Photo by Theo Kossenas, Courtesy The Washington Ballet

For The Washington Ballet’s Brooklyn Mack, Challenges Feed His Motivation

You made a deal with your mom to take ballet classes in exchange for a ride to tryouts for the football team. How did that work?
I thought that I would take ballet for a couple months, become a master and then leave that alone and concentrate on football. Ballet had other ideas, which perplexed me, and ultimately, I think, made me fall in love with it.

How is The Washington Ballet evolving under Julie Kent's leadership?
It's still early, but I think that the company is growing stronger classically. And we have Julie, Victor Barbee, Xiomara Reyes and Rinat Imaev—a great team of people who are giving their input and expertise, which is quite helpful.

Mack in 'Swan Lake.' Photo by Theo Kossenas, Courtesy TWB.


Sir Frederick Ashton's The Dream was one of Kent's first additions to the rep. You danced the role of Oberon, right?
Yes. It was so rewarding. Sir Anthony Dowell came for five days and I absorbed everything I could. He would describe things in a way that would transport you to the fairy world. Even when I wasn't scheduled for rehearsal, I was in the corner soaking it up.

You guest all over the world, but TWB is still home. What makes it special?
There's so much diversity. Not just dancers' nationalities, but within the repertoire. We've done a myriad of different styles and ballets, all at high levels, and it's made me proud time and time again.

What has guesting with English National Ballet added to your artistic toolbox?
I grow every time I go. They have a phenomenal artistic team and they really prioritize individual attention, which is hard to come by in the U.S.

What ballets are on your bucket list?
Kenneth MacMillan's Manon. It's top of the list.

Mack in 'The Dream.' Photo by Theo Kossenas, Courtesy TWB.

You've said that you encountered racism during your training. How was it expressed?
I would hear negative or disparaging comments, most often from adults. I remember hearing a ballet-master-type say that black people generally cannot do ballet because their bodies cannot conform to the aesthetics required, like it's a genetic thing.

How did you deal with it?
When I was 3 my uncle told me that I can do anything that I put my mind to, and to not let anyone tell me differently. I never forgot that. The more people told me I couldn't do something, the more it added fuel to the fire.

What could companies do better?
I think it comes down to opportunities and casting choices. But ultimately, I think the larger problem falls with the schools and the teachers. There's often not a high enough level of expectation and attention.

Is there a story behind your name?
At the hospital, my mom hadn't picked a name yet, and the nurse was growing impatient to put one on the birth certificate. My sister Sabrina ran into the room and yelled, "His name is Brooklyn Devon Mack." The nurse wrote it down and walked out before my mom could protest. My sister later told me that she loved the lights on the Brooklyn Bridge.

Mack in 'Hamlet.' Photo by Theo Kossenas, Courtesy TWB.

Your mother had been a dancer. What kind of career did she have?
One day, I was showing her something that I had learned and she suddenly starts telling me what I'm doing wrong. I'm like, what would you know about it? And she said, well, I was a dancer. She danced for Hartford Ballet and another company that doesn't exist anymore, and for a company in Germany.

Do you ever wonder what would've happened if you'd gone into football?
I'd be a multimillionaire, right? It would be fun, but ballet is so much more gratifying. There's the artistic and an emotional aspect, the harmony of your physicality matching the music. When all those things come together, it's completely transcendent.

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After 25 Years, Victoria Morgan to Step Down as Cincinnati Ballet's Artistic Director

Last month, Victoria Morgan announced that she will step down as Cincinnati Ballet's artistic director at the conclusion of the 2021-22 season. The organization's board of trustees has formed a committee to conduct a national search for her replacement.

Prior to coming to Cincinnati Ballet in 1997, the Salt Lake City native was a principal dancer with San Francisco Ballet and Ballet West, as well as resident choreographer for the San Francisco Opera. She graduated magna cum laude from University of Utah, where she also earned her MFA, and has judged several international ballet competitions.

Entering her 25th and final season as director, Morgan has accomplished a lot at Cincinnati Ballet, not the least erasing the $800,000 in company debt she inherited at the outset of her tenure. To right the organization's financial ship she had to make tough choices early on—the first task the company's executive committee gave her was to release a third of the company's dancers. In her continuing effort to overhaul how the organization did business, in 2008 she became both the artistic director and CEO and set about building the company's now $14.5 million endowment. For the 2016–17 season, with the arrival of new company president and CEO Scott Altman, Morgan returned to being full-time artistic director and helped lead the realization of the organization's new $31 million home, the Margaret and Michael Valentine Center for Dance.

A champion of female choreographers, Morgan has also choreographed numerous ballets for the company, including world premieres of King Arthur's Camelot and The Nutcracker. She has also helped orchestrate several company collaborations, including 2013's Frampton and Cincinnati Ballet Live and joint productions with BalletMet.

Pointe caught up with Morgan to talk about her recent announcement.

Victoria Morgan is shown from the side standing on stage right, turning to smile at a line of costumed dancers to her left during bows. She wears a patterned green dress with chunky green high heels and holds a red rose in her hand.

Peter Mueller, Courtesy Cincinnati Ballet

Why leave Cincinnati Ballet now?

It's been an amazing run and I have seen it all. I am not sure where I would go from here. I also feel there is a required stimulus and infusion of new ideas and energy that always needs to be a part of a growing, evolving and exciting arts organization.

What made you happiest at Cincinnati Ballet?

The people, from the devotion of patrons and donors to learning from and feeling the pride in work from the staff. It has also been so satisfying for me to choreograph on and watch so many dancers evolve in their dance careers and lives.

Were there things you wanted to do for the company that you weren't able to?

There were other collaborations I wanted us to explore and choreographers I wanted us to work with. It takes quite an investment to make those happen.

Your legacy includes actively creating opportunities for female choreographers. What motivated that?

I started realizing, in a profound way, the gender inequities in our art form. Because I was in a leadership position, I thought I could do something about this and try to get to a 50-50 balance of male and female choreographers. It took a little time to find women to step forward, but it happened. Now there are many more prominent female choreographers, including our resident choreographer Jennifer Archibald, and I am proud of that.

If you could handpick your successor, what qualities would you look for?

Somebody creative, charged up, and who can be visionary. Someone who has had a high-level experience in our art form. A leader who is demanding but also kind and supportive, and who opens doors to find new ideas while still embracing Cincinnati Ballet's philosophies.

What do you feel will be one of the biggest challenges for the new artistic director?

The important cause of DEIA (diversity, equity, inclusion, accessibility). Whoever steps into that position has to have awareness of the culture of today's conversation.

Do you plan to keep choreographing?

I am not being proactive about it, but if the opportunity presents itself, it would be fun.

What's next?

I feel my next calling is bringing movement to the biggest segment of our population, baby boomers. I want to be part of an initiative that makes moving and wellness enjoyable and enlivens people.

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