Ballet Stars

Julian MacKay: From Montana to the Mikhailovsky—and Beyond

Photo by Gregory Bartadon via Instagram

Julian MacKay was born to be a pioneer. Growing up amid bison and hot springs in Montana, he developed a sense of adventure that came in handy when, at age 11, he entered the Bolshoi Ballet Academy in Moscow.

"It was this guinea-pig experiment," the Bozeman native remembers. "No American had ever gone so young." In 2015 he became the first American to graduate from the school with a full Russian diploma, having completed the lower and upper ballet division—at the top of his class—and passed all his academics in Russian, which he had learned to speak fluently within his first year.

Then in May 2016, MacKay became the youngest-ever soloist at the Mikhailovsky Ballet in St. Petersburg. He soon debuted as the slave in Le Corsaire, the Bronze Idol in La Bayadère and James in La Sylphide, roles that showcased his clean technique and lofty jumps.


"I've had the opportunity to do so much, so quickly," says the appreciative MacKay, who at 19 feels a keen urgency. "The career is quite short. If you have things you want to achieve, you have to go for them as soon as possible."

MacKay got an early start in ballet, alongside his younger brother, Nicholas MacKay, and older sisters, Maria Sascha Khan and Nadia Khan, all of whom were dance-obsessed since childhood. MacKay received his early training in Montana, and following a bronze-medal win at Youth America Grand Prix, Bolshoi Academy teachers invited him to join the school. Before he went, he moved to San Diego to study with former Bolshoi dancer Maxim Tchernychev.

Photo by Stas Levshin

Russia was an opportunity MacKay couldn't pass up, daunting as it was to move halfway around the world to begin six years of extremely intense training. "I went through army boot-camp schooling," he says of the six-days-per-week program, which ranged from rigorous ballet technique to the Stanislavsky acting method.

MacKay's training helped him to win medals in Sochi, Istanbul, Paris and Beijing. The 2015 Prix de Lausanne, where he earned an apprentice scholarship to The Royal Ballet, helped define his goals. He took the apprenticeship, but as much as he admired the company and artistic director Kevin O'Hare, MacKay was not content in the corps.

At an audition in Hungary, Mikhailovsky director Mikhail Messerer offered MacKay a soloist position. MacKay was thrilled to return to Russia, where he's pursuing a Russian Ballet Master graduate degree while dancing. He also had his choreographic premiere with a new version of The Little Humpbacked Horse, at the Four Seasons St.Petersburg. It starred Nicholas, Maria Sascha and Nadia—all four siblings are currently dancing and training overseas.

MacKay's path is leading in non-dance directions, too. His charismatic good looks landed him a modeling contract with IMG and a photo shoot with Kendall Jenner for the avant-garde fashion magazine LOVE.

"I feel like I've won so many lottery tickets," he says. Luck plays a part in any career, but MacKay is forging his own path with talent, training and that adventurous spirit. "You can do anything," he says, "if you aspire to it and really push for it."

Fun Facts:

Russian food craving: Kholodets. "It's basically pieces of meat in Jell-O. It's pretty crazy, but kinda good."

Dream destinations: Siberia ("I want to see what it's like") and the South of France ("I love the beaches!")

Puppy love: "I'm teaching my French bulldog puppy, Leo, how to skateboard."

Show Comments ()
Viral Videos
Bucharest National Ballet's 2013 trailer for "La Sylphide,' via YouTube

Few things are more powerful for promoting ballet performances than captivating trailers—especially in today's visually-focused, digitally-connected world.

We've rounded up some eye-catching ads from seasons past and present that not only make us wish we could have seen the show, but also stand alone as short films.

Bucharest National Opera's La Sylphide

Magnifying the scarf which—spoiler alert—brings about the ballet's tragic conclusion, this 2013 Bucharest National Opera's trailer turns that fateful fabric into a beautiful, deadly web. Its windswept movements form a dance of its own.

Keep reading... Show less
popular

Looking for your next audition shoe? Shot at and in collaboration with Broadway Dance Center, Só Dança has launched a new collection of shoes working with some pretty famous faces of the musical theater world! Offered in two different styles and either 2.5" or 3" heels, top industry professionals are loving how versatile and supportive these shoes are! Pro tip: The heel is centered under the body so you can feel confident and stable!

popular
Boston Ballet in Bournonville's "La Sylphide." Photo by Angela Sterling, Courtesy Boston Ballet.

Wonder what's going on in ballet this week? We've pulled together some highlights.


Wayne McGregor Makes His ABT Choreographic Debut

Ever since Vaslav Nijinsky shocked Paris audiences in 1913 with his Rite of Spring for the Ballets Russes, dancemakers from Sir Kenneth MacMillan to Pina Bausch have tried their hands at choreographing to Igor Stravinsky's infamous score. This spring, Wayne McGregor will be added to that list. The Royal Ballet resident choreographer's first work for American Ballet Theatre, titled AFTERITE, will premiere at the Metropolitan Opera House in New York City on May 21. Known for his grounded and experimental movement style, McGregor's work will feature video designs by innovative filmmaker Ravi Deepres and sets and costumes by designer Vicki Mortimer, both longtime collaborators. Alessandra Ferri, who has collaborated with McGregor in the past, will join ABT as a guest artist.

Keep reading... Show less
via Instagram

The wait for Alexei Ratmansky's restaging of Petipa's Harlequinade is almost over! But if you can't wait until American Ballet Theatre officially debuts the ballet at the Metropolitan Opera House on June 6, we've got you covered. ABT brought the Harlequinade characters to life (and to the Alder Mansion in Yonkers, NY) in a short film by Ezra Hurwitz, and it's a guaranteed to make you laugh.

Keep reading at dancemagazine.com.

Ballet Stars
DePrince soars in English National Ballet's "Giselle." Photo by Laurent Liotardo, Courtesy ENB.

As told to Amy Brandt.

Myrtha is a role I've always loved to watch, but when Tamara Rojo asked me to dance it for English National Ballet's Giselle last year as a guest artist, I thought she was crazy. The role is usually for a tall, strong dancer. I'm strong, but I'm also very petite. I thought people might criticize me for that. I also wore brown tights onstage, since I'm a brown dancer, and I was nervous people wouldn't understand that—but I got great comments on it.

Keep reading... Show less
Viral Videos
Josephine Lee on the road. Photo Courtesy Lee.

Master pointe shoe fitter Josephine Lee of the California-based The Pointe Shop is taking her wares on a tour of the West Coast: California, Oregon, Washington, Idaho, Utah and Nevada. Lee is visiting dance schools along the way in her mobile pointe shoe van to fit ballet students. Check out her first five vlogs from the road, filled with picturesque scenery, fun facts and fitting tips—and stay tuned for the next round.

Jeanne Robinson Dance Arts in Salinas, CA

Among the attractions in Salinas that Lee points out is the childhood home of famous novelist John Steinbeck.

Keep reading... Show less
popular

If diamonds are a girl's best friend, it's safe to say that faux-diamond earrings are a dancer's best friend. A fixture onstage at just about every competition weekend, these blinged-out baubles are also the surest sign that recital season is upon us again. And what better way to get into the sparkly spirit than by drooling over these 5 diamonds in the rough? (Sorry not sorry!)

Keep reading... Show less

Sponsored

Videos

Sponsored

mailbox

Get Pointe Magazine in your inbox

Sponsored

Win It!