By Alyssa Small
The Bozeman Daily Chronicle
June 6, 2011
Less than two years ago, Julian MacKay was just a boy from Bozeman who liked to dance. Now, the 13-year-old is one of the youngest American dancers ever to perform with the Bolshoi Ballet in Moscow.
Last month, Julian performed in the Bolshoi’s “Coppelia,” a ballet that was recorded and broadcast live from the Bolshoi Theatre in Moscow. The performance aired in more than 300 theaters in 22 countries worldwide.
“When I started rehearsing the part, I didn’t really know what it was going to be,” Julian said in a phone interview. He said at the audition he hadn’t even been tall enough to fit into the costumes. “Then, the next thing I knew, I was cast and dancing on the stage and there was [Bolshoi Ballet principal dancer] Natalia Osipova.”
Julian was previously the youngest American ever to be asked to attend the Bolshoi Academy. He has since lost that title.
“His brother, Nicholas, beat him out,” said the boys’ father, Greg MacKay.
But it hasn’t upset him. Instead, having Nicholas there has made things easier. Both boys started at the academy without knowing any Russian.
“I made friends with the Russian students because they understood some American movies, like James Bond,” Julian said. “I cracked some funny jokes, and that’s how I made friends.”
Now, Julian and Nicholas are fluent in Russian, taking classes from 7 a.m. to 6:30 p.m., six days a week, and earning top marks on their dance exams. Julian has lost count of the number of times he has performed with the ballet.
Julian played one of the village people in “Coppelia,” alongside partner Nina Biryukova. One of the best parts was that the performance was broadcast live, Julian’s mother Teresa Khan MacKay said.
“His sisters got to watch it in Munich, and I had friends watching in Paris and New York,” she said. Since Teresa moved to Russia with the boys to support them, she watched it live in the Bolshoi Theatre. Julian’s father, who lives in Bozeman, has not yet seen the performance because it did not air in Montana.
Neither Theresa nor Greg takes credit for inspiring their children’s love of dance. “I’m not even a wannabe,” said Teresa. “I don’t have the personality or the desire for dancing. But I do have a great love of beauty.”
While both boys have bright ballet futures ahead of them, and Julian hopes to one day play the role of a prince, like in “Sleeping Beauty,” the family hasn’t forgotten its Montana roots. Nicholas is looking forward to floating the Madison River and Julian loves going to the Boiling River in Yellowstone.
“I really like Russia, but Montana is still home,” Julian said.
And the boys wouldn’t have gotten far without first learning to love dance in Bozeman from their instructor, Christine Austin. “Where my children are now, they had to start somewhere,” Teresa said. “If Montana didn’t have classical ballet opportunities for kids, our children never would’ve gotten this far.”
An encore showing of the “Coppelia” broadcast will play June 8 at 7:30 p.m. at the Shiloh 14 in Billings, the Carmike 10 in Great Falls, and the Carmike 10 in Missoula. Because there are no Carmike theaters in Bozeman, no local showings have been scheduled yet.