Introducing Makensie Henson: Australia's rising talent
You only have to watch Makensie Henson dancing for a minute or two before it becomes undeniably clear that the sixteen-year-old has talent. With endlessly long limbs, supple feet, an elegant neck and a beautifully expressive face, the Brisbane native looks like she was moulded for the ballet world - a compatibility that doesn't end with just her physique. In September 2016 Makensie jetted off to London to accept her place at the illustrious Royal Ballet School.
Living away from home at such a young age is no easy sacrifice, no matter the prospects on offer, but despite the challenges, Makensie seems particularly conscious of the people in her life who have made this journey possible. "I am very lucky to have such a supportive group of people, from my teachers and peers, to my parents and family that surround me every day," she says. "I honestly don’t know what I would do without them."
Her results in some of the most internationally renowned dance competitions (a Genée Bronze Medalist, Prix de Lausanne Finalist and Youth America Grand Prix Bronze Medalist to name just a few) only further affirm the promise of a bright future for Makensie.
At fourteen, the Prudence Bowen Atelier student's training had already necessitated one move: her family relocated to the Gold Coast so Makensie could commence full-time studies under the tutelage of Prudence Bowen and Heidi Landford. This commitment has been rewarded tenfold through her selection by the Royal Ballet School, an institution that only selects a limited number of full-time students out of the hundreds that apply worldwide each year.
Now the ambitious youngster is pursuing her dreams in London, away from the comforts of home.
We sat down with Makensie to hear a little more about her dance life and aspirations, as well as her advice for fellow dance students.
E: When did your dance journey begin?
M: My dance journey began when I was four years old. My mum enrolled me in a ballet class as I enjoyed music so much. She felt it was a good way for me to meet new friends and have fun.
E: What part of dance do you find the most challenging?
M: The most challenging part of dance for me is visualising myself as a character. I try and research the character I am portraying and make a connection with them. It is such a rewarding feeling when I achieve my goal, whether it is in the studio or on stage.
E: Bare foot or pointe shoes?
M: Pointe shoes, definitely.
E: At what point did you know you wanted to pursue dance as a career and were there ever any other possible careers you were interested in?
M: At the age of 11, I was invited to attend summer school at Prudence Bowen Atelier on the Gold Coast. It was an amazing week where I was fortunate enough to train under the guidance of world-class teachers. Miss Bowen offered me a place in her part time programme soon after and this is where my dream to become a professional ballerina first seemed possible. Miss Bowen, Miss Heidi and Miss Nicole gave me the faith to believe in myself and follow my heart.
I have always loved the arts and enjoyed playing musical instruments, so I could have definitely seen myself as a musician.
E: Which artists and performers inspire you?
M: Definitely Sylvie Guillem, Marianela Nunez, and Dorothee Gilbert inspire me as they all have such different qualities but are all incredibly unique. I believe as a dancer you need to be yourself and not try and fit into someone else’s shoes.
E: At the Alana Haines Australasian Awards in April 2015, you were a Supreme A Finalist and won a three week scholarship to the John Cranko School in Stuttgart Germany. What was that experience like?
M: The Alana Haines Awards was such a wonderful experience and definitely a lot of fun. I felt very privileged to be a finalist and was awarded a three week scholarship as a result. The time I spent at the John Cranko school was inspiring; the teachers and students made me feel very welcome and I definitely learnt a lot about myself during this time.
E: What other moments stand out as dance highlights for you so far?
M: Highlights for me include being selected as a finalist at the 2016 Prix de Lausanne and receiving the Bronze Medal in the Senior Women’s Division at the recent Youth America Grand Prix. Winning the Bronze Medal at the 2015 International Genée Ballet Competition was also a highlight.
I also feel very humbled to have been asked to speak at the recent Join Hands for Genée event (launched by The Royal Academy of Dance) for this year's Genée competition held in December.
E: Any hidden talents?
M: Hmmm, I’m really good at hula hooping!
E: How would you describe your fashion style?
M: I try to keep my life simple and this is the same for my wardrobe. Timeless pieces that never date, are easy to wear and suit any occasion.
E: Which do you prefer: class-work or performance?
M: I have to say I enjoy both, but in different ways. Class work helps me improve my technique and challenge myself on a daily basis to reach personal goals. Performing, however, is like a reward for all the hard work I have put into myself and my art. I get to share with the audience my love for ballet.
E: What health/fitness regime do you follow to keep your body in tip-top shape?
M: To be honest, I feel very lucky that I don’t have to worry too much about what I eat. I do try to stick to a healthy diet that is going to fuel my body with the necessary nutrients to manage my workload. I attend Pilates each week and ensure I roll out and stretch my muscles at the end of a busy day. I also enjoy spending quality time with friends and younger siblings, swimming and going to the beach.
E: What makes you laugh?
M: My friends always make me laugh, along with my dogs and family.
E: Favourite warm-up stretch?
M: My favourite warm-up stretch would have to be stretching my feet. It ensures they are ready for a busy day.
E: What keeps you motivated when you’re feeling tired or rundown?
M: When I’m tired or rundown I always think to myself, “Look how far I have come!" It makes me smile and remember that life is a journey and we should enjoy it, even the hurdles.
E: Describe your personality in three words.
M: Determined, loyal, and caring.
E: Dream company?
M: The Royal Ballet would be a dream, but I would be happy with any opportunity to do what I love.
E: The best book you’ve read this year?
M: That would have to be 'Never Evers' by Tom Ellen. Such a good read.
E: If your life was a movie, who would you want to play you?
M: Rose Byrne. She's so versatile and elegant.
E: Favourite food?
M: Haloumi cheese!
E: What are you looking forward to right now?
M: Right now I am looking forward to soaking in a hot bath with my Lush Bath Bombs.
E: Where do you see yourself in five years?
M: In five years I hope to see myself employed and dancing in a ballet company in the United Kingdom or Europe, enjoying life and every opportunity that is presented to me.
E: Finally, what’s the best piece of advice you could offer to other aspiring young dancers?
M: If you believe in yourself then anything is possible. My ballet teacher once told me if I put on my 'Dragonfly Wings' I could go anywhere I chose.
To learn more about Makensie, see her Ambassador profile on our website or follow her inspiring dance journey here with us at Energetiks.