Brooklyn Mack Thought It Was a Prank When ABT Asked Him to Guest—and Now He's Dancing the Opening Night of Le Corsaire
Brooklyn Mack in Le Corsaire. Photo by Carlos Quezada, Courtesy Mack
After almost a decade at The Washington Ballet, Brooklyn Mack has struck out on his own. Last summer, after unsuccessful contract negotiations with the company—now under the direction of Julie Kent—the 32-year-old star decided to go it alone. So far, his full-time freelance career has taken him to Hong Kong, Mexico, Norway, Russia, Georgia (the country, not the state) and various cities across the U.S. But his biggest debut is still to come. This month, he appears with American Ballet Theatre at the Metropolitan Opera House for four performances of Le Corsaire, playing both Conrad and Ali.
How did the invitation come about?
I was contacted on Instagram by Kevin McKenzie's assistant. At first, I thought I was being pranked!
Has ABT always been a goal for you?
Most kids dream about dancing at ABT, and I was no exception. Actually, I spent one year in the Studio Company when I was 18 (in 2005). Isabella Boylston, Cory Stearns and Thomas Forster were all there at the time. So I'm excited to reconnect.
Of course! But we'll see what comes. I'm definitely looking forward to the debut and being in that moment.
What have been some of the highlights of the past year?
I got to dance in a gala evening honoring Arthur Mitchell while he was still here. He was onstage, sitting downstage right, the whole time. I also got to dance at Fall for Dance with Tiler Peck and Lil Buck in Jennifer Weber's Petrushka; it was so rewarding to work with them—they're amazing movers.
Actually, while I'm guesting, I'm moving my base to South Carolina, where I'm from. DC is an expensive city!
Besides ABT, anything big coming up?
I will be joining English National Ballet for the first half of their season. The casting isn't done yet, but I expect to dance leading roles in the majority of the fall/winter repertoire—like Le Corsaire (which was my debut with ENB in 2015), Wheeldon's Cinderella, The Nutcracker—and possibly Akram Khan's Giselle if I have time to jump in, and surely some new and interesting things in the mixed rep as well!
Carlos Quezada, Courtesy Mack
Ideally, is there a dream company you'd like to join?
The older I get, the whole idea of a "dream company" is less of a thing. Every company has pluses and minuses. The best thing a dancer can do is to find a place with a decent amount of pluses. And if you also have a bit of freedom, that's excellent, because the things you're not getting there you can supplement elsewhere. That way you get a balanced diet.
James Whiteside (Jayme Thornton for Dance Magazine)
Say you're perpetually impeccable designer Thom Browne. Say you're planning your Spring 2020 Paris menswear show along a "Versailles country club" theme. Say you want a world-class danseur to open the show with some kind of appropriately fabulous choreography.
Who do you call? James Whiteside, of course. On Saturday, the American Ballet Theatre principal—wearing pointe shoes and a glorious pinstriped tutu—kicked off Browne's presentation at the École des Beaux-Arts with a 15-minute, show-stealing solo. Whiteside choreographed the piece himself, with the help of detailed notes from the designer.
I'd been a professional dancer for five years when I realized the pain I'd been feeling in my hip and down my sciatic nerve was not going away. I had been treating it for two years as we dancers do—with regular visits to my masseuse, physical therapy, baths, ice and lots of Aleve—but I never stopped dancing. It finally dawned on me that if I kept going at the speed I was going (which was, well, speedy), the pain would only get more severe and unrelenting, and I might never dance again.
I told myself I'd take two months off, and all would be better.
That first morning when I woke up at 10 am, I had no idea what to do with myself. My life until that moment had been dictated by class and rehearsal, every hour accounted for. How should I fill the huge swath of time ahead of me?