theGrio’s 100: Brooklyn Mack, dancer taking the lead at The Washington Ballet

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Maki Onuki and Brooklyn Mack dance in 'Giselle'

Maki Onuki and Brooklyn Mack dance in 'Giselle.' (Photo by Paul Wegner. Courtesy of The Washington Ballet.)

Who is Brooklyn Mack?

Principal dancer at The Washington Ballet Brooklyn Mack has recently made his debut in the leading male role of Albrecht in the classical ballet Giselle — no small feat for a young man from Elgin, SC whose first love was football. Now in his fifth year with this major ballet company, he has also danced with other prominent companies internationally and nationally, including Latvian National Ballet and Orlando ballet.

Why is he on theGrio’s 100?

Mack thrills audiences with his athletic performances, which are full of gravity-defying leaps and muscular leg extensions, while also touching the soul through the subtlety of his renditions.

In 2012 he won gold at the International Ballet Competition in Varna, Bulgaria for his series of stunning presentations, which varied from the acrobatic, to the sensitive. The Washington Post reported that this win put, “Mack in rare company, as few Americans have won gold medals at the venerable competition.” Additionally, “Mack is likely also the first African[-]American to win in Varna,” the paper stated.

This accolade is one of many for the dance world star, which also include Mack’s 2007 Princess Grace Fellowship Award. In addition to these professional plaudits, his ability to inspire crowds while winning artistic merits makes Brooklyn Mack one of the outstanding dancers of our time. As an African-American leading man in ballet gaining mainstream recognition for his talents, Brooklyn Mack is a rare phenomenon.

What’s next for Mack?

Mack will continue to exemplify excellence in dance while paving a way for more African-American dancers to receive support in ballet. Of being a black ballet dancer, Mack told NPR: “I think it poses a challenge for all African-Americans. I mean there’s still so many barriers and stupid lingering stereotypes and misconceptions,” noting that some believe, “blacks can’t do ballet because their bodies just physically can’t conform to the constraints of the aesthetic restrictions of ballet.”

Mack called beliefs such as these, “a lot of barriers… that need to be broken,” adding, “that’s what I’m trying to do out here right now.” If he keeps reaching the stars with his breathtaking leaps and seemingly effortless pirouettes, he will certainly defy all stereotypes.

Mack is currently in rehearsal for The Washington Ballet’s coming presentation, The Jazz/Blues Project, which opens in previews on January 29, and runs through February 2, 2014.

Follow Brooklyn Mack on Twitter at @BMack805