Maia Makhateli: "Usually I feel the most calm when I am on stage..."
Maia Makhateli, the principal dancer of the Dutch National Ballet, is one of the leading ballerinas of nowadays. Technically skilled and talented in acting, she looks outstanding both: in classical and contemporary repertoire. In 2019, she was nominated for the prestigious Benois de la Danse, for her performance of the role of Marguerite in The Lady of the Camellias. Performing around the world, Maia has charmed the audience by her femininity, lightness and the fire spirit onstage. In her social media the image of prima ballerina matches with Maia the Mother of a cute little boy Luka and simply a beautiful woman, friendly and warm with people around her.
We’re happy to have talked with Maia about her career and daily life.
Hello, Maia! How are you? Your schedule is amazing now, from the premiere of Rachel Beaujean’s Raymonda to Gala performances...
Hello! Yes, I am very busy and tired but very good. The premiere of Raymonda was a big success so all the hard work was definitely worth it and paid off.
About the work... How do you usually prepare for your roles?
Well, first, I get to know the character I am going to portray, so I really study and investigate (smiles). Of course, there are technical things that are usual to apply with each role and ballet I prepare, for me it’s very important to have a good ballet class and extra training that is also very individual. I have my routines and workouts which may not work for everyone and be consistent repetition... Taking it day by day, improving slowly each step, it's like a vocabulary when you learn all the letters and start to make phrases, it’s the same with dancing. One thing at a time and I have to be patient. That's what I learned over the years. It’s a marathon, not a sprint.
Do you have any pre-show rituals?
Pre-show rituals... nothing in particular. I try to sleep and eat well the night before, to get rest as much as possible. On the day of the performance I like to do class, easy rehearsal and then if I have time a nap before the show.
Also those are luxury moments (smiles), sometimes I have to pick up Luka, my son, from school and he has never ending energy so I need to maybe go for a walk around the neighborhood, play, etc…
Does it happen when you feel nervous before the performance? How do you deal with it?
I feel excited, maybe a little nervous, it depends on the occasion. Usually I feel the most calm when I am on stage, I feel safe and secure then my nervousness goes away but, yes, before each show I feel it in my stomach. This helps me and I find this feeling good because it keeps me sharp and focused. I just try to stay calm inside and focus on what I need to do and not get distracted.
What kind of partner is the ideal one for you?
This is the kind of partner that I can close my eyes and trust myself to him. The one that is super secure and reliable.
What are your main sources of inspiration?
I think a reminder to myself why I choose dancing. When you become good, a lot is expected from you and pressure is high. So, I get inspired by working with different people whether it's a new ballet master or a partner, a new ballet, new choreography or choreographer because I learn from the experience and that inspires me to reach for the highest mountain. For me the sky's the limit and working towards it inspires me.
How do you spend your free time (when you have it)?
Free time…. What’s that? (laughs) Well, if and when I have it I love to spend it with my boy: we go to the playground or some kids attraction, we end up doing lots of things in given free time, visiting friends and having a good time.
Your son always supports you. Do you find managing being a mom and a full time dancer difficult?
Being a mum and a full time traveling ballerina requires a lot of logistical planning in advance. It’s very difficult I admit, especially when babies are little all mums will relate to the feeling of lacking many hours of sleep… so you can only imagine. It does get easier in a way because there is no other way so you just end up doing what you could never think was possible. I am so lucky to have people by my side who support me and help me get through difficult periods. My son Luka is the sweetest and the most understanding kid, I am a lucky mum to have an Angel like him ❤️
What can you advise the dancers who are just starting their career?
Work work work…. Work ethic, I say, is one of the important things, have to be consistent and never get affected by what may others say or think, these things really mess you up. Don’t try to be like someone else, nobody has an ideal type, sure but it’s not about how many pirouettes one can execute, it’s about the whole performance and artistry. Individuality. See the talent and the qualities that you have and focus your energy on improving yourself. The biggest competitor you can have is you because you want to be better than you were yesterday.
Favourite classical/non-classical role? Many, many, many... In the middle by William Forsythe, Lady of the Camellias by John Neumeier. Raymonda, Swan Lake, Giselle
Favourite place you have danced in? Many places, it’s hard to pick one apart from my home Dutch National Ballet, Teatro San Carlo has a special place in my heart too.
Favourite food (in general and pre-show)? Sushi, and I love Italian cuisine.
Favourite music? A big mix of everything, depends on the mood.
And what about cinema? No time for movies but the list is too long.
Your favourite books? The Lady of the Camellias, The Unbearable Lightness of Being
Favourite painters? Claude Monet, Wassily Kandinsky, Rembrandt, Salvador Dalí, Gustav Klimt and many more
The three words you can describe yourself: That's for others to describe (smiles).
Interview and sketch: Julia Sumzina
Photos: Bart Hess, Darja Stravs Tisu, Marc Haegeman, Antoinette Mooy, Altin Kaftira, Jack Devant