© Gregory Batardon

Mackenzie Brown: Young Ballerina, new huge Talent at Stuttgarter Ballett

The American dancer from Virginia garnered three top prizes at the Prix de Lausanne 2019, she joined Stuttgart Ballet this September. The cheerful, candid ballerina came to Europe at the age of 13 to study at the Académie Princesse Grace in Monte-Carlo.

You won all the prizes at Lausanne and became rather famous in the ballet world. Is it hard to start in the corps de ballet?

It’s the normal way every dancer should go. I think it’s an important part of the career, it allows you to learn many things by being able to look up to some of these amazing dancers who have been a professional for so long. It’s really important just to be able to go through that process, to develop as an artist.

I imagine with your first place in Lausanne you had offers from some bigger companies than Stuttgart Ballet. What made you chose this company?

© Gregory Batardon

I came to visit in November of last year, and I just felt the family essence here, and the school that I went to, Princesse Grace, it really had that family atmosphere. And I felt at home here, and I felt that I could be who I really am. Stuttgart Ballet, they have both, classical and contemporary, and I LOVE both, I could not choose between the two.

You have learned many, many different styles, like jazz, tap, hip hop. Why did you end up in ballet?

Actually I did not love classical ballet in the beginning, because I loved the fun of jazz and tap. You could just be crazy! I always had this mindset of classical ballet of strict, boring, just very serious. And then when I went to Princesse Grace, that whole concept changed for me. I really saw the beauty of classical ballet, how you can tell a story, how magical it can be, and how you really touch an audience by a simple gesture.

At the Prix de Lausanne, the jury watches you not only performing, but also in the class and in rehearsals. Do you think that the result is fairer and more justified that way?

Definitely that helped for me! I went into Prix de Lausanne with an injury in my tibia, and then on the first day, I got a toe infection. So I had a massacre, it was a nightmare! I almost had a blood infection, they had to cut open my toe before class with the jury, it was crazy. Honestly, I wasn’t really nervous, because all I could think about was pain. But I think being able to take class in front of the jury and have them watch you in contemporary class and in regular class, it is really important. Because an artist is so much more! Of course stage presence is huge, but what they do in the studio builds that up. My teachers always told me to really perform in every class. Now if I don’t perform in class, it’s boring. It really helps, because then it comes so much more naturally on stage. And you can see it in the dancer.

Mackenzie Brown © Gregory Batardon
© Gregory Batardon

How important are competitions?

I actually grew up with competitions, I did competitions more like jazz and tap, from when I was six years old. I was definitely less confident in classical! My first ballet competition was the Youth America Grand Prix. But I think I didn’t go there intending to go to a place, I was just going there for a summer intensive. And then the opportunity arose, and it definitely changed my life! I’m very grateful, it’s a wonderful system that allows kids to achieve their dreams.

Interview by Angela Reinhardt