Great Oak senior becomes televised national dancer on ‘So You Think You Can Dance’
Friday, September 13th, 2013
Issue 37, Volume 17.
Makenzie began her journey on the "So You Think You Can Dance" stage when she auditioned in March under unlikely circumstances.
"I didn’t want to do it," Makenzie said of her preliminary audition in Los Angeles.
Always imagining her dance
career beginning with company work, dancing on television was a different direction than what she had in mind. However, having made the age cut off (18) just a week before, and with encouragement from her mother, she decided to audition.
"I didn’t want to regret [not doing] it," said Makenzie. Stunning the judges, she made it through every round until she was selected as one of the top 20 dancers to be featured on the weekly show.
Makenzie’s dream of a dance career has been in the works for quite longer, though. She began dancing at the age of two as a medium to let out her energy, and since then, has trained in the styles of jazz, ballet, lyrical, hip-hop, modern, pointe, and tap.
"Dance is my first passion," says Makenzie, "but it wasn’t just dance that I wanted to do, I wanted to perform."
Makenzie dances with local studio Murrieta Dance Project and looks back on her training as giving her a lot of structure and etiquette. Always in the studio, Makenzie never had a lot of free time, but she feels this had a positive outcome in her life because it always gave her a path to follow.
"It’s made me fearless," says Makenzie.
That confidence, mixed with flawless technique and poise, is what carried her through the rigorous training schedule of the show. With seven hours to learn her duet, and weekends dedicated to practicing group routines, one of the biggest challenges was overcoming physical exhaustion. The day the show was filmed, the dancers would report to CBS studios at 5:30 a.m., having dress rehearsals and practices until the show began at 5 p.m.
Makenzie suffered one significant injury while she was on the show, having pulled her groin muscle during a routine for notoriously demanding choreographer Sonya Tayeh.
"Trying to keep an open mind and stay positive" was one of the most challenging parts of her experience. The show proved to also challenge her emotionally, especially while facing potential elimination of notonly herself, but the other dancers as well, which Makenzie says was the most unexpected part of her experience.
Makenzie’s favorite routine was a contemporary number choreographed by Stacey Tookey, featuring the top six female dancers depicting the struggle to achieve eternal youth, set to Lana Del Ray’s "Young and Beautiful." Makenzie enjoyed working with Tookey the most because she admired her "work ethic and style."
Makenzie was responsible for choreographing her own audition piece and solos. However, this wasn’t her first experiencing doing so. Makenzie choreographed material for herself and for younger students at her local studio. Angela Criscimanga, Makenzie’s varsity dance team coach of which she was team captain, also said that choreography Makenzie made as early as her freshman year is still drawn from to create material now. In that way, Criscimanga said, "[Makenzie] would work with other members of the team, underclassmen, and was definitely a mentor and I feel like she was a good leader."
"She grew in a lot of ways, as a dancer, performer, and choreographer," says Criscimanga, "and although [the dance world] was where she was most visible, she was also active in WSB (Wolfpack Student Body) and a lot in the community."
Had Makenzie not auditioned for the show, she would be on her way to Chapman University working toward a major in dance.
"It’s completely changed my direction," Makenzie says of the show. "Not only my dance career has boosted, but also my confidence. I want to do everything I can now that [I have the opportunity]."
Makenzie will be taking time off before she starts school again to pursue her career. She is now modeling for Discount Dance Supply and Urban Dancewear, and is considering representation to move into acting. She will also be going on the "So You Think You Can Dance" 2013 Tour, which will feature the top 10 dancers, kicking off Oct. 1 and hitting 42 destinations in all.
When asked if she thought taking time off of school, a less conventional post-high school route, was risky, she said, "It makes me a little nervous but at the same time I feel like this is what I was born to do."
Makenzie’s dream job is to dance back up for headlining artists such as Beyonce or Justin Bieber.
And how will she accomplish that?
"Don’t let fear win," says Makenzie. "Have a good energy people want to work with."
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