Margaret (Maggie) Mullin is a soloist with the Pacific Northwest Ballet (PNB). This past winter she performed a variety of roles, including the Sugar Plum Fairy and Marzipan, in PNB’s heralded new production of George Balanchine’s “The Nutcracker.” For most soloists, just surviving the rigorous schedule of Nutcracker performances would be enough. Not so this year for Maggie. She’s been busy adding documentary movie director and producer to her resume.
Ian Horvath was a legendary dancer, choreographer, director, founder of the Cleveland Ballet, and champion for the art of dance before losing a harrowing battle with AIDS in 1990. At just thirteen years of age, Maggie saw a piece of his titled “Laura’s Women” and the enchantment cast by that performance stuck with her. When she was in high school she saw the piece again. Same result.
“It’s a unique, dramatic piece,” Maggie said. “It tells the story of three stages of a woman’s life mostly through the perspective of memory. Dramatically, it’s very impactful. The piece will stay with you awhile. It tells a very sad story in a really beautiful way with strong, dynamic characters.”
With her career blossoming at PNB, Maggie considered putting together a short film of Laura’s Women. But as she learned more about its creator, Ian Horvath, Maggie knew the movie had to be longer and had to make Horvath himself the central focus.
“He was very instrumental in furthering dance in the United States, through his work with organizations like Dance/USA (a national service organization for professional dance). He was a visionary who worked tirelessly to ensure a strong future for dance. He danced with the Joffrey Ballet, American Ballet Theatre, on Broadway, on television, and returned to his hometown to found the Cleveland Ballet. He went on to work with Jose Limon Dance Foundation and many others. He choreographed for Pacific Northwest Ballet twice. Many people in the dance world know who he is, but the general public doesn’t. He was tremendously generous, almost to a fault, never doing anything to ensure his own legacy would carry on. That is part of what drew me to his story. It made me sad that I didn’t know this man, with everything he’d done for the dance community.”
But putting a full-length documentary is no easy task. Through a friend, Maggie was introduced to New York-based Nel Shelby, one of the most renowned videographers in the world of dance. Nel was taken with the idea and agreed to join forces with Maggie. A dream took flight. They would tell the story of Horvath’s life and influence through a series of interviews, archival footage, and performances of two of Horvath’s most famous pieces, “Laura’s Women” and “No Dominion.”
“No Dominion,” the last piece he ever made, was about his battle with AIDS. Without treatments like we have today, people with AIDS were deeply stigmatized.
“He was a passionate advocate for AIDS awareness and education, and dedicated a lot of time in working with arts organizations to be equipped to relate to employees with AIDS. He wanted artists to be able to keep their dignity and to be a part of their art as long as they could,” Maggie said.
Another essential piece fell into place when Dr. Margaret Carlson agreed to stage “Laura's Women” for the film. Carlson was an original cast member, has a profound knowledge of the work, and is very passionate about it.
Finding dancers who wanted to be involved was the easy part. Fundraising was the biggest challenge. Maggie started a Kickstarter campaign which raised enough to get the project off the ground.
“I can’t partially commit to a project. I’m all in. My ambition may be a character flaw,” Maggie said laughing.
She cold-called Three Dollar Bill Cinema, a local organization that promotes diverse communities through film and media, and they quickly agreed to become the film’s fiscal sponsor, hold a premier of the movie upon its completion, and to help with fundraising support.
Enchanted by the passion and dedication of Maggie, Pagliacci Pizza made a decision to make a significant donation. Pagliacci Pizza is the official sponsor of dancer Benjamin Griffiths, an incredible soloist with PNB. He will dance the lead in the performance of Ian Horvath’s “No Dominion.”
"I'm grateful for the financial support from Pagliacci Pizza and so many others. This film would not be possible without the generosity of my community. I appreciate the backing from this great Seattle business as I work to bring this project to life,” Maggie said.
Recently Nel and Maggie finished filming the new dance segments. Stage portions were filmed at Bellevue’s Meydenbauer Center with artists of Pacific Northwest Ballet, The Joffrey Ballet, VERB Ballets, Ballet Tucson, and Boston Ballet. Next steps include interviews, a gathering of archival footage, and working in the editing studio to prepare a final cut. They plan to get a trailer out very soon.
“I’m so glad to be working with Nel,” Maggie said. “She has so much experience making movies and she shares my vision. All the pieces are in place for this to be a success. This film is like my child. It’s the most ambitious and rewarding endeavor of my life.”
Fundraising efforts continue through Three Dollar Bill Cinema.
To hear an interview with Maggie and Nel at Balancing Pointe Podcast click here.