Dance Spotlight: Isabel Macgill

Isabel Macgill, 17, has been dancing since she was three years old, and moved from Savannah, GA to study in the Colburn Dance Academy. This is her second year here. On Saturday, October 7, Isabel and some of her classmates will be performing Benjamin Millepied’s original ballet Steppin’ Out at the L.A. Dance Project’s 2017 gala celebrating their new home in downtown Los Angeles. Steppin’ Out was originally choreographed by Mr. Millepied, Dance Academy Artistic Advisor and Founding Artistic Director of LADP, on Colburn Dance Academy class 3 for our gala, Celebrate Colburn 2017. (Photo: Kenneth B. Edwards)

This interview has been lightly edited for style, content, and clarity.

Why did you decide to study at Colburn?
The faculty is pretty amazing. Jenifer [Ringer] and James [Fayette] have an incredible reputation in the ballet world and I was drawn to the fact that it’s a really small class, so it allows each of us to get a lot of individual attention. It’s a very intimate atmosphere, but we still get world-class training and really amazing experiences. It’s a great mix.

What’s your favorite thing at Colburn that you’ve done?
When Benjamin Millepied choreographed Steppin’ Out on us for the Colburn gala last year, that was pretty amazing. The whole experience of being in the studio with the choreographer while he’s choreographing a ballet and being so closely involved with that creative process—there’s not anything like it. It’s such a rare thing, especially as a student, to be able to have an original ballet choreographed on you, especially when it’s a choreographer like Benjamin Millepied, who’s pretty sought-after.

The ballet is set to music by Irving Berlin, The Great American Songbook, so it’s really jazzy, and not strictly classical ballet at all. It’s so high energy, and really fun for all of us to dance. It was a great opportunity to explore a different side of dance and, I mean, performing at Walt Disney Concert Hall–it doesn’t get much better than that.

What’s it like being invited to perform it again for LADP’s gala on Saturday?
It’s been really fun for us to revisit it. It’s new students—there are only three of us who were here last year and performed it then, so it’s been really a fun and interesting experience to have new people stepping into the roles. It creates a different environment for the ballet. Every dancer is different so it’s been fun exploring little changes in the ballet, especially our relationships with each other.

What’s one piece of advice you’d give to a student who wants to study here?
You should definitely audition and apply and go for it because it’s an amazing place. It can be kind of intimidating to move across the country and start training with such talented people, both the other dancers and our teachers, but it’s a really great program and they really care about you.

What’s something else you do in LA besides dance?
There are two things. Recently, one of my friends and I have gotten into hiking. We went to Temescal Canyon once, out by Malibu and the Pacific Palisades. That was really beautiful and we had a great time.  We also love going to different restaurants. There’s a pretty amazing food scene here, so that’s pretty fun. Sugarfish is my favorite restaurant, so good. It’s a special treat.

What kinds of dance classes do you take here, and how has the experience changed from last year?
Every morning we have a technique class, then we’ll have a pointe class, and sometimes we’ll learn variations, little pieces from choreographed ballets—that’s always really fun. We also have a repertory class with Jenifer once a week. It’s the girls and the guys combined, and she teaches us excerpts from ballets that are performed by professional companies. Last year we did excerpts from a Jerome Robbins ballet in that class and we’ve done excerpts from Balanchine ballets, so it’s really fun to get to experience what a company member would be doing.

It’s been really good so far this year. It’s nice to have fresh faces and different people in class with different strengths and weaknesses because you can be pushed in a different way by someone who’s great at one thing. The change has been good in that aspect.

What’s next for you?
I’m a senior in high school so the transition can be a little difficult, because there’s not really a specific path that you have to follow to becoming a professional dancer. It’s kind of just a “see what happens” type scenario. I am of the mindset that I don’t care where I am as long as I’m dancing, so I’m going to try for anything and everything: companies, trainee positions, second companies, apprenticeships.

The weekly Saturday Spotlight series highlights our outstanding faculty and staff from across the school. Read other spotlight interviews.