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By Jonathan Milke
The Fort Saskatchewan Record
November 03, 2001

Who knows where a childhood passion might lead?

For Cameron McKinlay, a childhood passion became an adolescent and adult passion that has seen him live in Vancouver and Las Vegas before leading to a world tour opportunity.

Now 25, he danced in Edmonton’s Rexall Place earlier this week with Cirque du Soleil’s Michael Jackson Immortal World Tour, a far cry from where he started as a younger brother to some ballet dancers.

McKinlay explained he was the youngest of five siblings. He explained the kids were involved in a number of activities, with his two older sisters taking ballet.  He said since the boys spent so much time at the ballet studio, they asked if they could dance, too. “I started at three and never quit.”

Indeed, from those ballet beginnings, he added jazz, hip-hop and other forms of dance to his repertoire. “You name it, I did it.”

When they reached their teens, the McKinlay children were asked to choose which of their activities to continue, and all but one chose dance. “This is an industry where you have to devote 100 per cent of your attention to it,” he explained.

After graduating from John Paul II High School, McKinlay made his way to Vancouver, where he found there were a plethora of hip-hop dancers but few ballet dancers. Being trained in both forms gave McKinlay an advantage, and he found some roles in TV and film.

While there, Cirque du Soleil had their first ever audition, and McKinlay was one of about 300 who tried out during the two day process. He made the list for the second day, then made the final five. A week later, he was offered a role in Cirque du Soleil’s show The Beatles LOVE in Las Vegas, where he performed for three years. “I loved every minute of it,” he said, noting he found a fiancée and bought a house while there.

As those three years ended, McKinlay auditioned for the Jackson tour and was accepted. Now, he has embarked on a journey that has seen him going from the 2000 person crowds of the LOVE shows to crowds of over 10,000 on this tour.

“It’s a really thrilling experience,” he said, noting the Jackson tour is the largest touring show Cirque du Soleil has done and is among the largest touring shows ever, with 65 performers and an additional 155 people behind the scenes.

That big of a show did not just come together, and McKinlay said there were four months of “creation” before the tour hit the road.  For those four months, the cast worked 9 a.m. to 11 p.m. six days a week to get things perfect. “It’s go, go, go all the time,” he said. “We spent days and days learning to do Michael Jackson’s stuff.”

He explained audiences know Jackson’s dance moves, so the dancers had to be perfect. “It’s almost his own dance form,” McKinlay said, adding several songs have a specific look and moves associated with them.

One of those in which McKinlay dances is Smooth Criminal, which includes Jackson’s patented lean technique. “That one I wanted to do, that lean,” he said, before explaining Jackson had patented special shoes that hook to the stage.

That isn’t McKinlay’s only dance, as he said he’s in many parts of the show, doing 10-12 quick changes a night. Still, as busy as the preparation was, and as busy as the shows keep him, McKinlay is thrilled to be a part of it all.

“It’s fun. I love it,” he said. “It’s kind of a rock star lifestyle. Cirque takes care of us.

“I wouldn’t have ever thought this would be my life.”

© 2011 , Sun Media Corporation

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