A day in the life: Julian Mackay
Global guest artist and BLOCH Ambassador Julian Mackay reveals an exclusive insight into his dance career!
Born into a family of four classical ballet dancers, American dancer Julian Mackay unsurprisingly caught the performance bug early on. He began his dance journey where he grew up in Montana, training with Christine Austin, before studying at the Bolshoi Ballet Academy. As a student, he performed roles including Siegfried in Swan Lake with Russian State Ballet and in Esmeralda, Coppélia and The Sleeping Beauty with the Bolshoi.
His ambition and talent have taken him to incredible locations across the globe, something he cites as one of the best parts about his position as global guest artist. “By the age of 20 I’d danced as an International Guest Star around the world. It’s been a very exciting time!” he reveals. “I’ve travelled all over to dance in cities like Tokyo, New York, Shanghai, Moscow, London, St. Petersburg and soon Paris too. It’s a joy to share my passion!”
Julian has also appeared as a soloist in galas including ‘Stars of the 21st Century’, ‘Stars of Today Meet the Stars of Tomorrow’ (Youth America Grand Prix) and the Marika Besobrasova gala. He was Prix de Lausanne apprentice with The Royal Ballet during the 2015/16 Season, before joining the renowned Mikhailovsky Ballet Company in 2016 as the youngest-ever soloist. During his graduation year in 2015, he scooped medals for both contemporary and classical performance in five international competitions and was awarded the En Avant Foundation’s Kelvin Coe Scholarship.
And as if that wasn’t enough, he boasts a shining repertory too, dancing in pas de deux and variations from La Fille mal gardée, Marguerite and Armand, Giselle, Don Quixote, The Sleeping Beauty, Esmeralda and L’amoroso. The future is certainly bright for this young ballet star!
We caught up exclusively with Julian to find out how he spends a typical day preparing for a big ballet role, his top tips for aspiring young dancers and his personal career highlights.
When did you know you wanted to become a dancer?
The moment I realized was when I started seeing results from my hard work and all those hours spent in the studio at the Bolshoi Ballet Academy in Moscow. After that, I began to realize how performing and giving all my energy to the audience inspired not just me, but them too, bringing them to a better place. From that point on, I became entirely committed to a career in performance.
What is your typical day-to-day routine like?
If you follow me on Instagram, you’ll know my catchphrase is ‘always working’! I enjoy the entire process from studio to stage. My days are filled with work from about 8.00 A.M. until 10.00 P.M. in the theater, with multiple rehearsals with different ballerinas and many different ballets.
How do you prepare for a big performance?
I try to fully immerse myself into the role and into the character, whoever I’m portraying, particularly for dramatic roles. What helps me do this is visualization of the performance, from each step and breath down to each movement of my body. On the day of the show, from the moment I wake up to the moment my final makeup is applied, I’m thinking about all these nuances and weaving a storyline to help me bring this ballet to life in my own way.
What is your favorite ballet to perform and why?
There are so many! There are many I have yet to dance that I look forward to dancing in the future too. My favorite is probably the one I’m working on at that moment — I immerse myself totally into the role and it takes all my focus emotionally, mentally and physically to bring it alive onstage.
What has been the highlight of your career so far?
I loved opening the tour of the Mikhailovsky Theater in Japan, on the opening night of The Flames of Paris. It was my first time in Tokyo and such an amazing experience — the Japanese audience were great! Recently I also had the opportunity to work on Marguerite and Armand with [Mariinsky Theatre Coach and Repetiteur] Grant Coyle in London at English National Ballet. Soon I will be rehearsing with Johan Kobborg in Moscow for Les Lutins which is another exciting role for me.
Talk us through your dance career.
I attended American Ballet Theatre in New York City by age 9, training during the summers at The Royal Ballet School and Academy Princess Grace Dance Academy in Monaco. I became the first full American graduate of the Bolshoi Ballet Academy in Moscow, having trained at both the lower and upper academies for six years from age 11-17. While I was a student, I danced Swan Lake on tour in Germany and Switzerland. At the Prix de Lausanne, I won a contract to the Royal Ballet in London, where I worked from age 17-18. In that same year, I was awarded five consecutive medals at international ballet competitions. At the age of 18 I moved on to Second Soloist at The Mikhailovsky Theatre and was promoted to First Soloist at the age of 19, dancing all the main principle roles.
If you could relive one performance, what would it be?
The first time I danced on the Bolshoi stage aged 12, while training at the Bolshoi Academy in Esmerelda with Natalia Osipova and a live goat! It was magical being on that stage surrounded by such big stars.
What is your exercise regime like?
I always show up early for class. I’m usually the first one there as I have to do all my exercises beforehand, including stretching out my back and legs and sit ups to strengthen my core. That way as soon as class starts, I’m ready to go!
How do you stay fit and healthy?
I try to sweat as much as possible — whether that be through saunas or high intensity workouts — as this helps remove toxins from my body. It’s also important for me to stay hydrated, especially with all the travelling I do, so I always drink lots of water. I have regular massages and use acupuncture and alternative health care too, as well as eating organic food when I can.
Which BLOCH ballet flats do you wear and what do you love about them?
Right now I’m wearing the ones with a stretchy instep that makes them so comfortable and easy to work in, because after a flight my feet are usually a little swollen.
What tips would you give to young aspiring dancers?
My advice is to get the best possible training, because the foundation you set will carry you through any style of classical and contemporary.
What do you enjoy doing in your spare time?
I love swimming, wakeboarding, skiing, relaxing at Hot Springs and skateboarding. When I’m at home in Montana, I love giving back through masterclasses. I’ve also been helping to organize and dance in the Yellowstone International Arts Festival [a dance festival in Paradise Valley, Montana]. This year it features myself, my three siblings and dance friends from around the world, opera singers and musicians, as well as traditional Montana culture such as Native American Fancy Dancers.