Richmond Ballet's Maggie Small on Finding Magic in the Studio & Onstage
Recently in rehearsal there was a moment when time simply stopped. We were working on the wedding pas from The Sleeping Beauty, and I became completely unaware of the visitors who had come to watch. I was even unaware of the watchful eyes of my ballet master. All that I knew in that moment was the bliss of being intertwined with the music, the choreography and my partner. For just a few counts, I spent a moment on another plane.
For me, dancing is the only experience that creates fleeting moments of unparalleled joy. Though they only occur intermittently, when they do, the world seems in perfect balance. Everything harmonizes and the stresses associated with the endless pursuit of perfection lift. It is magic.
Sometimes such a moment happens onstage, shared with an audience. Other times there is a flash of glory in rehearsal or class when everything just seems right. These moments, when abandon converges with control, are what inspire me to return to the studio every day.
Small in William Soleau's "A Midsummer Night's Dream." Photo by Sarah Ferguson, courtesy Richmond Ballet.
As a student, I always told myself that if dancing ever came to feel like mundane work, I would no longer pursue it. The fact of the matter is that dance is entirely repetitive, demanding hard work. Outside of the studio, it dictates a dedicated lifestyle in order to operate at peak performance level at all times. Inside of the studio, it commands an incredible discipline of both mind and body. Dance calls for thoughtful, unbelievable commitment as well as remarkable resilience.
Almost paradoxically, it also demands that a dancer live in the moment—to be present and fully committed to engaging in the world as it moves. While we might strive to meet all of these demands in every moment, we often miss in our attempts. However, on rare occasions, when everything aligns, all of the work comes to fruition in an unmatchable, enchanted moment. This is the reward we reap from giving ourselves wholly to our art.
Small in John Butler's "Carmina Burana." Photo by Sarah Ferguson, courtesy Richmond Ballet.
In those moments of magic, the pressures and complexities of professional dance disappear. For a splendid blip of time in that rehearsal of The Sleeping Beauty, everything was pure and simple.
On August 19, 1929, shockwaves were felt throughout the dance world as news spread that impresario Sergei Diaghilev had died. The founder of the Ballets Russes rewrote the course of ballet history as the company toured Europe and the U.S., championing collaborations with modernist composers, artists and designers such as Igor Stravinsky, Pablo Picasso and Coco Chanel. The company launched the careers of its five principal choreographers: Michel Fokine, Vaslav Nijinsky, Léonide Massine, Bronislava Nijinska and George Balanchine.
Just four years ago, the University of Southern California's Glorya Kaufman School of Dance welcomed its first class of BFA students. The program—which boasts world-class faculty and a revolutionary approach to training focused on collaboration and hybridity—immediately established itself as one of the country's most prestigious and most innovative.
Now, the first graduating class is entering the dance field. Here, six of the 33 graduates share what they're doing post-grad, what made their experience at USC Kaufman so meaningful and how it prepared them for their next steps:
Yes, we realize it's only August. But we can't help but to already be musing about all the incredible dance happenings of 2019.
We're getting ready for our annual Readers' Choice feature, and we want to hear from you about the shows you can't stop thinking about, the dance videos that blew your mind and the artists you discovered this year who everyone should know about.
Chiara Valle is just one of many dancers heading back to the studio this fall as companies ramp up for the season. But her journey back has been far more difficult than most.
Valle has been a trainee at The Washington Ballet since 2016, starting at the same time as artistic director Julie Kent. But only a few months into her first season there, she started experiencing excruciating pain high up in her femur. "It felt like someone was stabbing me 24/7," she says. Sometimes at night, the pain got so bad that her roommates would bring her dinner to the bathtub.