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Kiki McDONOUGH – Isabella McGuire Mayes

Isabella McGuire Mayes • 15 Feb 2022

Kiki McDONOUGH – Isabella McGuire Mayes


Kiki’s Woman of the Month is the inspiring Isabella McGuire Mayes. 

Introducing brand friend and star of our recent film the wonderful Isabella McGuire @balletwithisabella. Isabella is a London based professional ballerina and the first British girl to join the Vaganova Ballet Academy in Saint Petersburg Russia at the young age of just 15. Isabella is now a freelance dancer, teacher and consultant and her passion is to help people discover new limits and push their boundaries while sharing her passion for the art of ballet. Stay tuned for an exciting new launch to come…

What made you choose to go to Russia vs staying to continue your training in the UK?

 I have always loved Russian Ballet; watched it as a young girl on YouTube and video tapes. I understood pretty early on this training was special and these dancers were dancing in a way that seemed unimaginable but something I wanted so badly. When an opportunity came up to train in Russia, although terrified, I jumped at it. I would have been a fool not to.

Who or what inspired you to pursue a career in ballet?

 I think initially, I watched lots of videos and adored listening to music. Music really inspired me especially Stravinsky at the time. My dad and I used to dance in the lounge to Stravinsky before I went to primary school. Later what inspired me was the hard work. When I had a Russian coach, I realised that this was what hard work was about and I got addicted to it as all I wanted was to be better.

What have been your biggest challenges?

My biggest challenged have been recovering from serious injuries which is a test of both mental and physical strength. It’s a true test of character as you’re on your own, isolated and have to try to get to where you were before, if not better. The other challenge has been performing on the Mariinsky stage which was a big test and challenge but something I will never forget.

What is different about the Russian ballet technique and style?

Everything is just more more more! More back bend, higher legs, bigger jump, more expression. I didn’t know I could do certain things until I had teachers around me who pushed me to my limits. My turns were faster, my jump was higher and my legs were round my ears. I don’t think that would have happened if I had stayed in the UK. I wanted to be an exciting dancer.

How does Russian ballet differ from ballet we may know or be more familiar with?

You will just find you are more excited and inspired by it. Whenever a Russian company comes to the UK on tour, everyone leaves completely exhilarated. There’s a reason for that. They are so passionate about what they do and it’s so apart of the culture. 

Who are your biggest role models?

 I think my biggest role models in ballet was my school director Altynai Asylmuratova who I used to watch on video and then to have her watching me dance was always a very surreal experience. I also adore Lopatkina, Sylvie and Guillem. Tall dancers who use their body so well to highlight their long limbs and also have so much aplomb. They are all retired now but will always be my favourites.

What advice would you give to someone wanting to start off in the ballet industry?

 I would say be prepared to work very hard and you’ve got to make sure you absolutely love what you do as it’s so tough. Be prepared to put in hours of extra work but if you love your art then doing these extra hours won’t be a problem. Setbacks will happen and that’s ok. We learn from them. Keep in mind why you started and turn to inspiration to keep motivated to make your dreams come true and above all, believe in yourself. 

What would you class as your biggest achievement and biggest learning curve?

My biggest achievement has definitely been going to Russia at 15 and being brace enough to do so. It changed my life, how I see dance and how I dance myself. It has also made me the coach I am today as I channel my last Russian coaches in my classes. 

What’s next for you?

Next for me is continuing my coaching and building my Ballet with Isabella brand/business. I’m a new business women and it’s a completely new field to me and challenge but I love pushing the boundaries and I just want to reach more and more dancers to help them achieve excellence and reach their true potential. Check out my website and join the community.

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