In many businesses and corporations, staff is organised by hierarchy. Large ballet companies such as the Royal Ballet make no exception and are structured similarly. In most cases, dancers first join the Royal Ballet as ‘Artists’, eventually being promoted gradually to ‘First Artists’, ‘Soloists’, ‘First Soloists’ and, finally, the most gifted become ‘Principal’ dancers. A dancer’s rank speaks to their responsibility within the company and the roles they dance on stage: being a member of the corps de ballet (let’s say, one of the thirty-two swans in Swan Lake) or being the lead dancer (who would take on the double role of Odette/Odile - also sometimes referred to as the Swan Queen).
Mayara Magri is a twenty-four-year-old from Brazil who spends most of her days right across the street from Strand in Covent Garden; a routine that might sound familiar to most King’s students. However, Mayara is a First Soloist of the Royal Ballet and rather than hanging out in lecture theatres, she can usually be found working in dance studios. As a First Soloist, she has moved on from corps de ballet work to soloist roles.
In the current run of Don Quixote at the Royal Opera House, Mayara will debut as Kitri, the ballet’s lead female role. She took some time right before this important step in her career to tell us a bit more about herself, her dancing and her life in London.
As many professional dancers, Mayara started dancing in her childhood as an after school activity. Coming from a family with little knowledge of ballet, she and her sisters had scholarships to study at a dance school in Rio de Janeiro. Dancing seemed to have rapidly taken over an increasing part of Mayara’s life; ‘my teachers really just pushed for me in Brazil’ she explains. This led Mayara to take part in competitions that she sees as ‘a way of getting yourself out there and getting stage experience’.
Such a high level of commitment to ballet in order to achieve excellence does not go without concessions; 'At the time I just went with it because I really enjoyed dancing’.
Mayara easily got on with the idea that her afternoons and evenings were all booked for training, and that she squeezed her homework during lunch breaks at school. Her deep commitment to dancing also left less time to develop friendships. Mayara recalls declining going to the cinema or spending time with classmates. Nonetheless, an ad hoc support system of ballet school friends flourished instead, without forgetting Mayara’s sisters who were dancing as well.
Prix de Lausanne 2011 - Classical Selections - Mayara Magri
In 2011, aged sixteen, Mayara competed at the Prix de Lausanne - the most demanding ballet competition in the world. Over the course of six full days, young dancers between fifteen and eighteen-years-old are assessed over ballet classes, contemporary dance classes, training sessions and stage performances. Mayara won the Prix’s First Prize, which comes with a scholarship and the liberty to choose a dance school to study at. From Brazil, through Switzerland, Mayara was now headed to London.
Prix de Lausanne 2011 - Contemporary Selections - Mayara Magri
‘I always had it in my head that I wanted to come to the Royal Ballet’. Mayara was first introduced to the Royal Ballet watching DVDs of the company’s productions given to her by her ballet teacher. She used the recordings to ‘learn one bit, watch them do it, I had to do my ballet homework’. The young aspiring ballerina was absolutely ‘amazed by the company’ and her dream of one day joining the Royal Ballet grew and strengthened.
While watching the Royal Ballet DVD recordings back in Brazil, Mayara fell in love with the ballet La Bayadere. Last autumn, she debuted on the Royal Opera House main stage as Gamzatti, one of the ballet’s soloist roles. Beyond the amazing opportunity such a role offers a young dancer, ‘it was incredible to have that connection from 10 years ago, watching that DVD, learning that role and now doing it at the Royal Ballet’.