A Night of Jazz & Dance may be the last performance of the season, but it also marks a very important anniversary—lead dancer Stephanie Maiorano’s 10th year performing with San Diego Ballet. I sat down with her recently to reflect on her career thus far.
By Cindy Case
First of all, congratulations on ten seasons dancing with San Diego Ballet! You’ve originated a number of roles for the company during your tenure. What have been some of your favorite pieces to dance?
One of my favorite pieces was Don Juan, which we did a couple years ago. In it, I actually played seven characters within the three-act ballet, all of them with the same “spark” that Don Juan would recognize. I got to play anything from a gypsy to a sweet peasant girl on her wedding day, a maid, flower girl.
I also really enjoyed Seven Beauties, which was made for me and Joe for the Azerbaijan community. Selling out the Civic Center, and the applause that we got… the conductor had to hold the orchestra for five, six minutes during the finale. So that experience was a big deal.
You spent a few years in a larger company before joining SDB. What do you see as some of the benefits of small company life?
I get so much freedom here at SDB, and I feel appreciated. I can just relax and make art, just be in the moment and not worry about the competition. Our director is always very frugal, and when we get more funding that money goes to the dancers before him. It is nice to know that he legitimately cares about us. Once I met Javier, I went, “I can’t go back to any other way.”
What are some of the challenges of small company life?
There’s only one cast! There are no understudies, so it’s a lot of pressure. A lot of pressure.
In what ways do you feel SDB has grown since you joined the company?
Oh my gosh, it’s changed a lot. When I first joined the company, it was such a short season—In fact, we even had to cancel our first show because of wildfires. We used to be done by February, so I would have to have my “second life.” I worked at Capezio, I was a shop girl, I even delivered flowers on a delivery truck.
Now, our season starts at the end of September and goes through May. The quality level of our dancers has improved every year, and we’ve become more involved with the community. We’re selling out most of our shows, all season long, and we get nothing but good reviews. Everything we perform is so different, and we like to give people a little bit of, “Guess what we’re doing now!”
It’s very rare to be able to dance professionally in your hometown. How does it feel dancing here as a San Diego native?
I feel so lucky. When I would go to summer programs, the kids would come from all over the country and all they wanted to do was leave their hometowns. But I’m from San Diego, which… what’s better than San Diego? So it’s just nice. It’s a huge deal and it’s extremely rare, so I feel very, very blessed.
What do you enjoy doing when you’re not dancing?
I like cooking. It’s relaxing, and it’s fun. If I’m not dancing, if I’m not teaching dance, then I am cooking, eating or sleeping. During the off-season, I do enjoy Disneyland. The rest of the time, I don’t want to go out. I have always liked just being by myself, in my room. You need to recharge, otherwise you don’t have the energy for the stage. You have to conserve yourself.
What might you be doing now, if you hadn’t pursued ballet?
I don’t think there is another option. [Laughs] There was only one thing that I’ve been sure of my whole life, that I’m supposed to be dancing.
What’s one thing you wish people knew about being a ballet dancer?
You just can’t understand until you’ve done it, how much dedication it takes, and how much strength. I hate when people say, “Well, at least you’re doing your passion instead of sitting in a cubicle.” It is my passion, but at the same time that makes it that much more difficult.
You were here for SDB’s first collaboration with Charles McPherson. Would you tell me about your experiences watching the live jazz shows grow?
There is such a strong jazz community in San Diego, and as luck would have it, one of our beautiful dancers (Camille McPherson) is the daughter of superstar jazz legend Charles McPherson. Our audiences always love these performances. We sell out, the band sounds great, and it’s amazing to get to share the stage with a legend. The jazz shows always feel very much like a party.
You can catch Stephanie on stage at A Night of Jazz & Dance, May 18-20. Buy tickets now to join Stephanie for the party, and to congratulate her on ten beautiful seasons with San Diego Ballet. Here’s to many more!