Fighting cancer, 'Bald Ballerina' Maggie Kudirka dances for life
By Carolyn Kelemen
Howard County Times|
Jan 04, 2017 | 2:11 PM
She is a producer, but she doesn't make deals at lunch. She doesn't pull out her hair and scream at the technicians and she doesn't have a "morning cry" like Holly Hunter in "Broadcast News." She gets her inspiration from her unswerving dedication to dance — creating, promoting and performing —despite her stage 4 breast cancer diagnosis in the summer of 2014.
Indeed, Margaret "Maggie" Kudirka is a ballerina on a mission. On Jan. 8 at Howard Community College, the "Bald Ballerina," as she is known in the dance world, celebrates her third "No One Can Survive Alone" fundraiser . Students and professionals will gather on Jan. 7 for master classes and workshops in the college's dance studios. The afternoon concert on Jan. 8 in Smith Theater features both local and national award-winning dancers with a special appearance by Kudirka in her signature solo, "Loss and Survival," set to Edith Piaf's "L'hymne a l'amour."
Off stage, she's a stunning 5-feet, 9-inch woman, with incredibly long arms and legs that go on forever. When she dances, she stretches her arabesques and lengthens her high-flying leaps so she looks even taller — at least 7 feet from the tips of her toes to the top of her bald head.
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"A cancer diagnosis is hard on many levels, emotional, physical and financial," says Kudirka, taking a break from teaching a popular dance session at B. Funk Dance Studio near her Ellicott City home. "I am dedicating this concert to everyone who has taken care of me, helped me and supported me. They give me hope and strength and keep me positive."
Soon after her own diagnosis, a breast cancer survivor suggested that Kudirka produce a dance concert to take her mind off her struggles. "She was right," said the 25-year-old ballerina. "Planning took my mind off cancer; rehearsing gave me physical motivation and donations helped with medical bills." Since that fortuitous encounter, the bald ballerina has appeared in numerous benefits, most recently the "Dancers Care Foundation" to educate dancers about cancer and raise money for cancer research. Now as the new year begins, the bald ballerina will have produced three fundraisers to defray her own medical costs, especially the drugs that keep her alive.
"Getting to 'work' with this amazing girl is a privilege," said Sandy Coyte, founder of the Dancers Care Foundation, of Kudirka.. All money collected from the Jan. 8 concert will go to the Bald Ballerina Fund through Dancers Care.
"I have learned so much by Maggie's journey," Coyte said. "I'm honored to call her my colleague and friend. Having her in my life is one of life's many good things."
"We take many things for granted until they are no longer available to us," Kudirka reminds us. "Before cancer, I never thought much how many years I would live. Sometimes I would think about how many years I would be able work as a dancer, believing I would become a teacher or choreographer after my performance days were over. I never thought my dance career could end before it began. I never thought about what a privilege it is to be able to move my body through dance steps. I never thought about what a privilege it is just to be alive and healthy."
Kudirka beams when she describes her latest creation, "Loss and Survival," the contemporary ballet piece co-choreographed by her close friend, Adrienne Canterna. The international ballet star is currently touring in Europe and will miss the benefit, though a video greeting is expected. The other award-winning ballerina in the family, Ashley Canterna Hardy, will perform in the concert. She will showcase her choreographic talent with a piece created for her niece Anami, daughter of Adrienne Canterna and Rasta Thomas of the Bad Boys of Ballet fame.
Maggie Kudirka, "The Bald Ballerina," who was diagnosed with Stage 4 breast cancer last year, will perform the role of Snow Queen in "The Nutcracker" at the Jim Rouse Theater Nov. 29. (Megan Rufty/Baltimore Sun video)
"I want this concert to be meaningful to me, so I invited performers who had played important roles in my life as a dancer and cancer survivor," said Kudirka, with more than a hint of pride. "You can imagine how I was overwhelmed when everyone invited enthusiastically agreed."
Andrew Holtz, emcee for Starbound National Talent Competition, returns as master of ceremonies. Among the professional dancers are Jessica Pinkett from Ailey II; Jordan Lombardi with Bad Boys of Ballet; Lydia Haug, a dancer, model and actress, Jourdan Epstein, a finalist from "So You Think You Can Dance," season 11; Brandon Talbott, from "Dance Moms"; and Kaeli Ware, who has appeared in several Debbie Allen productions. The concert will include ballet, jazz, lyrical, hip-hop, character and contemporary dance as well as a yoga demonstration set to live music.
In our area, nothing tops L'Etoile Ballet The Russian Ballet Academy of Maryland's spiffy, renovated studios on Red Branch Road in Columbia. Formerly The Ballet Royale Academy (which hosted fabulous dancing in its two decade history), Svetlana Kravtsova and her dancing husband, Vadim Pijicov are the new tenants.
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Still, it's the bald ballerina's star that shines the brightest. Her arabesque is superb and makes you forget that achieving that line may be more difficult for her than for others. And when she tosses her pink bandanna (which previously covered her bald head), falls into a split, then raises her arms a la Alvin Ailey's "Revelations," folks jump up and cheer for their sweetheart ballerina/producer.
Maggie Kudirka presents "No One Can Survive Alone: A Fundraiser Concert for the Bald Ballerina" at Howard Community College Smith Theater, 10901 Little Patuxent Pkwy., Columbia, on Sunday, Jan. 8, at 2:30 p.m. Reception with refreshments immediately following with a silent auction and raffles. Suggested donation is $35. To register for the Saturday dance classes (ballet, contemporary, musical theatre, yoga) and ticket information, contact BaldBallerina@gmail.com