“My mom originally put me in ballet because she thought I’d look cute in the leotard,” 17-year-old Colleen McKenzie says. With her dad in the military, Colleen McKenzie has called many places home. She started dancing at age 3 while the family was stationed in Germany. Over the years she’s danced at seven different dance schools in many different states.
“The more I did it [danced], the more I liked it,” she admits. She tried lots of other activities from soccer to tennis but always made the decision to stop for ballet.
The family returned to the east coast states for a while before they moving to Hawaii for a year. While there, Colleen learned about Kansas City Ballet School through Pointe Magazine and auditioned for the Summer Intensive in 2017 via a video audition. She was accepted to the program but decided not attend.
KCBS DAYTIME PROGRAM
She also learned about Kansas City Ballet School’s Daytime Program, where students who are serious about ballet can spend their daytime hours focused on dancing while doing their academic schooling online in the evenings. That sounded like a great opportunity, so she reached out about enrollment. They still had her audition video and accepted her.
“Coming here I just knew I was going to like it,” Colleen remembers. “It’s a small, big city. And the way KC supports the arts is really cool. It feels like a safe city and like home.”
In addition to the Daytime Program, Colleen auditioned for the student performing ensemble for KCBS, Kansas City Youth Ballet. Since the spring of 2018 to spring 2019 she was part of KCYB. “I’ve really liked it. Last year I was a demi-soloist and part of a pas de deux (dance for two). This past fall, I was in corps roles. I really liked working as one group.” She danced a special soloist role in Pharaoh’s Daughter.
YOUTH AMERICA GRAND PRIX
Colleen also trained for Youth America Grand Prix (YAGP). YAGP held their regional semi-final competition in KC for the second time this past spring.
This year Lamin Pereira dos Santos, a member of Kansas City Ballet’s professional company coached her. “He could pass his experience to me,” she says. Lamin competed in YAGP growing up. “I like the process of working on something and then performing it,” Colleen admits. “The process is the reason for me. That and taking masterclasses.”
FROM STUDENT TO TRAINEE
Her hard work paid off.
Kansas City Ballet’s Artistic Director Devon Carney selected Colleen to join the Trainee Program, which is part of Kansas City Ballet’s Second Company. Her new role begins in August.
In the meantime, she’s taking part in KCBS’s Summer Intensive program.
“I’m really excited for next year. It’s a great opportunity and so fun,” Colleen confesses.
And as a Trainee, she’ll have opportunities to perform in the community and even in company shows at the Kauffman Center for the Performing Arts.
In 2018, Colleen was given the chance to dance more advanced roles in The Nutcracker including dancing in the snow scene and also as a “Flower” in addition to an “Angel” role — a role typically given to the older students.
“It was Amazing! It was really cool getting to dance with so many talented dancers,” she exclaims. “There were seven casts. So dancing with someone new every night was normal
“I love classical ballet. I just really love it here,” says Colleen.
She now calls KC home while her family resides in Virginia.