Maggie Small as the Butterfly in Stoner Winslett's "The Nutcracker." Photo by Sarah Ferguson, Courtesy Richmond Ballet.

Hometown Hero: Richmond Ballet's Maggie Small Balances the Familiar With New Experiences

You've gone from Clara to Sugar Plum in one place. What made that possible?
I was lucky to grow up here, in a school that fed directly into a company, so as a child I could visualize exactly what I wanted. I think my career is due in part to being aware of how lucky I am, being grateful for it and preserving it.

What does it mean to be a "ballerina" in a non-ranked company?
It means you do it all. The last time we did Romeo and Juliet I was a harlot, and it was so much fun. If we did the same thing all the time it wouldn't be as stimulating or exciting.


What do you do during summer layoffs?
I dance other places: the National Choreographers Initiative, Jessica Lang Dance and Gina Patterson's VOICE Dance Company. Last summer I worked with Pacific Arts Society. I always glean new things that I can bring home with me.

Where does your work ethic come from?
I've always been surrounded by people who put in the effort. My dad's a musician, my mom is a teacher, and both are very committed to what they do.

You recently broke your foot. What did you learn from the recovery process?
It changed the way I think about how different parts of my body work together to create movement. It's frustrating not to be able to do what you used to do, and it's difficult to discipline yourself not to do more than you can. But there is a lot of value to rehearsing in a way that focuses on different aspects of your physicality, your artistry and how you challenge space.

What's your favorite ballet movie?
Well, if you're speaking to middle school me, it's Center Stage!

Small in rehearsal. Photo by Sarah Ferguson, Courtesy Richmond Ballet.

You spent a year at NYU Tisch School of the Arts. Why did you leave?
After my apprenticeship at Richmond Ballet, I was offered a company spot. But my mom really wanted me to go to school. So I gave it my best shot, and then decided I'd rather go back on the professional track. I'm so excited, though—I just graduated from the LEAP program! It was really important to me to finish my degree.

What advice would you give aspiring dancers?
Find what you love about dancing, identify it, nurture it. Throughout your training or career you always want to be able to return to what brought you there in the first place.

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