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Maia Maiden: The Choreographer

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City Pages' People Issue celebrates people making Minnesota a better place.

In 2009, Maia Maiden organized and curated Rooted, a hip-hop choreographers’ evening at Patrick’s Cabaret that was the first event of its kind in town. Tickets quickly sold out, and audiences clamored for it to become a regular thing.

“Again?” she remembers thinking. “I barely made it through the first time.”

The bi-annual celebration has become a major touchstone in the hip-hop community, fostering artists who might have otherwise struggled to find a stage. Maiden (aka Rah Fyah) carefully curates each installment, choosing performers based on growth, career timing, and, often, raw talent.

“I’m interested in the people who are getting overlooked. I’m interested in the people who have never been onstage, but have this talent,” she says. “The majority of my focus is on the people on the block. People who need that hand up; nobody is looking for them. I’m looking for the ‘diamond in the rough’ people.”

Five years after Rooted debuted, Maiden saw the chance to remedy something else the Twin Cities scene was missing. “I noticed that there was no place for women of color to have solo moments. Women of color—and men of color—are usually in groups. You rarely see solo work from people of color when it comes to what’s in theaters in Minnesota.”

So she began Sistah Solo, a choreographers’ evening featuring not just hip-hop, but dance across all disciplines. Like Rooted, it became a bi-annual happening. And it was such a hit that, at the request of male choreographers, Being Brothas was added to the growing roster of Maia Maiden Productions shortly after.

Eleven years later, Rooted continues to thrive. But it’s still the only hip-hop show of its kind. “People know about the show, but there’s all these other things that we’ve lacked,” she says. “Grants, awards, and things of that nature.” Maiden hopes that by working behind the scenes, joining panels and artists’ boards, her influence will increase accessibility and open doors for future choreographers.

“That’s the other part of the work I’ve been called to do,” she says. “It’s not just producing a show—that’s the least of it. It’s all this other hard work that has to be put in for the community so we can get what’s rightfully ours.”

Maiden has been a dancer and a choreographer since she was 15. Incredibly, though, this isn’t her day job: She’s an assistant professor at Rasmussen College. But having a medical laboratory science degree and an MBA is part of her overall mission, too.

Ultimately, what she wants is to support artists of color, and to show the Twin Cities why hip-hop is what’s next.

“It’s about showing young ladies out there—and really, grown women, too—hey, you can do this,” she says. “Sometimes all you need is that example. I didn’t have that example.”

This year, Maia Maiden Productions plans to level up once again with a three-day festival that will feature a choreographers’ set, a krump battle, and a free day of classes for all ages. Maiden is also planning for an international artists’ exchange. 

Click here to read other profiles from this year's City Pages People Issue.