Meet Faith Madison: A Graceful Weirdo
I’m not calling names. She said it herself: “On my computer, I have this background on my desktop. It says, ‘Please be as weird as me, please be as weird as me, please be as weird as me.’ And then a line, like a dash for who said it, ‘Me, every time I meet someone.”
To know Faith Madison, it seems impossible not to embrace her quirky personality in a petite package. A professional ballerina turned dance teacher, she’s not what you’d expect.
When we met recently for honey chai lattes at Taste and See, I asked her to describe herself: “Pants on a head! … I like to think in pictures. … Maybe the poop emoji! Or, you know I like to use the ones with the monkeys with their hands over their faces. … I’m optimistic, passionate, a weirdo, hyper – I think energetic is the nice way to put it.”
“Sometimes when I meet people, well, every time I meet people, I just hope they’re as weird as me.”
Faith, 27, grew up in Macon. But if you ask her, she really grew up inside her mom’s dance studio, The Madison Studio Dance Education.
“I spent my whole life in that studio,” she said. “After school I’d go straight to the studio. I’d do my homework there, take class with the older kids, take class with the younger kids. I just wanted to be in the studio and moving around. Growing up in Macon was growing up in the studio.”
Faith started dancing ballet when she was 3. Since then, her love of dance has pirouetted her to Denver, Chicago and back to Macon.
Full circles seem to be the story of her life: From taking ballet in her mom’s studio to helping manage it; from acting in ‘Annie,’ as a child to choreographing shows as an adult; from dancing as a professional in Denver to teaching at the company’s academy; from moving away to finding herself home again in Macon.
After graduating high school in 2008, Faith said she knew she had to get out of Macon to follow her dreams of being a professional ballerina. She moved to Denver where she had been accepted into the Colorado Ballet as a studio company member, which is like an apprenticeship.
“We started the season and ‘Swan Lake’ was the first ballet we did. It was a dream come true,” she said. “Here I was dancing with all these people I had watched videos of as a kid.”
By November 2011, Faith was a full company member. That’s when one beautiful battement during “Nutcracker” rehearsals would change her life forever.
“It was at the end of a long day of rehearsals. We were rehearsing ‘Snow’ and there’s this big battement at the end. I did it, stepped through, and remember thinking, that didn’t feel right. I chalked it up to a long day and being tired. The next morning I woke up and couldn’t put on pants. I was like, what did I do? I knew something was wrong,” she said.
A doctor’s appointment suggested the problem was tendonitis. So, she kept dancing. When the season ended in March she saw another doctor. A new diagnosis revealed it was a hip labral tear: “Basically, the lining of my hip socket had ripped. I had surgery three weeks later.”
She began dancing again two months post-op and made it through a performance of “Swan Lake.” November circled around again and with it another “Nutcracker” performance.
“I made it to ‘Nutcracker,’ but I had all this synovial fluid built up. It was really disgusting. The doctor was like, ‘You’re done.’ And I sort of knew it going into it that I had to stop. But it was everything I worked for, everything I wanted.”
That was the end of her professional ballet career.
“I was so not prepared for the disgrace that I felt. I felt so much like I had failed being a dancer, failed at my job. That was really hard. I didn’t know how to pull myself together. I had a really hard time. I’m very much an optimist: life is good; we’ll figure it out; we’ll make it happen. But I had to rebuild a lot. Even coming back here, I was this hometown girl who’d made it big, living my dream, and now you’re not. And what are you going to do with your life? I was 22.”
After moving from Denver to Chicago with her then-boyfriend, Faith found work at a Pure Barre fitness studio. She began by working the front desk, and by the time she left Chicago she’d become project manager for seven studios. It’s a time in her life she considers a coming of age.
“It couldn’t have been a bigger blessing. When I moved to Chicago I was physically out of shape, emotionally beaten down, and needed a job. (Working at Pure Barre) was so refreshing. It was about women building each other up, learning that no matter what size your body is you can do what you set out to do. It was everything I needed to hear at the time.”
In 2016, Faith decided to move back home to Macon. Her brother and sister-in-law were expecting a baby, and her mom needed a step back from running the Madison Studio.
“I remember coming back one year for one of mom’s recitals, watching her and watching this community and seeing what Macon really is: A community where people really care about each other. I missed that in a big city. I saw all these people she made an impact on. That feeling … this is what your community gave you. I realized it could give me the opportunity to live and learn and be nurtured by people who really cared. In a big city, you’re one of a million. Here in Macon, people really take an interest in your wellbeing and what you want for yourself.”
Coming home has proven to be more than just a stopover. It has completed that pirouette she started years ago. Faith now teaches dance with her mom and will eventually take over the studio. She’s also found herself back on stage at Theatre Macon – but this time behind the scenes.
“I’m doing some choreography for Theatre Macon,” she said. “My mom was one of the first choreographers for Theatre Macon when Jim (Crisp) started it. I did a show when I was 6, ‘Annie,’ and I’ve always loved Jim and respected him. He’s been so good to my mom and I.”
For the last two summers, she’s also spent time back in Denver, teaching at the Colorado Ballet Academy’s Summer Intensive, where she’s been embraced by friends and fellow dancers she hasn’t seen in years.
“It’s been so cool to go. When I left the company I felt ashamed, in a way, of leaving and being injured. I quietly slipped out. But I kept up relationships with some of them. (Going back to teach) I couldn’t have felt more embraced and accepted,” Faith said.
It’s hard to no accept someone who literally bounces around the room with an energetic smile and open arms. An admitted “hugger,” this time she’s got her arms around Macon.
“You just have to trust you’re in the right place at right time,” she said. “I feel like being in Macon now, I’m in the right place at the right time. I really am more capable now than I ever was before. Sometimes it’s exhausting, but thank God I get to do it.”