Dedicated to Dance

By Madison Van Horn

Pierceton Mazell stretches in the studio at Chattanooga Ballet. Thursday, December 3, 2022. (Photo By Madison Van Horn).

The world of ballet is more than just sugar plum fairies and pirouettes. With years of training and a deep passion for artistry, professional dancers like Pierceton Mazell revolve their lives around dance.

“A lot of people haven’t been exposed to this type of lifestyle,” Mazell said. “Dancers are professional athletes without the benefits of professional athletes. You know, it’s a passion project and it’s a lifestyle job.”

Mazell grew up in Summerville, South Carolina where he was first introduced to gymnastics and tumbling at just two years old. He has since trained at Charlotte Ballet Summer Intensive and South Carolina Governor’s School for the Arts and Humanities, where he was immersed into classical ballet training like never before.

Now, Mazell is the youngest professional dancer at Chattanooga Ballet at the age of 21 and he has worked for his entire life to get to this point.

“To get to do something you love is unique,” Mazell said. “There’s no other feeling. What other job allows me to travel the world? What other job allows me to work out every day? What other job allows me to do something I really truly love?” 

Isabella Moore ties her pointe shoes tightly before a performance. Sunday, December 4, 2022. (Photo by Madison Van Horn).

However, living the dream isn’t always glamorous. Mazell said that he spends more hours preparing for the stage than he does dancing on it.

“You have to eat correctly. You have to stretch every single night. You have to do cross training. You have to dedicate your life to dance,” Mazell said.

The first time Mazell ever stepped foot in Chattanooga was the day he auditioned at Chattanooga Ballet and he was charmed by the opportunities he knew would come with dancing at a smaller company.

“When you’re dancing with a larger company you’re the small fish in the big pond,” Mazell said. “You’re not gonna be Cavalier in the Nutcracker. You’re not gonna get these solo roles. Whereas I can throw every single performance I do here on my resume and it’s not something that somebody would just look over. It’s something significant.”

Over his time with Chattanooga Ballet, Mazell has landed lead roles in the Nutcracker and even discovered his passion for leading the next generation of dancers. 

“I get to work with students, I get to work with kids, and I get to work with families,” Mazell said. “I mean, I’ve literally had people come to me after shows of sobbing saying, ‘Hey, my kid, all they want to do is be a ballerina. You showed them that it’s possible.’ or ‘Thank you for proving that, you know, you can make a career out of this.’ You know, that’s what it’s worth. It’s about the next generation.”

Isabella Moore prepares to take the stage in her Waltz of the Flowers costume at Chattanooga Ballet’s first annual “Behind the Curtain” event. Sunday, December 4, 2022. (Photo by Madison Van Horn).

Mazell teaches both contemporary classes and boys dance classes at Chattanooga Ballet alongside his full training schedule.

“Even if these dancers I teach every day don’t become professional dancers, you know, it’s not always about that. It’s always about bringing up people that are arts lovers and art supporters. That’s important,” Mazell said.

The lifestyle of a professional dancer is not for the faint of heart. It takes time, skill, and most importantly dedication. In the words of Mazell, “It’s fulfilling, it’s difficult, it’s rewarding.”

“The days that I work the hardest are the best days. The days that I want to just fall into bed and fall asleep are the best days. I don’t wanna sound crazy, but it’s a lifestyle and it’s something that chooses you. The best parts of it are every day. You know, just being able to be in a studio, being able to be on a stage, being able to be with your coworkers, working together, being with the students. I mean there are so many times where I’m like, ‘This is the dream.’”

To learn more about Chattanooga Ballet, visit https://www.chaballet.org/

Chattanooga Ballet School & Office Coordinator Chyna Clark sat down with Madison Van Horn to discuss the importance of making dance accessible for all.

Meet the Storyteller

Madison (Maddie) Van Horn is a Senior Communication major and is currently working as the Head Editor of Rising Rock Media and Editor in Chief at the University Echo. With a passion for writing and years of leadership experience, Maddie hopes to make a difference in her community through storytelling. She plans to continue her education after undergrad and purse a career in multimedia journalism.  Maddie can be reached at maddienvanhorn@gmail.com for any collaboration inquiries.

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