The Royal Ballet
Julian MacKay, Recent Bolshoi Ballet Academy Graduate, Prix de Lausanne Winner and currently with The Royal Ballet
You are originally from Bozeman, Montana. How did you get exposed to ballet in Montana and what made you want to study at the Bolshoi Ballet Academy in Russia?
JM: I grew up in Montana in the mountains. I first started dancing on our driveway! My inspiration was my sisters and the ABT DVD “Born to be Wild”. I remember watching my sisters, Maria Sascha and Nadia Khan, at the Kirov Academy of Ballet in Washington, D.C. and I fell in love with Russian ballet.
We heard you were only going to Russia for 6 weeks? How did you end up staying for 6 years?
JM: I first went to Russia because I loved Russian ballet and had a drive to explore the world. I did not plan on being the first American to graduate from their full program, I trained at both lower and upper Academy for six years.
In my graduation performance I became the first American to ever dance a full length pas de deux for the graduation in the Bolshoi, with a Russian partner, Katya Zavadina and I danced the Esmeralda pas de deux by Yuri Burlaka. I am very grateful that I was able to come and experience dancing in Russia at a very young age. The secret to my success is definitely having the support of my family. It helped that all my siblings are all dancers: Maria Sascha Khan at the Ekaterinburg State Ballet, Nadia Khan at Compania Nacional de Danza in Madrid, and Nicholas here with me at the Bolshoi. We all understand what classical ballet is about and the challenges of being a dancer!
How was it living in Russia not speaking the language when you first arrived? How long did it take you to learn Russian?
JM: The first couple of weeks were rough, but after that the Russian friends that I made looked out for me and helped me make it to my classes. It probably took me a year to speak Russian fluently, but my brother Nicholas picked it up in just 3 months!
How were you received as an American? What advice would you give to another American dancer going now?
JM: I grew up with the kids in my class. They were very accepting and helped me along the way. My advice would be to learn Russian as soon as possible, that is important.
You have 2 sisters and a younger brother who are all dancers. How did you all get interested in dance? Was there competition between you growing up?
JM: Well, we all kind of followed the lead of my older sister Maria Sascha….but from a young age my parents exposed us to the arts.
What did you miss most about America? Were you able to stay in contact with your friends and family?
JM: The thing I missed the most about the States, is how easy it was to get things done. Skype is how I kept in contact.
How did you decide to enter the Prix de Lausanne?
JM: I was looking for new opportunities.
Are you looking forward to moving to London to start working at the Royal Ballet?
JM: I love London, I am super excited!
I went to the Royal Ballet summer school three times when I was younger and loved it there. I am really looking forward to learning Ashton Ballets, and having an opportunity to work with Wayne MacGregor.
What career would you have chosen if you could not have been a dancer?
JM: As a kid I read a lot of Jules Verne books and was inspired by them….I think I would have been some kind of explorer.
If a child told you they wanted to be a dancer, what advice would you give them?
JM: Follow your dreams and never stop at the impossible.
How has social media changed a dancer’s status and what is required of them?
JM: I think that to be a successful dancer, it’s smart to use social media. I do find it really time-consuming, but enjoy having new friends and fans that I would never meet otherwise. It has also brought me a lot of opportunities for galas and other work projects.
Do you have one moment in your career that you remember most fondly? Or one moment that you feel really defined your career or the trajectory of it?
JM: My premiere on the Bolshoi stage at age 12. I danced the children’s part in Esmeralda with Natalia Osipova, who came on stage with a live goat. The other defining moment was being a winner at the Prix de Lausanne this year, it was a privilege to be there with many great dancers from all over the world.
Who would you like most to have a coffee with (could be dead or alive)?
JM: Leonid Lavrovsky and other dancers in the Bolshoi during his directorship.
Who were some of the people who influenced you the most in your career?
JM: My first ballet teacher, Christine Austin in Montana. Franco De Vita who gave me scholarships to ABT summers, it was the first time I had class with other boys. Larissa Saviliev, from YAGP. All the faculty at the Bolshoi Ballet Academy, including the Directress, Marina Leonova, and Bolshoi Theatre coaches such as Sasha Vetrov,and Mikhail Lavrovsky, who coached me on my first Giselle, Nikolay Tikhomirov and Alisher Hasanov,who coached me for Lausanne, and Cynthia Harvey whose En Avant Foundation just awarded me the Kelvin Coe Artistry Award.
What do you most value in your friends?
JM: Truthfulness and loyalty.
What is your idea of perfect happiness?
JM: Sunday in the dance studio.
If you could be an animal, what animal would you choose and why?
JM: A tiger, because of their strength.
What is your greatest indulgence?
JM: Gelato and Nutella.
What are your worst fears (professionally or personally)?
JM: Not being able to complete my mission in life.
Is there a special meal you have before performances?
JM: The night before I usually eat some carbs and sometimes a steak and right before some chocolate with nuts for energy.