June 2015

Brooklyn Mack

Ballet Star

Brooklyn Mack has gone from Elgin, South Carolina to the pinnacle of international ballet.

Born in 1987, he is the first African American man to win a senior gold medal at the Varna International Ballet Competition in Varna, Bulgaria — the oldest professional ballet competition in the world. The recognition, in the 2012 competition, came after a series of other high-profile awards, including the 2005 Kirsti Paakenen Encouragement Prize; the 2006 USA International Ballet Competition Silver Medal; the 2007 Princess Grace Awards Fellowship Winner; Silver Prize at the 2009 Helsinki International Ballet Competition; the 2011 Boston International Ballet Competition Bronze Medal and Mariu Leipa Prize; and the 2011 Korean International Dance Competition’s Silver Medal.

Mack did not initially set out to become one of the world’s best dancers when he began dance training at the age of 12 with the Pavlovich Dance School under Radenko Pavlovich and Milena Leben in Columbia, SC. Initially interested in football, Mack started taking ballet lessons to improve his game and as a bargaining chip to get his mom to agree to let him play football. In the process, Mack realized how much he enjoyed ballet dancing and, by age 15, took up ballet full-time. He attended the prestigious Kirov Academy of Ballet in Washington, D.C., on a full scholarship. Afterwards, he joined the Joffrey Ballet in Chicago as an apprentice; in 2005, he joined the American Ballet Theater Studio Company in New York City; and, in 2006 the Orlando Ballet in Florida. After three seasons in Florida, he joined The Washington Ballet, where he was chosen the lead dancer at age 25.

Mack often visits South Carolina and shares his experiences and expertise with school children. Each year he participates in the Life Chance Gala, a classical ballet fundraiser in Columbia, SC, to benefit such charities as the Harvest Hope Food Bank