Maggie was born in the Philippines. She began dance at the age of seven. When her family moved to the United States at the age of 13, she studied with Dimitri Romanoff. At the age of 15, he received a scholarship to study with the San Francisco Ballet School. During her professional career, she danced principal, soloist, and corps de ballet roles with the San Francisco Ballet, Bejart Ballet Lausanne, and Hamburg Ballet. She worked with world-renowned choreographers such as William Forsythe, Maurice Béjart, John Neumeier, Helgi Tomasson, James Kudelka, Mats Ek, David Bintley, Val Caniparoli, and Lar Lubovitch. Her performance repertoire also includes many Balanchine and Anthony Tudor pieces. She performed in Classical Ballet, Contemporary, Modern, and Musical Theatre productions through-out her professional career. She trained and mentored students who are now professional dancers with San Francisco Ballet, Oakland Ballet, Oregon Ballet, Beyonce, and Mia Michaels. Many of her students are directors, teachers, choreographers and university graduates. She coaches 15 year old Polina Edmunds on her long program choreography for the Winter Olympics 2014.
"Leading by Example: Extraordinary Women of the South Bay"
Former Professional Ballet Dancer; Founder of DTI and Co-Founder of San Jose Youth Ballet
Dancers have to decide early if that’s what they want to do,” says ballet superstar Magdalena Ferla, who recalls training six days a week as a child. “Then, you just have to take your faith with you and follow it.” Follow it is exactly what this San Jose local and founding owner of Dance Theatre International did, dancing her way across the world and back again with some of the most prestigious ballet companies.
Born in the Phillipines, Ferla immigrated to California as an adolescent, where her parents and teachers encouraged her natural knack for ballet. “My mom was a hard worker and an example of what it takes to succeed in anything: perseverance, dedication, faith,” she adds.
Ferla’s dancing shoes took her first to train with San Francisco Ballet when she was just 16, where she joined the company at age 20 and danced for five years. Then it was off to world-renowned Bejart Ballet in Switzerland, where she both met her future husband and broke her foot on the first day of practice. “I had to split open my shoes in order to dance,” Ferla recalls of performing after surgery with a metal plate in her foot. Her skill and spirit intact, Ferla went on to dance with the Hamburg Ballet.
Upon returning to San Jose at age 30, this dancer’s next step was, naturally, to teach.“I started teaching ballet lessons at Grange Hall in Evergreen,” she says. “From there, it just exploded and I thought, I’ve gotta have my own space.” Local children can now leap and plie with her at Evergreen’s Dance Theatre International ballet school, where Ferla invites renowned choreographers from across the globe to come teach alongside her. “I love watching the kids grow through dance and find themselves, seeing them explore different types of movement.”
But her self-stated mission to “support high caliber performance arts opportunities for youth” is perhaps best brought to life through San Jose Youth Ballet, the nonprofit she has founded in the community. Each year, members of the community can audition to be part of the ballet’s performance of The Nutcracker, which parents and non-dancers alike can pitch in to help produce. “I love that it is able to bring the community and families together in support of arts and youth,” Ferla says. “I founded it in hopes of building those relationships.”
Asked what her dreams are at this juncture in life, the spry 46-year-old mother of one says, “I would love all of my students to love the art of dance, and encourage the audience to love it too.” We think she certainly has.
- LINDSAY SCHAUER
www.gentrymagazine.com | JANUARY/FEBRUARY 2010 | GENTRY