With perfectly arched feet and a petite frame, 14-year-old Madeleine Gardella looks like a jewelry box ballerina. She stands just 4 feet 11 inches tall, but exudes the confidence and maturity of a seasoned professional. Her port de bras is unmannered; her musical phrasing is both crisp and lilting. “Most people think ballet is exacting,” says Madeleine. “But there’s so much artistry. I’m enjoying that part of it.”
Her love of dance started in preschool, when a friend asked her to join a tap/jazz/ballet class. “It snowballed from there,” Madeleine says. She studied at The Dance Academy, a competition studio in Holland, PA, until she decided—at 12 years old—to focus on ballet. “Not that jazz and contemporary weren’t exciting,” she says. “It’s just that ballet was the most fun for me.”
Madeleine had previously tried The Rock School for Dance Education in Philadelphia for a summer (“I loved ballet even more after that!”) and later stayed for the year-round program. By age 13 she was dancing full-time and getting her education online via the 21st Century Cyber Charter School. Unlike many of her friends who board at The Rock, Madeleine lives with her family outside the city. Her mom drives her to classes every day.
Though she spends most of her time in Philly, Madeleine has starred as Clara in NYC’s Radio City Christmas Spectacular. She also recently worked on the Broadway workshop of Little Dancer (alongside New York City Ballet principal Tiler Peck!) with Susan Stroman after attending a casting call in NYC. She learned the entire show in 10 days—all the lines, music and choreography—and did a studio performance for investors.
As for the future, Madeleine is open to everything. She’s preparing for the Youth America Grand Prix finals in NYC (after winning first place in the Junior Age Division, Classical Dance Category in Philadelphia) and listening to Broadway tunes on Pandora internet radio. “Don’t be afraid to try new things,” she advises DS readers. “Push the boundaries a little and explore.”
Birthday: November 5, 1998
Favorite food: Indian
Who would play you in a movie? Audrey Hepburn
Dream dance roles: Kitri from Don Quixote or Swanilda from Coppélia
Favorite dancers of all time: Maria Kochetkova, Alina Cojocaru and Natalia Osipova
Strangest things in your dance bag: “I have these weird hair clips that look like little jellyfish. They don’t even hold my hair, but I like to keep them in there.”
Favorite dance movie: First Position
Dance BFF: Juliet Doherty (“We did Radio City together in NYC”)
Dance crush: Marcelo Gomes
Three words that describe you: “Petite, smart, comical”