Maia Makhateli
Photo: Jan Willem Kaldenbach

Maia Makhateli


As a little girl, principal dancer Maia Makhateli grew up not so much at the ballet barre as under it. When she was born, her parents Nikoloz Makhateli and Marina Loladze were principals with the Tbilisi Opera and Ballet State Theatre, in Georgia, and the couple frequently took their daughter along to classes and rehearsals. “As a child, I already knew all the ballet terms and steps.” Maia’s brother David, who is ten years older, was then already at the Vakhtang Chabukiani State Ballet School, and Maia couldn’t wait till she could go there herself. “I never went to an amateur school, but I was always doing ‘ballet games’ with my father. He’d test my feet, show me new steps or challenge me to jump even higher.” Eager as she was, she also watched his vast collection of ballet videos, and before long her role model was the French ballerina Sylvie Guillem. “As a child, I wanted to become exactly like her, but even since I’ve realised I’ll never have her height or her feet, she still inspires me to always exceed my limits and keep challenging myself.”

Maia als de zwarte zwaan
Maia Makhateli with Jakob Feyferlik in Swan Lake (2023) | Photo: Marc Haegeman
maia als de witte zwaan
Maia Makhateli in Swan Lake (2023) | Photo: Marc Haegeman

From Tbilisi to Idaho 

When, at the age of nine, Maia was ‘finally’ accepted for the Vakhtang Chabukiani State Ballet School too, it actually came as a shock. “Suddenly, ballet wasn’t a game any more, but serious business, with long school days, after which my father also gave me private classes and choreographed little pieces for me.” At that time, she didn’t always enjoy all those extra hours, but now she realises all the more what a ‘true gift’ it was that her father shared all his knowledge with her – and her brother. 

As the political and economic situation in Georgia at the time was far from rosy, in 2002 father Nikoloz took a teaching post in the United States (where he later had his own school and worked for several dance academies), and so the family moved to Idaho. “I was fifteen and imagined I’d end up in a sort of New York”, laughs Maia, “but Idaho took some getting used to.” There, she went to the private ballet school of German and Valentina Zamuel, who prepared her for various ballet competitions. After winning the Denver Ballet Guild competition, she was offered a contract with Colorado Ballet. “I was sixteen, and only received my salary when I was eighteen, with retroactive effect.” The director Martin Freedman and his staff had deep-rooted faith in her – “that’s immensely important” – and Maia was soon dancing main roles, culminating in the role of Aurora in The Sleeping Beauty, following which she was promoted to principal at the age of nineteen. 

Maia during rehearsal of The Sleeping Beauty
Maia Makhateli - Rehearsal The Sleeping Beauty (2023) | Photo: Altin Kaftira
Maia as Frida
Maia Makhateli in Frida (2020) | Photo: Carlos Quezada
Maia als Mata Hari maakt in het rood gekleed een 'vreugdedansje'
Maia Makhateli in Mata Hari (2021) | Photo: Altin Kaftira
Maia in de Notenkraker
Maia Makhateli in The Nutcracker and the Mouse King (2021) | Photo: Hans Gerritsen
Maia in Raymonda
Maia Makhateli in Raymonda (2022) | Photo: Marc Haegeman
Maia in The Sleeping Beauty
The Sleeping Beauty - Maia Makhateli and Semyon Velichko (2022) | Photo: Sasha Gouliaev
Maia als Odile in Het Zwanenmeer
Maia Makhateli in Swan Lake (2023) | Photo: Marc Haegeman
Maia als Odette in Het Zwanenmeer
Maia Makhateli in Swan Lake (2023) | Photo: Marc Haegeman

In love with Amsterdam 

When Freedman left, Maia knew it was time for her own next step as well. In 2006, she went to England – where her brother David was then dancing as a principal with The Royal Ballet – and joined Birmingham Royal Ballet. However, she soon felt that it wasn’t the place for her, and when she asked her brother for advice he recommended Dutch National Ballet, where he had also danced himself briefly. “I’d visited him once in Amsterdam at the time and had immediately fallen in love with the city.” Just before the summer holiday in 2007, Maia auditioned for Dutch National Ballet and was accepted in the rank of grand sujet. “I thought I’d stay for a year. I never imagined I’d really make my home here. And now, after being here so many years, I often think, ‘Oh my god’, it seems like only yesterday that I started out here.” 


Asked about the highlights in all those years, she says, “Absolutely everything was special. There are so many roles that I’ve danced for the first time here and so many roles that are extremely precious to me.” But the real highlight for her is the great trust placed in her by Dutch National Ballet and the bond she has forged with artistic director Ted Brandsen and associate artistic director Rachel Beaujean. “When I arrived in 2007, Rachel took me under her wing and she’s coached me all these years. We’ve been through such a lot together, and laughed so much, as well as shedding tears. And Ted gives me the freedom and the responsibility – besides being a good dancer or colleague – to also really give my own interpretation of the role of a leading ballerina, which means I’ve grown enormously as a dancer, but also as a person. I can sometimes be pretty demanding in what I want as a dancer, but he’s always understanding and cooperative.” 


Alongside her work with Dutch National Ballet, Maia is continually travelling the world as a guest artist. “Seeing how other dancers and companies work keeps me alive and gives me energy. And I need that challenge in order to develop further.” It’s not always easy as the mother (now single mum) of her son Luka. “Sometimes he comes along with me, but often my mother comes over from Georgia or he stays with his father (former principal dancer Artur Shesterikov – ed.).” Whatever the case, Luka has always come in first place since his birth in 2017. “Everything always used to revolve around my career, but motherhood has put it all in a different perspective. Now I do everything for him, so I can offer him the best possible future.” All his mother’s travels have made Luka crazy about planes, but he’s not so interested in ballet. “He prefers football and tennis. Good for him!” 

Text: Astrid van Leeuwen

Read more: 

The Sleeping Beauty with Maia Makhateli and Jakob Feyferlik
Maia Makhateli | Eerste Solist bij Het Nationale Ballet
Raymonda pas de deux Maia Makhateli and Young Gyu Choi


Place of birth: 
Tbilisi (Georgia)

With Dutch National Ballet since: 

Career with Dutch National Ballet: 
Principal (2010), soloist (2009), grand sujet (2007)

Previously danced with: 
Colorado Ballet (United States), Birmingham Royal Ballet (United Kingdom)

Vakhtang Chabukiani State Ballet School in Tbilisi (Georgia)


  • 2020: Dancer of the Year Award, Critics’ Choice Dance Europe
  • 2019: nomination for Prix Benois de la Danse (for La Dame aux Camélias
  • 2015: Alexandra Radius Prize
  • 2011: Nina Ananiashvili & Gilbert Star Award (Georgia)
  • 2002: Youth American Grand Prix 2002, New York (United States), finalist
  • 2002: Denver Ballet Guild's Young Dancer’s competition (United States), first prize
  • 2002: Youth America Grand Prix, regional preliminary round Denver (United States), second prize 
  • 2001: International Ballet Festival ‘Diplomat’ in Kazan (Russia), prize for the Vakhtang Chabukiani State Ballet School

Honourable mentions: 

  • 2023: ‘Outstanding performance by a female dancer’ (for Tschaikovsky Pas de Deux, performed during the Ballet Icons Gala in London), Critics’ Choice Dance Europe
  • 2022: ‘Outstanding performance by a female dancer’ (for Raymonda), Critics’ Choice Dance Europe 
  • 2021 and 2019: ‘Outstanding performance by a female dancer’, Critics’ Choice Dance Europe


Last update: 24-10-2023