Performing a Balancing Act, Dutch National Ballet Principal Maia Makhateli Juggles Motherhood and Dance

January 5, 2023

Maia Makhateli’s earliest memories are from the theater, where she often accompanied her parents, both of whom danced professionally and taught ballet. “When I was 3, I couldn’t imagine anything other than dance, and I already had a goal,” she recalls. Coming from a family of dancers—including her older brother David, a former Royal Ballet principal—Makhateli found it advantageous to have access to expert advice about her training. But her journey wasn’t without its challenges. Makhateli moved at age 15 from her home in Tbilisi, Georgia, first to Idaho with her family and then to Colorado to train. By 16, she’d earned a spot at Colorado Ballet, climbing the ranks to principal when she was just 19. Dreams of dancing in a bigger company brought Makhateli to England, where she briefly joined Birmingham Royal Ballet. “Somehow it was not my place,” says Makhateli. “I appreciate my time there because it also taught me to know what I don’t want.” She then auditioned for Dutch National Ballet, where she was offered a grand sujet contract in 2007. “Almost 16 years later, I’m still here,” she says. A principal since 2010, Makhateli now balances DNB’s repertoire with roles as a guest artist and life as a mother. “I’m really grateful because I have this luxury of making it all work, and that is very rare.”

Determined to Get Started:

“My parents were actually quite strict, and they wanted me to wait to start properly from age 9, but I wanted to start early. I would even—quietly, without them knowing—sleep in the splits because I wanted to be flexible.”

female wearing orange pea coat sitting by large round sculpture
Makhateli frequently performs as a guest artist with companies like Teatro dell’Opera, in Rome, and Teatro di San Carlo, in Naples. Photo by Rachel Papo.

Why She Was Drawn to Dance:

“It’s very strange to be so sure when you’re so young, but I had so much love for this profession. I understood that it’s not just pretty tutus and tiaras because I was in rehearsals, as well, and I just enjoyed the environment and the hard work.”

Moving to the U.S.:

“It’s a difficult age when you’re 15 and you’re still trying to find yourself, and then you move and change a country, change a culture, change a language. It was not easy, but in order for me to have a career, it was the best choice, and I am very happy that we made the move.”

Juggling Motherhood and Dance:

“It’s very challenging, but I think it made me stronger as a person, because now I’m responsible not just for myself, but for my child.”

Finding Her Place at DNB:

“When I joined the company, Rachel Beaujean, who is the associate artistic director and my coach, took me under her wing. I think it’s very important to have somebody who has your back and who is pushing you because they believe in you.”

A Standout Performance:

“Dancing John Neumeier’s Lady of the Camellias with DNB was really the highlight for me. I had such an amazing experience on stage that when the curtain went down, I didn’t want the ballet to end, I wanted to keep going. It’s a very long ballet and very emotionally draining, but whenever I feel nostalgic, it always takes me back to this time.”

Being a Guest Artist:

“I’m lucky because my director Ted Brandsen has always allowed me to go guesting, and this was very important on my list, to be able to travel and dance around the world and see as many companies as I can. You learn a lot, you meet new people, see other theatres and how other companies work—I think all of this is important in order to be able to grow and stay motivated.”

Balancing Motherhood and Dance:

“I take it a day at a time and try not to get overwhelmed by everything, because you can easily get overwhelmed. It’s very challenging, but I think it made me stronger as a person because now I’m responsible not just for myself, but for my child. It’s a bigger role in life, being a mother.”