Brooklyn Mack in Le Corsaire. Photo by Carlos Quezada, Courtesy Mack

Brooklyn Mack Thought It Was a Prank When ABT Asked Him to Guest—and Now He's Dancing the Opening Night of Le Corsaire

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.

Would you like to dance more with the company?

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.

Are you still based in DC?

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.

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Stark Photo Productions, Courtesy Harlequin

Why Your Barre Can Make or Break Your At-Home Dance Training

Throughout the pandemic, Shelby Williams, of Royal Ballet of Flanders (aka "Biscuit Ballerina"), has been sharing videos that capture the pitfalls of dancers working from home: slipping on linoleum, kicking over lamps and even taking windows apart at the "barre." "Dancers aren't known to be graceful all of the time," says Mandy Blackmon, PT, DPT, OSC, CMTPT, head physical therapist/medical director for Atlanta Ballet. "They tend to fall and trip."

Many dancers have tried to make their home spaces as safe as possible for class and rehearsal by setting up a piece of marley, like Harlequin's Dance Mat, to work on. But there's another element needed for taking thorough ballet classes at home: a portable barre.

"Using a barre is kinda Ballet 101," says 16-year-old Haley Dale, a student in her second year at American Ballet Theatre's Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis School. She'd bought a portable barre from Harlequin to use at her parents' home in Northern Virginia even before the pandemic hit. "Before I got it, honestly I would stay away from doing barre work at home. Now I'm able to do it all the time."

Blackmon bought her 15-year-old stepdaughter a freestanding Professional Series Ballet Barre from Harlequin early on in quarantine. "I was worried about her injuring herself without one," she admits.

What exactly makes Harlequin's barres an at-home must-have, and hanging on to a chair or countertop so risky? Here are five major differences dancers will notice right away.

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December 2020