge role, but the character has this massive commanding music, and bursts in while the Montagues and Capulets are in a huge fight, and causes everyone to halt in their tracks, lay down their weapons, and repent for their wrongdoings," he says. "Seems like a pretty perfect role to me!"

Malone in Val Caniparoli's Djangology at Richmond Ballet

Sarah Ferguson, Courtesy Richmond Ballet

Though there aren't quite as many costume changes, for Malone, dressing in uniform is also reminiscent of life as a dancer. "The first time I was able to put on the full Richmond Police uniform was very exciting," he says. "Everything from the hat to the gun belt, and the shoes were fitted on me. Believe it or not, our ballistic vests are also specifically fitted to each officer."

For many dancers, leaving life onstage is tinged with grief and uncertainty. But for Malone, stepping out of the spotlight allowed him to recapture a childhood dream and redefine his identity. And though he hasn't yet tried to teach any of his new colleagues first position, he adds, "You'll have to stay tuned for the next project coming up, which may include a dance off against the Richmond Fire Department." We're sure Officer Malone will keep his corps de police in line, and prepare them well for the challenge.

Latest Posts


Courtesy Dance Theatre of Harlem

Cicely Tyson and the Enduring Legacy of Arthur Mitchell’s Dance Theatre of Harlem

Cicely Tyson, the legendary 96-year-old Black actress whose February 16 funeral at Harlem's Abyssinian Baptist Church was attended by, among others, Tyler Perry, Lenny Kravitz, and Bill and Hillary Clinton, is remembered for performances that transcended stereotypes and made an indelible impression on a nation's heart and soul.

Among the most fondly remembered is her breakout role in the 1972 movie Sounder, which depicts a Black sharecropper family's struggle to survive in the Jim Crow South. The role catapulted Tyson to stardom, winning her an Academy Award nomination and a reputation as someone committed to enhancing Blacks' representation in the arts. Throughout a seven-decade career, countless critically acclaimed, award-winning roles in films, onstage and on television reaffirmed that image. Yet one role reflecting the depth of that commitment is much less visible—the supporting one she played working with longtime friend Arthur Mitchell when he envisioned, shaped and established the groundbreaking Dance Theatre of Harlem.

Keep reading SHOW LESS
Getty Images

As Ballet Looks Toward Its Future, Let's Talk About Its Troubling Emotional Demands

As a ballet student, I distinctively remember being told that to survive ballet as a profession, one must be exceptionally thick-skinned and resilient. I always assumed it was because of the physically demanding nature of ballet: long rehearsal hours, challenging and stressful performances, and physical pain.

It wasn't until I joined a ballet company that I learned the true meaning behind those words: that the reason one needs thick skin is not because of the physical demands, but because of the unfair and unnecessary emotional demands.

Undoubtedly, emotional and physical strength go hand in hand to some extent. But the kind of emotional demand I am talking about here is different; it is not the strength one finds in oneself in moments of fatigue or unwillingness. It is the strength one must have when being bullied, humiliated, screamed at, manipulated or harassed.

Keep reading SHOW LESS
Artists of the Australian Ballet perform the "Kingdom of the Shades" from La Bayadère. Lynette Wills, Courtesy Australian Ballet.

Catch the Australian Ballet’s Livestreamed Season Premiere This Weekend

After a yearlong hiatus, the Australian Ballet is ready to return to the stage. The company's season opener, titled Summertime at the Ballet, packs a great deal of firsts: It marks the ballet's first performance before a live audience since the start of the pandemic; the first time the company takes the stage under the leadership of its new artistic director, David Hallberg; and the first time Australian Ballet performs at the Melbourne & Olympic Parks Margaret Court Arena. Another important first: The performance will be livestreamed not only in Australia but all over the world. Summertime at the Ballet will be broadcast February 28 at 11:45 am AEDT (that's 7:45 pm EST on February 27 here in the U.S.), with bonus features, such as interviews and commentary. It will be accessible for 48 hours to accommodate all time zones.

This livestream will be provided via the Australian Ballet's newly launched digital platform, Live on Ballet TV. "One of my main goals is for the company to be seen by as many people around the world as possible," says Hallberg, the American-born international star who took the helm at the Australian Ballet in January. "Which is why Live on Ballet TV is such an integral part of my vision artistically."

Keep reading SHOW LESS

Editors' Picks