Get to know McKenzie Thomas, the Colorado native now dancing in her home state with Colorado Ballet. Find out about her training at Master Ballet Academy, her interesting connection to Wendy Whelan, and learn how she's keeping busy in quarantine!
Name: McKenzie Thomas
Where are you from? Monument, CO
Where do you currently dance? Colorado Ballet
Favorite roles/ballets performed: Sugar Plum Fairy,The Nutcracker; Don Quixote; Serenade
Dream roles/ballets: Kitri, Don Quixote; Juliet, Romeo and Juliet
How did you get your start in dance? Where did you train?
I started dancing at the age of three at a small studio in my hometown called, The Sundance Studio, where I danced for about fourteen years. I was a very competitive dancer. At around age fifteen, I started getting very serious about classical ballet, and I knew I wanted to pursue that as a career. So, I then switched schools to a school called, Samuel Ballet School, where I trained for two and half years in classical ballet. Let's just say I had a lot of work to do! I was really behind other girls who had been training for years in classical ballet. Here I am, fifteen years old, just starting out in ballet; but, I had a goal, and I wanted to reach it.
In the summer of 2017, I went to Master Ballet Academy for their Summer Intensive, and I fell even more in love with ballet. I knew from that moment, that I had to train there. So I talked with my parents, and they were so supportive of me. I moved out there with my grandpa, and I trained for two and a half years. It was the best decision I've ever made.
When I was with Master Ballet Academy, I had so many amazing opportunities. I got to perform in the YAGP Masters and Youth Gala in California, where I got to dance along side amazing dancers and also principal dancers from The Bolshoi Ballet, which was a really cool experience. I also got to guest in New York for Nutcracker with some of my amazing classmates. I got to perform Nutcracker in Sedona with MBA, and I also got to perform in another gala held by Phoenix Ballet, which had dancers from all over the world. I just got so many amazing opportunities that I will cherish forever.
What was the path that led you to dancing with Colorado Ballet’s Studio Company?
I ended up getting to that stage where you have to start auditioning for companies. So, I was looking up tons of different companies that I wanted to audition for, and Colorado was one of them. They had an open audition, so I went to their open audition and got called to stay afterward. I got offered the job that day; I knew it was meant to be! It was the first company I auditioned for, and I got offered the job. So I took it, and here I am! I'm loving it so much.
Tell us a little bit about your experience with the company, so far!
My experience with the company, so far, has been really great. I've gotten so many opportunities to perform, and I feel like I'm growing each and every day as a dancer. It's really great being surrounded by so many talented artists.
McKenzie Thomas © Katherine Marie Photography
I know you are currently recovering from a recent hip surgery. What kind of injury did you have, and how has the healing process been?
I've had on and off hip pain for about three years, and I didn't know exactly what was causing it. The pain wasn't that bad, but gradually, over the years, it's gotten worse. I would go to physical therapy for it, and it would help me a lot. Sometimes I would have no pain, some days I would have a lot of pain. So, I ended up getting an MRI, and it turned out I had a torn labrum caused by the genetic shape of my femoral head. I ended up having to get surgery for it. I was thankful to get it done by one of the best doctors in the world, Dr. Philippon, with Vail Medical Center/The Steadman Clinic. He totally fixed my hip just through two little, tiny incisions. He has done so many profession athletes, and he also did Wendy Whelan's hip! I'm recovering super fast, and I should be doing ballet barre within the next couple weeks. Yay!
McKenzie Thomas © Francisco Estevez
I know you have a huge presence on social media with your successful ballet Instagram account, @tutumuchballet! How did you come up with the idea to create it, and what do you love most about it?
So, it's pretty funny... I started that account in 2015, just wanting to post other dancers on a page kind of like @worldwideballet. It was all just for fun to try and promote the arts and other dancers, and I didn't know it was going to grow as big as it's gotten! It's crazy, and people seem to love it, which is really cool. What I love most about it is how I'm just able to share the passion of ballet through that account. I'm also thinking of trying to start a product line, but I'm not really sure yet. So, I'm trying to figure that out... but it's definitely going to be happening in the near future, so stay tuned for that!
What are your favorite dancewear brands? Do you have any collaborations or partnerships with any of them?
I am a SoDanca Ambassador, and I've also modeled for their catalogs. They are probably one of my favorite dance wear brands. From their leotards to to their ballet flats, all of their products are super high quality. I have a lot of other favorite dance wear brands; I really love Eleve, and Luckyleo Dancewear. I could just go on and on! But definitely SoDanca would be my favorite.
What’s next for McKenzie? What are your short term and long term plans/goals?
I'm going to be going to Arizona to start training again and just continuing lots of physical therapy and gaining my strength back. My short term goal would be getting back to where I was and getting back to dancing. My long term goal I have is to one day become a principal dancer. I know I can reach that with lots of hard work and dedication.
McKenzie Thomas © Francisco Estevez
I ended up coloring these beautiful [Dahlia] pink shoes. I really want to use them in a photo shoot because they're just so beautiful, and the color turned out so pretty and smooth! I love it! I highly recommend using PointePeople Pointe Paint. I would love to try some of their more basic colors because I'm sure those would come out so smoothly.
Now for some Quarantine Q&A!
How are you staying active, both mentally and physically, during quarantine?
Since I'm recovering, I'm doing a lot of physical therapy. Thankfully, my physical therapist is still open, so I've been going to P.T. a lot. [I'm doing] a lot of exercises at home, a lot of ab work, and stretching and strengthening my feet. Mentally, I'm just spending a lot of time with family, which is nice. I like baking and reading, so that's been kind of nice to do some things that I normally wouldn't have much time to do in my normal schedule.
What’s been the most challenging part of self isolation for you?
Not being able to go out and see my friends, or even going and sitting down in a restaurant. It's kind of crazy how we take those things for granted, and it's really weird not being able to do that stuff. Hopefully, soon, we'll be able to do that again.
Do you have any other hobbies/interests?
I really enjoy hiking, swimming, biking, spin classes, snowmobiling, skiing, and walking my dog. Those are all really fun to me. I also enjoy spending time with my family, boyfriend, and my friends... and shopping and eating!
What is something interesting that people might not know about you?
I used to do karate, and I used to do competitions. I was a state champion, and I beat boys! People don't really see me as a "tough girl" I guess you could say, but I really am.