Cloud in Beth Gill's Catacomb. Photo by Brian Rogers, Courtesy Gill

How This Dancer Became One of NYC's Most In-Demand Freelancers

Some dancers move to New York City with their sights set on a dream job: that one choreographer or company they have to dance for. But when Maggie Cloud graduated from Florida State University in 2010, she envisioned herself on a less straightforward path.

"I always had in mind that I would be dancing for different people," she says. "I knew I had some kind of range that I wanted to tap into."


In her nine years as a sought-after freelance dancer, Cloud, 30, has followed through on that instinct, bringing her quiet, lucid electricity to the work of Pam Tanowitz, John Jasperse, Sarah Michelson, Gillian Walsh, Moriah Evans and Beth Gill, among others. She can turn something as simple as a grand plié into an eerily transcendent moment—as she did in Walsh's Scenario: Script to Perform—or sail through counterintuitive convolutions, like those in Tanowitz's New Work for Goldberg Variations.

"Maggie is a mixture of ephemeral beauty and down-to-earthiness," says Tanowitz, who has worked with her since 2012. "She can solve whatever task I throw at her with understated gorgeousness."

In Burr Johnson's Tropopause. Photo courtesy Works & Process at the Guggenheim

Growing up in Sarasota, Florida, Cloud trained in the Cecchetti method, establishing a foundation of clean, unadorned alignment that she still appreciates. "It really set me up to work correctly and efficiently," she says.

During high school and college she spent several summers at the American Dance Festival, where the exposure to different choreographers and styles "kind of blew open my world," she says. Her senior year at FSU brought her to New York for a Movement Research internship. She knew she wanted to come back.

Cloud was dancing with friends in New York when she auditioned for Michelson, landing a role in her Devotion Study #1­—The American Dancer, which would premiere at the Whitney Museum of American Art in 2012. "Sarah saw something in me and took a chance without really knowing me yet," Cloud says. During that high-profile project, she made connections that opened doors for future work.

In John Jasperse's Remains. Photo by Julieta Cervantes, courtesy Jasperse.

In deciding which projects to take on, Cloud considers both logistical factors—scheduling, finances—and artistic ones, like whether the work will challenge her. Above all, she says, "I have to trust the choreographer and their vision."

"The most profound projects," she adds, "are those where the work has developed over the course of many processes, where we can pick up where we left off and approach it in a new way, with a shared understanding and language."

As for the challenges of a freelance career, Cloud says they've had less to do with switching between choreographers' styles—a variety she enjoys—and more to do with money. "There are so few jobs that can single-handedly support you financially, and even though I prefer the piecemeal freelance work, it can be a hustle," she says.

In Pam Tanowitz's The Spectators. Photo by Ian Douglas, Courtesy Tanowitz

For Cloud, the hustle has included babysitting, art modeling, teaching, and working at a restaurant and a Pilates studio. But in the past year she's made a larger career move, enrolling in a master's program at Tri-State College of Acupuncture. That choice was inspired, in part, by wanting to help people one-on-one, in ways not always possible through dance.

"The actual exchange of dance happens so rarely," Cloud says. "In the span of a year-and-a-half-long process, there's maybe a weekend of shows, so I feel like my impact is often really indirect or abstract." She doesn't want to give up dancing, and doesn't plan to. But as she puts it, "I'm trying to connect to the world in a different way."

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Courtesy Harlequin

What Does It Take to Make a Safe Outdoor Stage for Dance?

Warmer weather is just around the corner, and with it comes a light at the end of a hibernation tunnel for many dance organizations: a chance to perform again. While social distancing and mask-wearing remain essential to gathering safely, the great outdoors has become an often-preferred performance venue.

But, of course, nature likes to throw its curveballs. What does it take to successfully pull off an alfresco show?

Marisa Grywalski and Alejandro Diaz in Dwight Rhodens "Ave Maria," part of PBT's Open Air Series last fall.

Kelly Perkovich, Courtesy Pittsburgh Ballet Theatre

Keeping dancers safe outside requires the same intentional flooring as you have in the studio—but it also needs to be hearty enough to withstand the weather. With so many factors to consider, two ballet companies consulted with Harlequin Floors to find the perfect floor for their unique circumstances.

Last fall, Pittsburgh Ballet Theatre invested in a mobile stage that allowed the dancers to perform live for socially distanced audiences. "But we didn't have an outdoor resilient floor, so we quickly realized that if we had any rain, we were going to be in big trouble—it would have rotted," says artistic director Susan Jaffe.

The company purchased the lightweight, waterproof Harlequin's AeroDeck® sprung floor panels and the heavy-duty Harlequin Cascade™ vinyl, which is manufactured with BioCote® Antimicrobial Protection to help with the prevention of bacteria and mold. After an indoor test run while filming Nutcracker ("It felt exactly like our regular floor," says Jaffe), the company will debut the new setup this May in Pittsburgh's Schenley Park during a two-week series of performances shared with other local arts organizations.

Pittsburgh Ballet Theatre's Open Air Series last fall. The company plans to roll out their new Harlequin AeroDeck® sprung floor panels and Harlequin Cascade™ vinyl floor for more outdoor performances this spring.

Harris Ferris, Courtesy Pittsburgh Ballet Theatre

In addition to the possibility of rain, a range of temperatures also has to be taken into account. When the State Ballet of Rhode Island received a grant from the state to upgrade its 15-year-old stage, executive director Ana Fox chose the Harlequin Cascade vinyl floor in the lighter gray color "so that it would be cooler if it's reflecting sunlight during daytime performances," she says.

However, for the civic ballet company's first performance on its new 24-by-48–foot stage on November 22, heat was less of a concern than the Northeastern cold. Fortunately, Fox says the surface never got icy or too stiff. "It felt warm to the feel," she says. "You could see the dancers didn't hesitate to run or step into arabesque." (The Harlequin Cascade floor is known for providing a good grip.)

"To have a safe floor for dancers not to worry about shin splints or something of that nature, that's everything," she says. "The dancers have to feel secure."

State Ballet of Rhode Island first rolled out their new Harlequin Cascade™ flooring for an outdoor performance last November.

Courtesy of Harlequin

Of course, the elements need to be considered even when dancers aren't actively performing. Although Harlequin's AeroDeck is waterproof, both PBT and SBRI have tarps to cover their stages to keep any water out. SBRI also does damp mopping before performances to get pollen off the surface. Additionally, the company is building a shed to safely store the floor long-term when it's not in use. "Of course, it's heavy, but laying down the floor and putting it away was not an issue at all," says Fox, adding that both were easy to accomplish with a crew of four people.

Since the Harlequin Cascade surface is versatile enough to support a wide range of dance styles—and even opera and theater sets—both PBT and SBRI are partnering with other local arts organizations to put their outdoor stages to use as much as possible. Because audiences are hungry for art right now.

"In September, I made our outdoor performance shorter so we wouldn't have to worry about intermission or bathrooms, but when it was over, they just sat there," says Jaffe, with a laugh. "People were so grateful and so happy to see us perform. We just got an overwhelming response of love and gratitude."

Marisa Grywalski and Alejandro Diaz in Susan Jaffes "Carmina Terra," part of PBT's Open Air Series last fall.

Kelly Perkovich, courtesy Pittsburgh Ballet Theatre

February 2021