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By Richard Ecke
Greatfalls Tribune
Photograph by Youth Arts in Action
June 6, 2011

Thirteen-year-old Julian MacKay is one of four dancing wunderkinds from a single Bozeman family. Eldest sister Maria once watched a live ballet performance and commented, “I should try it,” recalled youngest brother Nicholas MacKay.

All four siblings leapt into classical dancing, and have achieved international success.

Julian was the only American to dance with the Bolshoi Ballet during a performance May 29 in Moscow at the Bolshoi Theatre New Stage.

In a telephone interview from Moscow, Julian admitted he was nervous at first before the performance, but his Russian instructor helped him keep cool.

Julian said he was “extremely excited” to dance with the legendary Bolshoi company, especially when he spotted the giant sold-out crowd, which reacted to dancers’ performances during the ballet “Coppelia.”

“They clapped forever,” he said.

“The New York Times gave it rave reviews,” said proud father Gregory MacKay, a Bozeman computer consultant who is the only member of the family still in Montana, aside from the family dog, a miniature Schnauzer named Shakespeare.

Besides Julian, also wrapping up this school year in Russia is younger brother Nicholas, 10, who has tied on ballet shoes, along with sisters Maria Sascha Khan, 23, and Nadia Khan, 20.

Nicholas figured it made sense to join in the fun. “I thought, ‘Hey, this looks cool, and everybody else is doing it,'” Nicholas said. “I love the way that Russians teach you.”

Nicholas and Julian were both at the top of their dance classes at the Bolshoi Academy during the year, said their mother, Teresa Khan MacKay, who home-schools them in a rented apartment in Moscow, within walking distance of the academy.

Nicholas in recent months appeared in “Napoli,” playing the role of a monk at the Stanislavsky Ballet and Opera Theater in Moscow. He hopes to make his debut with the Bolshoi Ballet during the next school year.

The youngest MacKay’s friends in Montana think it’s cool he is studying ballet in Russia.”They want me to bring back souvenirs,” Nicholas said.

Teresa, Julian and Nicholas soon will leave Russia for the summer and stop in Germany to visit Maria and Nadia, who are performing with the Bayerishes Staatsballett in Munich. Then it’s back to the United States for a Connecticut summer dance program for the boys, and finally to Montana, where the family expects to reunite in August.

Neither MacKay parent has a dance background.

Teresa remembers her reaction to Julian receiving an invitation to enroll in the Bolshoi Academy. “I’m not going,” she said flatly. She changed her mind in a day or two, with Maria’s encouragement.

“It’s been an adventure,” said Teresa, who also is executive director of a Bozeman-based nonprofit group, Youth Arts in Action, which helps talented students pursue the arts.

If there is any downside to this fairytale story, it’s the big cost for kids to attend the Bolshoi Academy in Russia, Gregory MacKay said. He said British students at the academy have corporate sponsors, and he hopes some American companies will jump in to sponsor these talented, articulate and athletic young ballet dancers from Montana.

It’s hard to beat a Bolshoi education, he added. “It’s considered the best one for boys in the world,” Gregory said.

Copyright © 2011 Greatfalls Tribune


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