Maria Sascha Khan grew up in a small farming town with few prospects, but followed an unwavering dream to become a professional ballerina. Through sheer determination and a few strokes of good luck, she was discovered by a former Bolshoi Ballet dancer, and was able to study ballet in England, Monaco, and abroad. Since then, her education and talent has propelled her career to the international stage and beyond.
Not satisfied with fame and acclaim alone, Maria Sascha says she’s always been fascinated by the ability of the arts to transform people’s lives.
“Much of my passion for my art form is based on how I can use it to help other people. At the moment, it is an exciting time for ballet in Southeast Asia, a place in which until now ballet has been relatively unknown,” she says.
Her visit to Laos saw her cover an array of events, including working with Lao children (many of whom had never met a ballerina or had any kind of ballet experience before), speaking as a keynote speaker at a Global Shapers community event, and holding a performance and demonstration at the Lao National School of the Arts.
“The welcome and enthusiasm with which I was received and the reception of what I had come to share was so overwhelmingly beyond any expectations. I was moved to tears.”
Maria Sascha’s time in Laos saw her reaching out to Lao youth, and showing them that following a dream is not only possible, but practical as well. She says that the young people she met seemed eager to expand their horizons and help their country forward into the future.
“It will be exciting to see how they can preserve the cultural traditions of the past while bringing them forward into the future. It has been extraordinary to see the enormous interest in ballet.”
Being the first ballerina to visit Laos in this capacity, Maria Sascha hopes to grow the art form in partnership with the non-profit arts organization Youth Arts in Action, which is run by her mother and siblings, Nadia Khan, Julian MacKay, and Nicholas MacKay, all of whom are professional artists and dancers. Maria Sascha hopes to bring a ballet masterclass program to Laos, and even perform a ballet she is developing called “Warrior of Light,” which recently premiered at the London Coliseum. The ballet is a story focusing on uniting all cultures and people, and her goal is to include the different dancers she has worked with in Southeast Asia and abroad in various iterations of the performance.
While ballet is a physically demanding performance art that requires a lot of discipline, it can take performers around the world, expanding horizons and making dreams a reality. As with any classical art form or craft, it takes years of training and dedication to perfect it. And nothing can unite people quite like the arts.
“My point has always been that you may not be able to fix the whole world, but you can make it a more beautiful and better place than it was before,” she says.
Ballerina Maria Sascha Khan’s visit to Laos as a cultural ambassador was supported by the UK’s Education is GREAT campaign.
Text by CAMERON DARKE