Margaret Mullin in George Balanchine's "Emeralds"

Lindsay Thomas, Courtesy PNB

PNB's Margaret Mullin Looks Ahead to a Freelance Career and Works Toward a Future in Directing

In addition to cancelled shows, the coronavirus pandemic has disrupted final performances for many retiring dancers. Pointe is giving several retiring principals and soloists a chance to reflect on their careers and offer advice to the next generation.

Let's get one thing straight: Margaret Mullin is not retiring from dance just yet. But the longtime Pacific Northwest Ballet soloist is saying goodbye to company life. A native of Tucson, Arizona, Mullin has spent her entire career at PNB, rising from apprentice to soloist over the course of 12 years. Her dream to dance there started early as a student at Ballet Arts Tucson, and she eventually moved to Seattle to train at PNB School full time.


In addition to dancing leading roles throughout the years, Mullin has also choreographed works for PNB's NEXT STEPS choreographer's showcase, as well as Lost in Light for the main company and Saccade for PNB Professional Division students. She is also the director and producer of the documentary film No Dominion: The Ian Horvath Story, following the life of late dance champion and AIDS awareness advocate Ian Horvath, and hosts her own podcast, "Beyond the Barre." Below, she opens up about what she'll miss about PNB, why she's cultivated interest outside of dance and her big dreams for the future.

You have danced at PNB for your entire career. What is it about the company that feels like home?

For me the feeling of home comes from the people. I feel fortunate to have friends throughout the entire organization beyond the dancers; teachers, development officers, stage crew members, musicians, wardrobe and costume shop members, marketing staff and those who work at our front desk, in our outreach programs and in our box office. There are some truly wonderful people who work very hard for PNB and I will really miss seeing them all the time. They inspire me.

Why did you decide to retire from company life?

I had been craving a change for about three years, but didn't know what that change should be. I finally decided to explore life as a freelance artist so I can continue dancing, but also spend more time pursuing my other passions including my podcast, documentary film, choreography and teaching.


You've nurtured a lot of interests outside of ballet. Why was that important to you?

I always knew I would have to face the transition away from company life one day, and felt determined to do so with grace. I felt strongly that if I could find other things to be passionate about earlier in my career, it would make the shift in my lifestyle and time less painful. So far that has proven to be true! I really miss being onstage, but I am also enjoying all the work I'm doing right now on my podcast and documentary.

The COVID-19 shutdown affected your final performance at PNB. How does that make you feel?

It's difficult to lose the chance to say a formal farewell to the PNB organization and our audience members. They have been a big part of my life. I let myself take time to grieve that loss, which I think is really important. I felt very lucky that I got to share about how this moment has affected me thanks to Minding the Gap [an organization that advocates for improving mental health services for dancers] and their virtual Dancer Town Hall event.

Margaret Mullin, in a blue leotard, jumps into assembl\u00e9 with her arms above her head on a darkened stage.

Mullin in Price Suddarh's Signature

Angela Sterling, Courtesy PNB

What's next?

I'm working towards becoming an artistic director, it's been my dream since I was 10 years old. I've been enrolled in a Mastermind Course for entrepreneurs for a year, and have been attending many webinars from ArtsU (Americans for the Arts), Dance USA, Performing Arts Alliance and National Dance Education Organization to prepare myself. I hope that leadership will be my next big step.

Do you have any advice for young dancers following in your footsteps?

I am excited by the new wave of mental health support for dancers that I see growing online. I would advise all dancers to always take their mental health into account. This is a very difficult and demanding career, and not just physically. Prioritize your health and don't be afraid to ask for help. We need to break the stigma around that and we can do so together.

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Sydney Dolan Takes Center Stage at Pennsylvania Ballet

This is Pointe's Summer 2020 cover story. You can subscribe to the magazine here, or click here to purchase this issue.

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Dolan's career could be described in one word: charmed. At just 19 years old, she's flown through the ranks at PAB, debuted a long list of roles, won a Princess Grace Award and been named one of Dance Magazine's "25 to Watch." Yet it's her challenges that have shaped not only her training but her outlook, giving her a solid foundation for becoming one of Pennsylvania Ballet's rising stars.

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SAB Student Founds Dancewear Nonprofit to Help Others in Need

When School of American Ballet student Alexandra de Roos was 8 years old, she placed a collection box at her dance studio for others to donate their gently used dancewear. De Roos, now 17, has since turned that single collection box into a nonprofit organization that aims to minimize economic barriers in the performing arts with free dancewear and classes.

De Roos' organization, Peace Love Leotards, has collected about $2,600 of new and gently-used dancewear and $2,000 in grants and donations since formally launching in April. Dancers or studio owners can request items through a form on the organization's website.

"I knew that dancewear was really expensive and that a lot of students might not be able to do the thing that they love because it's cost-prohibitive," de Roos said. "I really wanted to create something to allow people to have the same experience of the love and joy of dance that I've been so grateful to have."

After SAB shifted its winter term online amid the COVID-19 pandemic, de Roos decided to expand Peace Love Leotards. She reached out to dance companies, resulting in partnerships with brands including Jo+Jax, Lone Reed Designs, RubiaWear and Wear Moi.

"To have them be like 'We want to help you with this and we love this idea and what you're doing is amazing,' that was really exciting to me," she said. "It was very heartwarming."

Jordan Reed, the creator of custom dancewear brand Lone Reed Designs, said she has donated seven items to Peace Love Leotards with plans to donate more consistently every quarter. Custom leotards often retail at higher prices, but Reed, a former Houston Ballet corps member, said the one-of-a-kind clothing offers an "extra bit of confidence, which can go more than a long way in a dancer's journey of training."

Paul Plesh, a sales director for Wear Moi in the United States and Canada, said the company donated 11 leotards after finding Peace Love Leotards' mission to be "commendable." Joey Dowling-Fakhrieh, the founder and creative director of Jo+Jax, said dancewear "can make a significant impact on a student's confidence, as well as how much they enjoy the process of learning dance."

De Roos has worked to expand Peace Love Leotards, Inc. rapidly in the past few months, but she first created the organization at eight years old after participating in a mentorship program with competitors in the Miss Florida and Miss Florida's Outstanding Teen pageants. The pageants, which are part of the Miss America Organization, require competitors to have personal platforms they advocate for as titleholders. As a competition dancer, de Roos instantly thought about the cost barriers to dance when wondering what her own future platform would be.

De Roos said she and her young classmates often outgrew nearly brand-new dancewear, so she approached her studio's owner about placing a collection box at the studio.

Barbara Mizell, who owns Barbara's Centré for Dance in Florida, said she was unsurprised by de Roos' proposal. De Roos always had "such a way of pushing herself and she never forgot those around her," Mizell said. As the box filled up, she distributed the dancewear to others at the studio, local schools with dance programs, and the local YMCA.

"When they could start to see that it was providing happiness for others, then it was almost like the kids couldn't wait to donate," Mizell said.

Nearly a decade after the Miss Florida organization inspired her to launch Peace Love Leotards, de Roos is now a titleholder herself, as Miss Gainesville's Outstanding Teen 2020. Her new mission for Peace Love Leotards is applying for grants, and she has already received a $1,000 grant from the Delores Barr Weaver Legacy Fund that will be used to fund a Title 1 school class.

"The whole organization behind Peace Love Leotards is the dancers," de Roos said. "Being able to help the dancers that are in need and being able to think about the dancewear that they're going to be receiving or have received has been truly amazing."

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