Attendees of the Youth America Grand Prix (YAGP) signature event Stars of Today Meet the Stars of Tomorrow Gala were treated to the World Premiere of Dea by Nashville Ballet’s Official Second Company (NB2) Award-Winning Director, Maria Konrad, with Alonzo King LINES Ballet’s Adji Cissoko, English National Ballet’s Vsevolod Maievskyi and music by Karen LeFrak.  Konrad describes the opportunity to work with such incredible talent as one of the highlights of her career.  She has collaborated with Cissisko and LeFrak in the past with her works in 2022 and 2023 at the International Nervi Festival in Italy.

 YAGP, the world’s largest student ballet scholarship organization and the national youth dance competition of the United States, celebrated its 25th Anniversary with a gala in New York at Lincoln Center earlier this spring.  The annual event is considered an industry highlight as so many of today’s ballet stars were once YAGP competitors themselves and their achievements were honored in front of a sold-out theater.  Konrad was joined on stage by Philip Neal, a principal dancer with New York City Ballet, to present the award for which she was the recipient of in 2022, International Outstanding Choreographer, as her work has been showcased and recognized both nationally and internationally.  Additionally, she was awarded YAGP’s Outstanding Choreography in 2015 and 2017 among her many other accomplishments.

 This fall, Konrad will debut her latest work with a new World Premiere of Dia de Los Muertos among Nashville Ballet’s 2024-25 Season blockbuster lineup (October 17-20).  This vibrant and unique performance, inspired by Frida Kahlo and Diego Rivera, is described as a visual feast that celebrates life and death, family bonds, and our shared humanity.  With dynamic pacing, the show will ignite imaginations – across all ages – through vivid costumes, soul-stirring music and sheer joy.  This stunning work bridges Mexican traditions with Nashville’s cultural landscape, promising an unforgettable journey into the heart of this beloved holiday.  

 Konrad’s work was also part of NB2’s Young Artists Showcase earlier this spring as they celebrated their promising dancers’ incredible work this season. Her background is uniquely diverse and her journey has taken her all over the world. 

 We recently had the privilege to catch up one-on-one with this busy maverick who gave us some insight into her journey. 



 Q:  As an internationally acclaimed choreographer, what accomplishment are you most proud of?

 A:  Being able to teach and share my love of dance with dancers from all parts of the world, from Indonesia to Japan to Italy, has been incredibly powerful.  In terms of creating work, presenting at Lincoln Center this season with artists who have made significant impacts, such as composer Karen LeFrak and Adji Cissoko, one of the most powerful dance performers of her generation, was a dream come true.  Larissa Saveliev, the founder of Youth America Grand Prix, has been an integral part of my journey.  She recognized my potential a few years ago and has been one of my biggest advocates, always encouraging me to dream big and gently pushing me forward.

 Working with Adji was initially nerve-wracking, but she was so generous and determined to embark on this creative journey with me.  We initially performed this work as a solo in Italy, but seeing the vision come together as a Pas de Deux at Lincoln Center, expressing exactly what we felt as artists, and touching other professionals with the beauty of the work, was truly magical.  It was a star-studded event, with some of the world’s most influential dancers and choreographers taking the stage and an equally impressive audience of professionals in the business.

 As a choreographer, you constantly take chances and sometimes encounter obstacles, but moments of success, like our performance at Lincoln Center, make it all worthwhile and inspire you to dream of the next magical moment.

 Q:   Was there someone (or something) in your life that had a significant impact on your decision to become a dancer/choreographer?

 A:  The moment I knew I was called to this path was very clear. During my sophomore year of high school, while my friends were on spring break in Florida, I had to help my family move my sister into college at George Washington University in DC. I was livid, feeling left out as my friends enjoyed the beach while I was moving boxes. To make it up to me, my mom bought tickets to a dance performance at The Kennedy Center.  My training had been heavily based on musical theater, and I had never seen concert dance that was so stripped down and powerful.  It was concert dance at its finest – Paul Taylor Dance Company performing Company B at The Kennedy Center.  It doesn’t get more magical than that!   After the show, we shared a dessert at the rooftop restaurant at The Kennedy Center.   I was changed. Something shifted.  I knew then that I wanted to be part of the lineage that creates this type of work.

 Q: What advice would you give a young dancer with ambition to follow in your footsteps one day?

 A: Be curious and embrace the possibility of failure.  Explore everything—artists, scientists and food.  I’ve taken on unconventional projects just to learn something new, and these experiences have enriched my life as an artist.  Venus Williams taught me a valuable lesson about the importance of being willing to fail. She has been a great champion for me as an artist, emphasizing that you learn when you are brave enough to fail. Failing teaches you how to win. This lesson stays with me always.

 Q: What would surprise readers to know about you?

 A:  I LOVE sports and movies about all sports—rock climbing, F1, football, and of course, tennis. Since moving to Nashville, I’ve developed a serious passion for hockey and the Nashville Predators!  I went to my first hockey game this season, and now I’m obsessed.  I’m even trying to figure out how to budget for season tickets and fit them into my very busy schedule with the ballet.  Is it even possible?

 Q:  What is the most rewarding thing about working with Nashville Ballet?

 A:  The innovation.  I wholeheartedly believe in Nick Mullikin’s vision for the future.  I love that we are at the forefront of creating new work, preserving tradition, and sharing what we are doing here with the world. I am a big believer in the idea of asking questions like What’s Next?  How do we move the art form forward?  How do we innovate?  This spirit is what drew me to working side by side with Nick Mullikin and Nashville Ballet.


There’s no doubt that this dance mavin is carving out her own path in the industry and there’s much more to come from Maria Konrad in the future.  

This article was provided courtesy of Nashville Ballet.

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