The Maine State Ballet will feature principal dancer Elizabeth Dragoni, 24, of Scarborough, in the title role of the rarely performed, “Raymonda,” with music by Alexander Glazunov, in performances scheduled for Aug. 11-20
The ballet tells the story of a Hungarian princess and her lover, who returns from the Crusades to wed her.
Dragoni has been dancing with the Maine State Ballet for the past 12 years and graduated with a degree in fine arts from Saint Joseph’s College of Maine, Standish, two years ago. She now runs her own freelance design business, found online www.lizzydragoni.com. Dragoni does work on commission and is also an event photographer, web designer, graphic designer and social media consultant.
She described the Maine State Ballet as “a sanctuary where I go to improve mentally and physically, (where) personal problems and the problems of the world fade to insignificance when we are here dancing.”
Her mother, Cathy Dragoni, is a microbiologist at the NorDx lab in Scarborough and her father is a car salesman at the Mercedes Benz dealership, also in Scarborough. Dragoni also has an older brother, Nick, who lives in Cambridge, Mass., and works at the M-Works Mastering Studio as a sound engineer.
Dragoni said that in running her own business and being a ballet dancer, “I lead a double life. Staying with Maine State Ballet has allowed me to have the best of both worlds – a career in dance and a career (in the creative arts).”
Dragoni spoke with the Current this week about her passion for dance and her title role in “Raymonda.”
Q: What does ballet mean to you? Why do you put so much time and effort into it?
A: Ballet to me is happiness. I pour my soul and my thoughts and almost all of my time into this because there is absolutely nothing in the world that makes me feel as free and happy as dancing. For me it is pure joy. Each time I dance I am still as happy and excited as the 12-year old me, putting my pointe shoes on for the first time. The experience of ballet dancing requires use of the whole body, every bone and muscle. And, while one must be physically agile, dancing ballet also requires conscious effort through each movement. Even after you stop dancing, your brain is still humming with the tempo of the music, your blood is rushing through your veins, and your muscles are pulsing. It is such an exhilarating experience.
While being physically and mentally taxing, the endorphins produced by the brain while dancing ballet are like nothing in the world, which is probably why I never once considered what life would be like without ballet. I love ballet so much. I’m addicted.
Q: What is it like to be a principal dancer?
A: Being a principal dancer is the hardest and best thing ever. I remember watching Maine State Ballet principal dancer Janet Davis on television one day. I was 11 at the time and I remember looking over at my dad and saying, “That’s going to be me one day.” I said it and I meant it. Years later, after a lot of blood, sweat and tears, not to mention hundreds of pairs of pointe shoes, I found myself backstage at Merrill Auditorium with Janet Davis herself, fastening the hooks of my tutu and holding my hands as I waited for my entrance as the Sugar Plum fairy.
When I think about what it actually means to be a principal dancer, I get choked up because to me it means that with dedication, hard work and the support of my parents and mentors, I have been able to turn my dreams into reality. This is everything I always wanted. And it has not been easy. I have to work harder as a principal dancer than I probably ever did before. The roles I dance now are more difficult than anything I’ve ever done and there is added pressure to my performances.
Q: Is this your first time dancing “Raymonda?” What do you most like about the part?
A: This will be the premiere of Maine State Ballet’s excerpt from “Raymonda.” I have danced the variation in the past, for my own enjoyment because there’s something about the music that always struck a chord within my soul. Most of the ballet has been created from scratch this summer by Linda Miele, the artistic director at the Maine State Ballet. That’s one aspect of this role that is really awesome. Being a part of Linda’s creative process is so invaluable. Her musicality and ability to adjust choreography to the stylistic aspects of the music and time period of the story is something really special to witness and be a part of.
The music and new costumes created for this ballet are also a gorgeous combination. The ballet, which originates from an 1800s Hungarian tale, has a unique style all it’s own and learning and adapting to this style has been one of the best parts about this ballet so far for me. I am really excited to see it all come together.
Q: What would you say to encourage people to come to the show?
A: Prepare to be wowed. This ballet is something really unique and the costumes are gorgeous. I have worn many costumes over the years, however, this one is definitely the best yet. In one word I would describe ballet “Raymonda” as dazzling.
Also, what’s really cool is that when you come to see the show, you get to experience two miniature ballets – “Raymonda” and “Can Can Parisien” – both of which are worlds apart in style and musical variation. It’s a nice experience for the audience because they get to view a very classical piece accompanied by the wild, fun-loving “Can-Can.”
A CLOSER LOOK:
The Maine State Ballet will present the “Can-Can Parisien” and excerpts from “Raymonda” Aug. 11-20 at the ballet’s Lopez Theater, on Route 1 in Falmouth. Performance times are Thursday and Friday at 7 p.m., with Saturday shows at both 2 and 7 p.m. Tickets are $17-$23. See www.mainestateballet.org, or call 781-7672 to purchase tickets today or for more information.
Elizabeth Dragoni, of Scarborough, a principal dancer with the Maine State Ballet, will dance the title role in ballet’s upcoming production of “Raymonda.”