As a company dancer of Ballet Arizona since 2006, Michelle Vagi has been kept on her toes. She has originated featured roles in many of Ib Anderson, Ballet Arizona’s director, ballets, been chosen for soloist roles in Swan Lake, Napoli and The Sleeping Beauty, and is the company’s go-to Sugar Plum Fairy for their production of The Nutcracker.
Vagi, as sweet as she is talented, took the time out of her very busy rehearsal schedule to tell us about how she got started, what the life of a professional dancer is really like and what the Nutcracker means to her.
The Entertainer!: What was your opinion on ballet when you were very little and what made you want to dance?
Vagi: I liked ballet when I began taking lessons around age four, but I don’t think that I really was committed to it until I began performing in, funny enough, The Nutcracker as a mouse at age eight. After I got my first taste of performing in a production, I guess you could say I was hooked.
What has been the most difficult part about your life as a ballet dancer?
The mental battles, without a doubt. I think my career has forced me to think a lot about why I dance (because I love to dance and not for the approval of others), and the things that are really important in life (loving people as opposed to my achievements).
What is something that the average person might not know about the life of a professional ballet dancer?
The amount of toe-tape we go through? [Laughs] I don’t know. Probably that our lives are not all about dance all the time. Most of us have things we like to do outside of dance. I am going to school right now for my Master’s and I know a lot of dancers have very interesting and colorful lives outside the studio.
How does it feel to perform as a principal in such a legendary Ballet as The Nutcracker?
It’s a lot of fun. Actually, I did always want to be Clara as a kid and I never got the chance. But being the Sugar Plum Fairy has its kicks, too. [Laughs] It’s fun to get to perform this role knowing that it is iconic to any kid who knows The Nutcracker. I mean, I get to pretend I am the queen of a magic kingdom. How cool is that? Plum Fairy
Ballet Arizona presents The Nutcracker with the Phoenix Symphony at Symphony Hall, 75 N. Second Street, Phoenix, 602.381.1096, balletaz.org, Friday, December 12 through Sunday, December 28, times vary, prices vary