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Student Artist Profile: Kristilee Maiella

by Babee Garcia

Kristilee Maiella, a senior dance major, focuses on the performance aspect of dance, as well as training in primarily ballet and modern technique. Maiella will be in the upcoming Department of Theatre and Dance’s Works-a-Foot.


Maiella executes a forced arch lunge.
Photo courtesy of Katie Miller

Q: What organizations/activities are you involved in on campus?

A: Due to my extremely busy schedule as a dance major, I have not yet had the chance to be a part of an on-campus organization. However, I spend my weekends working at a local dance studio where I feel extremely fortunate to be able to teach and share my love for the beautiful art form of dance.

Q: Describe your dance background.

A: I began taking dance classes when I was only 2 years old. I started out in tap and jazz classes. I eventually grew up training in primarily ballet, modern, contemporary, jazz and musical theater. I spent the majority of my dance training at a competition dance studio where I had the opportunity to travel and perform in several different dance competitions as an ensemble dancer, as well as a soloist. In high school, I became very serious about dance and decided that I wanted to pursue it and further my dance training in college. I am now living my dancing dreams here at Montclair State University, and I couldn’t be happier doing so.


In front of the Alexander Kasser Theater on campus, Maiella performs a back attitude jeté.
Photo courtesy of Amanda Edore

Q: What is your favorite genre of dance?

A: I truly love and respect all genres of dance, but if I had to choose a favorite I would probably pick contemporary because it combines elements of almost all genres of dance into one. I love the idea that contemporary is not confined to one specific style of movement. It can be contemporary containing a jazzy, hip-hop flare or with a softer, more lyrical-esque quality. Diversity and versatility are important aspects that every successful dancer should embody. I personally believe that contemporary dance allows a dancer the opportunity to showcase all that they are capable of.

Q: What or whom inspires you? Why?

A: Life Hall is a place where I am always reminded of how lucky I am to be dancing with amazingly talented dancers who constantly inspire me to be the very best dancer, artist and individual that I can possibly be. It is truly wonderful to be a part of a “family” whose members all collaboratively cultivate such a welcoming, encouraging and inspirational environment. I am challenged, positively influenced and inspired by those around me who share the same passion and personal goals that I do. Dance serves as an outlet of inspiration for us all because it teaches us valuable life lessons and encourages us to come together as one. Dance inspires me to live life passionately without fear of taking risks and with my head held high.


Maiella is the dancer being lifted in a penché position during a Works-A-Foot cast dress rehearsal in the contemporary piece “Gift,” choreographed by Stacey Tookey of So You Think You Can Dance.
Photo courtesy of Robert M. Cooper

Q: Briefly explain your part in Works-a-Foot.

A: This semester, I will be performing in three pieces: “Horizon” by Early Mosley, “To Have and To Hold” by Shapiro and Smith, and “Gift” by Stacey Tookey. It is truly an honor to be a part of these extraordinary works of art. I am forever grateful for the lessons I’ve learned and still continue to learn within the lengthy but rewarding rehearsal and choreographic processes of each of these pieces.

Q: What are your career goals? Where do you hope to work post-graduation?

A: Post-graduation, I plan to continue and further my dance career by performing and teaching other artists. I envision myself dancing on Broadway or even in a contemporary/modern-based company. Wherever my performance career takes me, I am confident in the fact that I will be happy as long as I am dancing and doing what I love and have worked so very hard at all of these years. After my performance career, I would love to pass on my knowledge and love for dance to other future dancers, artists and performers, whether that be teaching as a professor in a college dance program or even as an instructor at a dance studio.


Kristilee performing a musical theater number choreographed by Scott Fowler in the American Dance Awards Nationals in Orlando, FL.
Photo courtesy of SE Video

Q: If there is a quote or motto you live by, what is it? How do you live by it?

A: I choose to live life one dance step at a time by realizing the importance of remaining optimistic and understanding that achievement is only attainable through hard work.


Kristilee’s headshot
Photo courtesy of Mady Piper

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