At 15, Ben Malone made his Nutcracker debut in the party scene. But unlike many of her peers, dancing was not her childhood dream. While other toddlers longed for tutus or tunics and remembered the days when they had their chins up to the bar, Malone dreamed not of costumes, but of a uniform. “I’ve thought about being a cop since I was quite young, maybe three or four years old,” he says. “My mother [a federal prosecutor] worked closely with law enforcement, so growing up I would run into his office and see FBI agents and state troopers and think how cool they looked and how I wanted to be like that one day. But before Malone dedicated his life to serving and protecting, he found the thrill of performing.
Malone in his role as a teaching artist in the Richmond Ballet’s MIM program.
Sarah Ferguson, courtesy of Richmond Ballet
Malone’s leap into the studio happened inadvertently, with a push from a high school friend recruiting boys for the Nutcracker party scene. The requirement of being in the local production was to take one ballet class a week, and Malone showed a natural affinity for movement and placement. Soon, one class a week grew to three, which turned into summer programs at Boston Ballet and acceptance into Nutmeg Conservatory. Malone’s long limbs, generous lines, natural charisma and tireless work ethic allowed him to progress at a rapid pace, and he soon landed at the Virginia-based Richmond Ballet. After spending one year as an apprentice, two in the second company and one year in the professional company, Malone left the stage in 2015 and joined the Richmond Ballet Outreach Program. moving minds. As a MIM instructor, Malone has shared her knowledge and joy of dance with fourth-grade students at local elementary schools, cultivating an appreciation for movement and art in new generations. In 2018, Malone returned to the aspirations of his youth and entered the Richmond Police Training Academy. He graduated last month and officially entered the city force.
Malone at the police academy graduation
A sense of childlike fascination surfaces for Malone when asked what he finds so appealing about being a cop. “Let’s start with the obvious: drive fast and catch criminals,” he says. “It may sound cliché, but it’s exciting to answer Code 1 calls [critical calls that warrant lights and sirens].” And while car chases and heists are a far cry from studio life, lessons learned from ballet help Malone while he’s on the beat. In fact, in every mention of her new career is an acknowledgment of the importance of her dance training. “Ballet and law enforcement share the importance of hard work, collaboration, the ability to be a leader, communication, and lots of practice and physical fitness,” Malone says. After the rigorous physics of ballet, Malone is once again relishing the use of his body as an instrument, and he is quick to point out that both professions offer dramatic ups and downs on a daily basis. “There are little moments in ballet that bring you joy every day, and there are also bigger milestones that you reach through hard work and overcoming obstacles,” he says. “The same goes for police work.”
Since joining the force, Malone has continued to realize new parallels between his passions. He points to a particular role in his ballet career, the Prince of Verona in Romeo and Juliet, which seems to have foreshadowed his career change. “It’s not a huge role, but the character has this massive, imposing music, and bursts in while the Montagues and the Capulets are in a huge fight, and makes everyone stop in their tracks, to lay down their arms and repent of their wrongdoings,” he said. “It seems like a pretty perfect role to me!”
Malone in Val Caniparoli Djangology at Richmond Ballet
Sarah Ferguson, courtesy of Richmond Ballet
While there aren’t as many costume changes, for Malone, dressing in uniform is also reminiscent of life as a dancer. “The first time I got to put on the full Richmond Police uniform was very exciting,” he says. “Everything from the hat to the gun belt and the shoes fit me. Believe it or not, our ballistic vests are also specifically tailored to each officer.
For many dancers, leaving life on stage is tinged with grief and uncertainty. But for Malone, stepping out of the spotlight allowed him to recapture a childhood dream and redefine his identity. And while he has yet to attempt to teach one of his new colleagues first position, he adds, “You’ll have to stay tuned for the next upcoming project, which may include a dance against Richmond Fire Department.” We’re sure Officer Malone will keep his police force in line and well prepared for the challenge.