Professional dancer comes home, establishes ballet company

Oct. 22, 2019

This week’s Up-and-Comer is Madeleine Scott, director of sales and marketing at Fyzical Therapy & Balance Centers and the founder, artistic director and executive director of the South Dakota Ballet.

Name: Madeleine Scott

Age: 24

Hometown: Beresford

What brought you to Sioux Falls?

I left home at age 13 to train in Philadelphia, Pa., at the Rock School for Dance Education after earning a scholarship as the first South Dakotan to compete at Youth America Grand Prix, the world’s largest ballet competition. I later moved to New York City at age 15, Salt Lake City at age 17 and Sacramento at age 22, as well as various cities for shorter professional contracts such as Aspen, Colo.; Sarasota, Fla.; and soon Boise, Idaho.

I returned to Sioux Falls in April 2018 after my grandfather was diagnosed with stage 4 cancer. I had been living in Sacramento, Calif.,  dancing with Sacramento Ballet when I heard the news. I had other professional performing opportunities lined up for the remainder of 2018 but declined the contracts to be with my family during that difficult time.

What keeps you in Sioux Falls?

While I continue to travel to perform professionally in classical ballet and contemporary settings, South Dakota is my home. I have lived in diverse communities across the  country — including a convent in New York City! — and the city of Sioux Falls just fits. I was hooked by the support I found from the people here in various aspects of my life. I appreciate the encouragement my circle has provided as I embark on a major entrepreneurial journey. I get excited about Sioux Falls in that I feel as though I have the opportunity to get my hands in the clay in sculpting our city’s history. The perspective I’ve gained from living in an array of circumstances has alerted me to things our city is doing far better than the rest and things our city could benefit from. I want to contribute and make a difference.

What’s your favorite thing about your job at Fyzical Therapy & Balance Centers?

Fyzical Therapy & Balance Centers allows me to work with people from all walks of life. I love being able to provide people with answers when they are experiencing pain, dizziness or discomfort. At Fyzical, we orchestrate a ton of community events. September was National Fall Prevention Awareness month. Throughout the month, we closed down our offices located in Sioux Falls, Beresford, Vermilion and Yankton to provide accessible opportunities for seniors to participate in annual fall risk assessments free of charge. Contrary to popular belief, falling is not a normal part of aging. However, it happens all the time. If a senior falls and breaks a hip, they have a 50 percent chance of passing away within six months following the fall. We take falling very seriously at Fyzical. I really enjoy building community while bettering everyone’s health.

How did you get connected to your industry?

My mother, Ruth Scott, started her private physical therapy practice in 2002 — formerly Great Plains Therapy. It has since grown into four beautiful clinics: Sioux Falls, Beresford, Vermillion and Yankton. My mother raised me on her own, so I grew up in the clinic watching her heal patients and was intrigued with how she handled each person with sincere compassion. While she was healing patients, she showed me that each person has a story to tell and that their story matters. My mother and the industry taught me how to treat each human with respect, no matter what. I want to ensure that every person feels welcome and included when they are with me. These lessons have led me to stay involved with this industry throughout the years.

You also dance with the South Dakota Ballet after leaving Sioux Falls at 13 to study ballet in Pennsylvania and New York. How do you think the opportunities for professional dancers here have evolved?

Until now, South Dakota was one of two states in America — technically the last state — without its own professional ballet company. I am the founder, artistic director and executive director of South Dakota’s first professional ballet company — South Dakota Ballet.  The opportunities for professional dancers in South Dakota have remained stagnant despite our city’s saturation with talented, aspiring dancers. Sioux Falls is home to over nine dance studios, which this is basically unheard of for a city of our size. When compared with other cities of similar population size, household median income and similar access to dance training, Sioux Falls stands out in that we have not had a professional ballet company.

A professional dance company consists of artists who have dedicated their entire life to the field. Most professional ballet dancers can tell you that they chose their career path around age 10. With the demands of this competitive career, most students audition for year-round training programs like I did when I attended the Rock School for Dance Education in Philadelphia for high school. These children leave their families, their friends and immerse themselves into training 30 to 40 hours per week with hopes of becoming a professional dancer.

The odds of actually making it are incredibly slim due to the vast number of dancers training around the world for these limited, sought-after positions. South Dakota Ballet not only fills a void for the state of South Dakota but for the dance industry in creating more employment opportunities.

I hope that this company will allot young dancers across the state the exposure they need to pursue a career in classical ballet or contemporary ballet without being forced to leave home. Not every family has the resources available to send their child away no matter how talented they are.

What’s your favorite way to give back to your community?

In my spare time, I enjoy volunteering and promoting local businesses. This year, I spent my summer nights volunteering at the Levitt. It was fulfilling to see young children playing with the blocks on the lawn or dancing in front of the stage. I kept thinking, “Wow. I wonder what it’s like to grow up with this level of exposure to live art performances?” Organizations like the Levitt are truly shaping the next generation’s vision of Sioux Falls for the better.

I also teach dance to people of all levels, ages and backgrounds. It lights my soul on fire. In the upcoming months, I will be spearheading outreach programming through South Dakota Ballet. We will provide accessible exposure to various styles of dance to communities across the state.

I also give back by mentoring young artists. At a time when it was relatively unheard of, I was forced to pioneer a way to a professional dance career from a small town in South Dakota. My mother conducted thousands of hours of research to make this possible. I am grateful to spend my spare time helping young artists and their families pursue their dreams in realistic, functional and fruitful ways.

What’s one business you’d like to see in Sioux Falls that isn’t here now?

I would like to see an artistic entity that encourages collaboration between artists of various mediums. There is a intense desire for this on the ground level, right here in Sioux Falls. Last summer, I was invited to dance at Banff Centre for the Arts and Creativity in Canada where I created and performed solely through improvisation in collaboration with renowned artists from around the world. Every aspect of our work, including the music, sets, story line or lack thereof, was created on the spot. Each piece was produced in collaboration between choreographers, dancers, musicians, composers, designers, singers, actors and so forth.

Compositions and collaborations as such require each artist to be incredibly alert and open to possibility. This collaborative atmosphere is the perfect environment for ground-breaking work to be born. While the Banff Centre is a large-scale undertaking, I know there is already interest for a city like Sioux Falls to have such a space, and it would certainly set us apart from other cities in our region.

Where do you see yourself in five years?

In five years, I intend to be directing South Dakota Ballet full time while continuing to enrich my creative process as a choreographer. I have had the opportunity to choreograph on dancers from around the country. I find great joy in digging into what it means to be human and inviting others to do so. I also see myself staying involved with Fyzical Therapy & Balance Centers.

Professional dancer comes home, establishes ballet company

This week’s Up-and-Comer is Madeleine Scott, director of sales and marketing at Fyzical Therapy & Balance Centers and the founder, artistic director and executive director of the South Dakota Ballet.

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