Penticton ballerina balancing school and dance

Dancer Madison Mackenzie of Penticton following her dream at Canada's National Ballet School.

Madison Mackenzie (right) was inspired by her older sister

Madison Mackenzie (right) was inspired by her older sister

For over 50 years thousands of amazing dancers have walked through the doors of Canada’s National Ballet School, and now it is one Penticton girl’s turn.

Madison Mackenzie, who had been studying at Okanagan Dance Studios in Penticton, was one of eight 12-year-olds chosen during the auditions for the prestigious program in Toronto. It is a dream come true for the girl who has been dancing since she was three years old, following in the footsteps of her older sister Taylor Mackenzie.

Madison is joining dancers from all over the world who attend the full-time professional program, where they divide their time between school and dance training. She is in school from 8:30 a.m. to noon, does a ballet class, goes back to school for a class, then finishes the day with a dance class. While ballet is not the only style the students learn, it is Madison’s favourite.

“I feel I can really express myself when I do ballet. It makes me feel really good because it feels so natural and it is so much fun to be able to dance everyday,” said Madison. “It just makes me feel great and I love it.”

Established in 1959, Canada’s National Ballet School is one of the world’s foremost training institutions for aspiring young dancers and teachers. The school is the only ballet academy in North America to provide elite dance training, academic instruction and residential care on the same campus. A progressive curriculum, with its emphasis on the physical and emotional well-being of the student, has put NBS at the forefront of dance training internationally. It has produced elite dancers like Karen Kain, who after graduating was invited to join the National Ballet of Canada. She is a dancer Madison looks up to.

“She is very interesting and kind of like me. Karen Kain had a goal to be a professional ballerina. It was her dream and she made it happen. That is my dream and I am working to make it happen,” said Madison.

The Penticton dancer  had auditioned for the ballet school the previous year and was accepted but felt she wasn’t ready to leave her family.

This summer when she was accepted she felt the timing was right, a scholarship to the school has helped make it all possible.

At the end of each academic year, the students progress is tested and if they continue to excel, they have the option of returning the next year. Graduates of the program have the opportunity to develop full-time dance careers, as the school is affiliated with ballet companies and institutions around the world.

Madison isn’t quite looking that far ahead just yet, but she is excited to be at the school, in Toronto and is looking forward to performing the Nutcracker this Christmas before returning home to spend the holidays with her family and friends. While her mom Laurie said it was hard to let her daughter move so far away, she knew Mackenzie had a passion for dancing at a very young age.

“It’s tough. But I have to let her follow her dream,” said Laurie.