Maggie Small with Artists of the Richmond Ballet in The Nutcracker
by Stoner Winslett. Photo by Sarah Ferguson.
“Strive to be the best.”
Maggie Small started ballet at three years old and began training in the School of Richmond Ballet in 1990 when she was just five years old. She dedicated over 16 years of her life to the Richmond Ballet, becoming one of the nation’s celebrated dancers until she retired. She is only 34. She has performed in her hometown of Richmond, Virginia, as well as on stages in New York City, London, and China. She enjoys working with world-renowned choreographers to create impressive “performing works.” Since retiring, Maggie has not stayed put. She has continued to “honor and uphold the legacy of ballet” by sharing her knowledge and expertise with a new generation of dancers.
Since her retirement, Maggie has been able to give her energy and time to helping other artists and visionaries become confident in their artistry. “Upon retiring, I wanted to be sure to give back to the young dancers who felt a connection to me from the stage,” she explains. “So I developed a Master Class series that I take to over ten different studios in Virginia.” These classes focus on the mind just as much as the body.
Maggie Small and Thomas Ragland in The Nutcracker by Stoner Winslett.
Photo by Sarah Ferguson.
Maggie says she wants her dancers to focus their minds to think more positively and picture what success looks like. “I am fostering mentoring relationships with the students through talkbacks and an email correspondence program,” she notes. Along with her Master Class, Maggie is also collaborating with and encouraging local painters and photographers to “incorporate the beauty of one art into another.“
“Upon retiring, I wanted to be sure to give back to the young dancers who felt a connection to me from the stage.”
In October, she mentored with MOB Ballet, an organization that “preserves, presents and promotes the contributions, and stories of black artists in the field of ballet.” While working with students at the inaugural MOB Ballet Symposium, Maggie saw an opportunity to teach these students about the trials they might potentially face in their careers. “Addressing topics that are typically discovered through life experience before having to confront them head-on will equip students to prepare to dive into the world of ballet with much more ease,” she says.
Maggie’s journey, as she puts it, was different than many other dancers’. She was welcomed and felt included. She was given the privilege to focus on pushing herself to be the very best and simply pursue her love for dance. “This allowed me to achieve continued joy and success from the start of my training and throughout my professional years,” she says. She wants her students to feel the same. “Through my master class series, mentoring, and continued work with MOB Ballet, more and more students will not only realize the dream that I was able to live but also find themselves contributing to creating positive environments,” she says.
“Whether empowering and educating tomorrow’s dancers or collaborating with other artists for vision projects, I am determined to continue pursuing my passion.”
Even though she is no longer an active ballerina for the Richmond Ballet, she still works with the company as a Grant Specialist. “In this position I now contribute to sustaining the institution, serving something greater than my own personal interests—the art,” she says. She’s open to the possibility of creating new opportunities. Since she’s left ballet, she is still “rediscovering how to live (her) passion.” She is appreciative of her journey so far. “Many people do not have the opportunity to do what they love until later in life. However, dancers pursue their passion in a finite career early on,” she says. “Whether empowering and educating tomorrow’s dancers or collaborating with other artists for vision projects, I am determined to continue pursuing my passion.”
MOVE TOGETHER … Thank you Maggie Small by Martin Montgomery
To learn more about Maggie Small, follow her on Instagram @smallmaggies.