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Ellicott City Ballet Guild founder Caryl Maxwell celebrates 80th birthday with dance gala this weekend

For Caryl Maxwell’s 80th birthday, her sister suggested she do something special to mark the milestone. Maxwell knew exactly what she wanted to do: dance.

“I wanted to get people together to enjoy some beautiful dance,” said Maxwell, a former professional dancer and founder/owner of Ellicott City Ballet Guild on Ellicott City’s Main Street from 1975 until its closing in 2002. “This is what I do and what I have to give to others.”


The problem was the timing. Maxwell turned 80 on March 8.

“It was not ideal conditions for this,” Maxwell said, referring to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic. “At the time of the idea, things were very bad in terms of the pandemic. I waited for things to get better.”


On Sunday, the “Something Beautiful Gala” will take place at the Jim Rouse Theatre in Columbia with all proceeds donated to the Howard County Arts Council for dance programs. The evening will feature Maxwell’s colleagues, students and friends performing both classical ballet and modern pieces.

“There is a couple in Virginia that I danced with in New York. I called them up and said, ‘Come up and be a part of this,’ and it grew like that,” Maxwell said. “I told everyone to bring something they had done recently.”

Caryl Maxwell on March 8, 2021, her 80th birthday.

Dancers from Misako Ballet Studio in Columbia will perform three pieces for the program. Misako Aoki, owner and artistic director of the studio, met Maxwell when she moved to Columbia in 1995 and enrolled in one of her adult classes.

“I am so glad I found her when I moved to this area. I really liked her class. She is a great teacher,” Aoki said. “What a great opportunity to do something with her and for her.”

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Another former student, Cindee Velle White, owner of Ballet with Cindee Velle in Columbia, will also have several students performing in different pieces. White is also helping Maxwell, who teaches a class at White’s studio, with the production.

“It will be a real celebration,” White said. “It’s going to be lovely with a lot of variety. Any time you pull in different groups, you really get a wide spectrum of artistry.”

The Howard County Arts Council is “delighted” that Maxwell has chosen it to be the recipient of the gala’s proceeds, according to Coleen West, executive director of the arts council.

“She is such a generous spirit,” said West, who has known Maxwell for more than 24 years. “She wanted to mark her 80th birthday with this wonderful gift to the community, a night of dance, and to us, which will really benefit the community, too.”


Everyone in the audience will be asked to wear a mask, Maxwell said.

“The dance world and the art world, just like everybody else, COVID hit hard,” Maxwell said. “I am hoping this will help.”

The “Something Beautiful Gala” dance benefit will take place at 3 p.m. Sunday at the Jim Rouse Theatre, 5460 Trumpeter Road in Columbia. Tickets are $20-$25 and can be purchased online at

Caryl Maxwell dancing in "A Christmas Carol Ballet," co-choreographed with Mark Ryder in 1978.