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.

Ballet Careers
Gray Davis with wife, ABT soloist Cassandra Trenary, after his graduation from the South Carolina Criminal Justice Academy. Courtesy Trenary.

When Gray Davis retired from American Ballet Theatre in July of 2018, he moved home to South Carolina, unsure of what would come next. Last month, just over a year later, Davis graduated from the South Carolina Criminal Justice Academy. Today, he's working as a deputy for the Abbeville County Sheriff's Office.

Though Davis danced in ABT's corps for 11 years and is married to soloist Cassandra Trenary, to many he's best known for saving the life of a man who was pushed onto the subway tracks in New York City in 2017. The heroic effort earned him the New York State Liberty Medal, the highest civilian honor bestowed by a member of the New York State Senate. We caught up with Davis to hear about how the split second decision he made in the subway affected the course of his life, what it's been like starting a second career and what he sees as the similarities between ballet and law enforcement.

Keep reading... Show less
Sponsored by BLOCH
Courtesy BLOCH

Today's ballet dancer needs a lot from a pointe shoe. "What I did 20 years ago is not what these dancers are doing now," says New York City Ballet shoe manager Linnette Roe. "They are expected to go harder, longer days. They are expected to go from sneakers, to pointe shoes, to character shoes, to barefoot and back to pointe shoes all in a day."

The team at BLOCH developed their line of Stretch Pointe shoes to address dancer's most common complaints about the fit and performance of their pointe shoes. "It's a scientific take on the pointe shoe," says Roe. Dancers are taking notice and Stretch Pointe shoes are now worn by stars like American Ballet Theatre principal Isabella Boylston, who stars in BLOCH's latest campaign for the shoes.

We dug into the details of Stretch Pointe's most game-changing features:

Keep reading... Show less
Ballet Stars
Megan Amanda Ehrlich, Courtesy LEAP Program

Claire Sheridan wanted to change the status quo. Leading up to the 1990s, she recalls, "there was a 'shut up and dance' mind-set," and as the founder of the dance program at St. Mary's College of California and a longtime teacher in professional companies, she had seen too many dancers retire with no plan for a successful career transition. "At that time, if you thought about education and the future," she says, "you were not a committed dancer. I wanted to fight that."

With the support of St. Mary's, Sheridan developed the Liberal Education for Arts Professionals program, or LEAP, an innovative liberal-arts bachelor's degree program designed especially for professional dancers. She first presented her idea to executives at San Francisco Ballet. "Kudos to that company, because they said, 'This is great,'" she says. "Eleven of the first 18 dancers who started in August 1999 were from SFB."

Keep reading... Show less
Ballet Training
Getty Images

I'm a college freshman, and my dance program isn't challenging enough. We only have ballet three times a week and a few hours of modern, and my classmates aren't as dedicated as I am. There's a small dance company nearby, where I was hoping to take extra classes, but I don't have a car. I want to transfer, but I feel like I won't be in good enough shape for auditions. —Tara

Keep reading... Show less