Before him, only legends and superstars like Mikhail Baryshnikov had won the gold medal at Varna. He and Misty Copeland made history when they starred together in "Swan Lake." As one of the world's greatest athletes and artists, Brooklyn Mack--a true champion in every sense of the word--relentlessly pursues perfection every single day. And it was a joy for me to see him light up as he reflected on his greatest triumphs.
In fact, I wish I had recorded the Skype video interview. While you could hear the excitement in his voice, I could really see how much Brooklyn loves what he does. And it is rare to be able to speak for over an hour with someone who consistently performs at an elite level.
Brooklyn Mack is originally from South Carolina, and is a dancer with The Washington Ballet. He began his dance training at age 12 with the Pavlovich Dance School under Radenko Pavlovich and Milena Leben before receiving a scholarship to study at the Kirov Academy of Ballet. Brooklyn then apprenticed with the Joffrey Ballet of Chicago and later joined American Ballet Theatre’s Studio Company. Before joining The Washington Ballet, Brooklyn spent three seasons as a principal dancer with Orlando Ballet. He has performed internationally in Venezuela, Latvia, Japan, and many others. He has won many awards and medals, including the gold medal at the legendary International Ballet Competition in Varna, Bulgaria, the oldest ballet competition in the world. He was one of only three Americans ever to win. Most recently, Brooklyn was featured in Ebony Magazine, the Grio’s Top 100, and was named as a top “25 [dancers] to watch” by Dance Magazine. In 2015, Brooklyn and Misty Copeland made history at the Kennedy Center in D.C. as the first two African-American leads in a major production of Swan Lake.
Notes from the show:
Brooklyn has always danced, but discovered ballet at 12 years old.
Growing up in South Carolina, there were lots of stereotypes and misconceptions about ballet and male ballet dancers.
At an annual gala, he was blown away by the athleticism of the ballet dancers.
Brooklyn really loved football and wanted to try out. His mom wouldn't take him to tryouts. He asked her, "If you take me to tryouts, I'll take ballet lessons." His mom was shocked.
His Mom researched and decided on the Pavlovich Dance School under Radenko Pavlovich. He attended 6 days a week.
Brooklyn took two buses to class each day.
Ballet became like "wisteria."
He got a scholarship to the Kirov Academy of Ballet.
He made a pact with himself: "If you're not a soloist by the age of 21, you'll go back to school and pursue football."
He started out loving bravura roles like those in Dox Quixote and The Pirate, but then really took to more romantic roles.
"If I can move them in some way, then I don't really care what any artistic person has to say that much, because it's for the audience, first and foremost."
At the Chicago Dancing Festival in Millennium Park, there were almost 12,000 people.He felt "invincible" because of the energy he was getting from the audience.
The Bowie & Queen show at the Kennedy Center in DC came close in energy level despite the audience being one tenth the size of the Chicago show.
When Brooklyn watches a recording, he picks himself apart. It's hard for him to enjoy watching a recording.
When you have reached a certain level, you need to find someone you trust, who understands artistry, someone who is invested in you. Pavlovich is one of Brooklyn's favorite coaches to this day. "He's almost like a Dad to me."
Brooklyn performs with the Columbia Classical Ballet each year for the LifeChance International Gala of the Stars.
Brooklyn danced with Misty Copeland for the first time in 2015--and made history--in the Kennedy Center's "Swan Lake."
Brooklyn admires Misty's ambassadorship for bringing ballet to young people through her appearances in commercials such as Under Armour.
His first job was with the Joffrey Ballet.
He is very much a perfectionist.; every day is the pursuit of perfection.
The small linking steps in ballet are so important; they make a leap sparkle. Brooklyn was able to do the big "tricks" during his first year and a half, but they were very unrefined. The smaller steps and techniques refined the more showy tricks.
Winning Gold Medal at Varna was a moment of "Wow, I can't believe I did that." Everyone who has won is a legend. Being listed among them is still surreal. "Was that a dream?"
The hardest ballets, though he doesn't feel like they're hard when he's dancing, include "Romeo and Juliet" and "Swan Lake."
Adagio is uncommon for a male dancer; it is very slow and you have to control every element. "It's like the difference between 20 fast push-ups and 20 eight count push-ups."
Brooklyn usually gets into character, but he does sometimes talk to himself during a performance.
He has fallen only once during a performance, and his memory of it is priceless.
Brooklyn prepares through visualization.
He shares his physical and nutrition regimen.
Stretch! Stretch! Stretch!
Don't be discouraged if you're not the favorite--there will be a favorite and pay attention to what a teacher or coach says to the favorite.
"Shed your pride. Shed your insecurities. Just be a sponge."
"Put in the extra hours. There's always going to be someone who does something better than you. If you want to be the best, the only way to ever catch that person is to be doing more than they're doing."
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