Ballet Stars

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

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

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.

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.

The Conversation
Ballet Stars
Angela Sterling, Courtesy PNB

Your teacher at Central Pennsylvania Youth Ballet, Marcia Dale Weary, recently passed away. What impact did she have on you?

I feel deeply indebted to her. She shaped my life's course, and I know that were it not for her, I would not be living out my dream today. She led by example through her remarkable commitment to her work, as well as her genuine kindness and generosity.

You were a trainee with San Francisco Ballet. What was that experience like?

It was an exposure to different schools of thought. We were mostly in the full-lengths, and watching run-throughs of Sleeping Beauty and Don Quixote was revolutionary for me. But I was young and far away from home. That transition was hard. My body started changing. It wanted to be fleshy. Biology is cruel in that way. I desperately wanted to fit in, but it wasn't meant to be.

Keep reading... Show less
The Royal Ballet's Vadim Muntagirov and Marianela Nuñez in La Bayadère. Photo by Bill Cooper, Courtesy ROH.

Do you ever wish you could teleport to London and casually stroll into The Royal Opera House to see some of the world's best-loved ballets? Well, we have a solution for you: The Royal Ballet's 2018-19 cinema season.

Whether live or recorded, the seven ballet programs listed below, streaming now through next October, will deliver all of the magic that The Royal Ballet has to offer straight to your local movie theater. Can you smell the popcorn already?

Keep reading... Show less
Site Network
Left: Misa Kuranaga in The Veritginous Thrill of Exactitude. Gene Schiavone, Courtesy Boston Ballet. Right: Sasha Mukhamedov in Apollo. Altin Kaftira, Courtesy Dutch National Ballet.

San Francisco Ballet just announced some major news: longtime Boston Ballet star Misa Kuranaga will be joining the company as a principal dancer for the 2019-20 season, while Dutch National Ballet principal Sasha Mukhamedov has been hired as a soloist. They join a slew of newly promoted SFB principals and soloists, announced earlier this year.

Keep reading... Show less
Ballet Stars
Xiao Nan Yu in company class. Aaron Vincent, Courtesy National Ballet of Canada.

On June 22, National Ballet of Canada principal Xiao Nan Yu will retire from the stage after 22 years with the company. Originally from Dalian, China, Yu studied at the Shen Yang School of Dance and the Beijing Dance Academy before coming to Canada's National Ballet School at age 17. She joined the National Ballet of Canada less than two years later, and was promoted to principal in 2001.

"She is a supreme dance actress with an innate ability to bring the audience into her world," says NBoC artistic director Karen Kain. "Nan has always brought such a calm confidence into the studio and has been a role model for so many dancers I will miss her generosity both inside the studio and out." We spoke with Yu as she prepared for her final week of performances. She opened up about her initial culture shock upon moving to Toronto, her thoughts on artistry and why she chose Hanna Glawari in The Merry Widow as her final role.

Keep reading... Show less