Aladdin is a whole new world for dancer to watch
No wonder Maureya Lebowitz looks at home on Aladdin's flying carpet – the young dancer's career is proving a magical ride.
In her second year as a professional she made the cover of Dance International magazine, which said her "poised elegance" was "reminiscent of a young Margot Fonteyn". And last month she was the only dancer tipped as "one to watch" in 2013 by an arts-loving national newspaper.
Next week, the American performer lands where her UK adventure started, the Theatre Royal Plymouth, when she plays Princess Badr Al-Badur in the Birmingham Royal Ballet's Aladdin. It was in Devon in 2011 that her BRB career began.
"I was over in Israel and contacted the BRB for an audition," she explains. "I saw that they were touring to Plymouth so to show I was keen I asked if I could do my audition there. I saw the show and then did my audition – actually on the Theatre Royal stage."
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Maureya was born in California, grew up in Montana and completed her training at the Royal Winnipeg Ballet School, Canada. After graduating in 2007, she joined Royal Winnipeg Ballet and performed four lead roles in her first two years. Switching from North America to the UK was not as simple as hopping on a plane, though.
"I trained in the Russian style. You 'attack' the note," she says. "The English style is more subdued, more understated, more fluid."
Her impact with the BRB was just as impressive as her early career in Canada, as she landed high-profile roles in six of the seven pieces that made up Birmingham Royal Ballet's 2012 autumn season. They included the title character in David Bintley's Cinderella.
Now she is one of the dancers sharing the role of the princess in the UK premiere of Aladdin.
She is relishing the chance to help develop a new role.
"It's great when you are part of the process and are there with the choreographer as he tweaks the ballet and you are able to have your say. It makes you feel you are really part of something. I enjoy seeing the Princess develop, too.
"At the beginning she is quite sheltered and then Aladdin comes along, a commoner who does not follow protocol. She becomes more mature and when she is captured she shows her bravery. It sounds a cliche but she sees a whole new world – all those Disney lines fit!"
Maureya is clearly enjoying the ride and is not one to worry about the "one to watch" tag attached to her by The Independent.
"It's not pressure, it's exciting," she says. "It's a big compliment. Being with the Birmingham Royal Ballet and isolated from London and getting that attention is quite a shock."
If there is a downside to life in the second city, it's the weather.
"But I lived in Canada for ten years where it got down to minus 40C in the winter," she says. "And there are a lot of other things that brighten up being here. Europe is on your doorstep. Paris is only an hour away." By plane, though, not magic carpet.
Birmingham Royal Ballet presents Aladdin at the Theatre Royal Plymouth from Tuesday to Saturday next week.