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Rising Stars: Meet Maggi Soluna

Today we’d like to introduce you to Maggi Soluna.

Hi Maggi, so excited to have you with us today. What can you tell us about your story?
As a lifelong dancer and dance instructor, I have been involved in many productions, from classical Ballet to avant-garde performance art in sculpture gardens. I was invited to join a cabaret troupe by a family friend in my early college years.

There I learned about the witty side of performance art, utilizing my classical training for something different, and finding strength in femininity. After a few years, several members had their own vision and branched out to start our own troupe.

I helped run this troupe, the Vaudeville Vagabond Twilight Twitterpaiters, for about 8 years in Southern Illinois. We held anywhere from 4-10 members and performed for crowds of 500+, eventually becoming the premier group to see for New Years’ Eve.

About 6 years ago, I decided to make the big move to St Pete. Upon moving here, I figured I’d start slow and join an existing troupe. After much searching and going to different types of performance art, I discovered the primary focus was burlesque. While I am an avid supporter, burlesque is not what I want to do. Now here is where many people ask, well what’s the difference?

Burlesque is usually solo numbers with the primary focus of removing clothing in a skilled and tasteful way. What I do in cabaret is group choreographed dance numbers, songs, and skits, more akin to the musical theater but without a plot. So armed with my previous experience, I decided to start my own troupe.

I pulled together a few friends, put a performer search out on Facebook, and here we are still going strong 5 years later. I am the Artistic Director, handling everything from booking, to social media, to choreography, even sound editing, with much-appreciated help and backup from my troupe members.

We all face challenges, but looking back would you describe it as a relatively smooth road?
Performance is NEVER a smooth road.

No matter how many times you’ve practiced, no matter how many emails you’ve sent, something can and does go awry. Our shows themselves run as smoothly as any live theater can, we have oopsie moments but move through them like professionals. Much of the struggle with running the cabaret comes from two factors, one within and one without.

We are a group of trained, artistic, strong-minded women. Who have to work together. Very closely. There are bound to be interpersonal issues. Balancing these issues can sometimes be a challenge depending on the current cast.

We frequently have check-in meetings and strive to have bonding time outside of rehearsals to help us all work together in a happy and healthy manner. It is my goal to not be an overruling boss but a guiding leader, so I listen to everyone’s opinions and help in communication.

The outside factor, which put everyone’s lives into a chaotic tailspin, was/is Covid. All performances suffered immensely. From the artists themselves to the venues to the people working the venues. We had to take a couple of months off completely, then began rehearsals again outdoors spaced out, wearing masks.

Eventually, we were able to have a limited audience, masked-up shows. But how do you fully emote your audience with a mask on? We also had several venues, one of which was our favorite, close their doors.

And as things continued to open back up, there was now a reduction of venues and an influx of performers who’ve been out of work all clamoring for the bookings. The competition was and still is very high. So we’ve had to take bigger risks, try new venues, forfeit shows at times, think outside the box, and up our promotional game.

Can you tell our readers more about what you do and what you think sets you apart from others?
I am truly a jack of all trades. Over the years, I have worked many different jobs and tried to utilize everything I learn in all aspects of life. I started in a pet store right out of high school, so while my friends were making burgers I was handling animals in all stages of life, birth, and death.

It taught me an immense sense of empathy, as well as gave me a sense of strength to jump into any situation. I moved on to hospitality, working in fast-paced high-end kitchens. During these formative early adult years, I was also teaching dance at the studio I grew up in, starting my first cabaret troupe, and going to college full time. I realized after college, obtaining a Degree in Art, that I could never just work one job.

I would never have a normal career path. So I continue to work in multiple sectors and in the last few years have added a new one.

I currently am the assistant manager of a bustling metaphysical shop in downtown St Pete, still, teach dance several days a week, run the Cannonball Cabaret, and have added a professional stilt walker to my resume. I work at private, public, and corporate events, creating whatever costume they need for the theme. It was a hobby, turned into a passion, turned into a job.

It’s in all these pieces that the whole of me comes through. I am known in my circles as being versatile, driven, dedicated, and capable. My time with animals, in hospitality, with kids in the dance studio, on stage, in management, and in directorship, all lend to a wide variety of skills and experiences I apply to my life.

Is there any advice you’d like to share with our readers who might just be starting out?
Just show up. And this can be done in a wide variety of ways. If applying for a job, apply once a week, call, and follow up.

If trying to break into a new circle, such as performing, go to the shows, go to the venues, and make your face known.

It’s terrifying to put yourself out there and fear of rejection is something everyone experiences. And rejection will absolutely happen. Brace yourself for it, expect it, but keep showing up, even after rejection.

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