2012-10-05 / People


Cape youth hones passion for dance
By Jack Flagler
Staff Writer

Lily Mackenzie Lily Mackenzie Lily Mackenzie started ballet when she was about 2 years old, when her mom signed her up for classes at Cape Elizabeth Community Services.

At that age, most of the children in the class “basically ran around in a circle in the gym,” Lily Mackenzie said.

The classes focused more on getting young children active and instilling a love for dance at an early age, but Lily’s mom, Christine Mackenzie, said her daughter wanted more out of it.

Christine Mackenzie said she remembers one class in which the dance teacher had the students hop around in class like a bunny and eat pretend carrots off the floor. That wasn’t quite enough for Lily Mackenzie, now 13 and an eighth grader at Cape Elizabeth Middle School. She wanted to move on to more advanced techniques, even at a young age.

“Lily would say, ‘When do I get to do pliés?’ I don’t want to hop like a bunny. Even the dance teacher said, ‘I don’t have any 3-year-olds that know what a demi-plié is,’ but somehow she did,” Christine Mackenzie said.

Lily Mackenzie has been a ballet dancer ever since. She has taken classes at the Maine State Ballet in Falmouth since she was in first grade, and will appear in the ballet’s upcoming performance of “Can-Can Parisien” this month.

The story of “Can-Can Parisien,” Lily Mackenzie said, is a “classic” about a small French café, the people who frequent it and their interactions with merchants selling gloves or flowers, as well as the “can-can” dancers. She plays a maid, hurrying to clean up as the curtain opens. Lily Mackenzie and the rest of the performers in the scene learned choreography for her dance, she said, “in two or three days.”

The one-act play is a completely different experience for a performer than, for example, “The Nutcracker Suite,” which she has performed in for eight years, Lily Mackenzie said.

“It’s definitely a lot more projected to the audience, whereas the Nutcracker is much more about the story and explaining everything. This is over the top, you just try to be as silly as possible for the audience.”

When Lily Mackenzie is confident in the steps she’s learned, she looks into the audience to find her family and friends to see the reactions on their faces to the performance. Christine Mackenzie said the performances are especially fun for her because without a background in dance, seeing her daughter on stage helps her understand what otherwise might have gone over her head.

“I honestly don’t know anything about it,” Christine Mackenzie said. “Sometimes I think that’s OK, Lily will always have things to share with me ‘cause I’ll never know what it’s like to do it.”

Lily Mackenzie also doesn’t mind talking to her mom about ballet, even if Christine Mackenzie is a novice.

“Usually it’s just me jabbering on about what happened that day or something that I did that I’m super excited about, and it’s cool cause she’ll just listen,” Lily Mackenzie said.

Her brother, Michael Mackenzie, 11, also dances with Maine State Ballet. Christine Mackenzie said her son picked up on the passion his older sister has for dance, but has been helped by support not just from her, but the entire older group of dancers at the school.

Lily Mackenzie said she has also benefited from being in an environment with professionals. She said she wants to pursue dance through high school and, hopefully beyond. Being around professional ballet dancers at Maine State Ballet has taught her about the work ethic needed to excel at dance as a career.

“I didn’t know what I wanted to do at 13, but I wasn’t around professionals in what I might want to do,” Christine Mackenzie said.

“It all pays out in the end,” Lily Mackenzie added.

“Can-Can Parisien” opens Saturday, Oct. 6, with performances at 1 and 4 p.m. It also runs the following weekend, on Friday, Oct. 12 at 7 p.m. and Saturday, Oct. 13 at 1 and 4 p.m. Ticket prices are between $15 and $20, and they can be purchased online at mainestateballet.org or over the phone at 781-3587.

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