Meghann McKinnon knows just where she’s going.
This week, for instance, she’s heading to the U.S. for an intensive six-week training program in classical ballet with the Boston Ballet School’s international faculty.
The pre-professional program is a prestigious placement she won for herself by auditioning,
But for the determined and voluble McKinnon, 15, it’s just another step down a lifetime path of making a career of dance – either as a performing ballerina if the right breaks come her way, or as a teacher.
“I’m really excited,” she said, noting this is not the first time she has trained far from home – three years ago she attended the National Ballet School in Toronto.
“That was really fun,” she said. “That was my first year travelling – it was a great experience and I’d love to do it again.”
Getting in to the Boston program is definitely a feather in her cap.
“It’s a really good school. I have friends (in dancing) who’ve gone there before who’ve spoken highly of it and recommended it to me. And my dance teacher tells us to audition for as many things as possible, because it’s good experience.”
The award-winning dancer (she started when she was only four years old) has just completed her Grade 10 year at Elgin Park Secondary and managed to maintain a high B average through the first three years of high school.
That’s even though she has missed afternoon classes two or three days a week to attend the half day program at Richmond Academy of Dance, where she trains some 30 hours per week.
This fall she is transferring to Vancouver’s Magee Secondary School for the balance of her high school years, thanks to the schools sports and arts program, which will allow her to put in a full school day starting at 7:30 a.m. and ending at 12:30 p.m. – followed by dance at the Richmond Academy from 1:30 p.m. to past 7 p.m. each night.
If that sounds like a grueling schedule, consider that she also dances a full day on Saturdays leaving Sundays for homework and catching up on sleep.
But any attempt to characterize it as daunting is cheerfully brushed aside by McKinnon, who has also somehow found time to take voice and acting lessons as well as be actively involved with the Girl Guides and take Pilates classes.
“I hear its a pretty nice bus ride to Magee, so it should be straightforward, but the only thing about it is I will have to get up really early, which will be interesting for me because I sleep in,” she said.
McKinnon said she also loves cooking – particularly baking.
“It’s one of my favourite things. Whenever I’m getting together with friends, they all ask ‘are you making some food to bring?’ “
But there seems little doubt that McKinnon, who has two older sisters and an older brother, is driven by her passion for dance.
Her sisters both danced, and her mother, Heather, was six months pregnant with Meghann when she herself danced as part of the ‘mom’s group’ at a year-end recital.
But Meghann has taken it further than both of her sisters, routinely placing in all of her categories in the annual ritual of spring dance festivals.
Dance has always seemed to be part of her life, she acknowledges.
“But I think it was about when I was in Grade 5 or 6 that I really fell in love with it,” she said, noting she remembers the definitive moment as when she attended a performance of the Royal Winnipeg Ballet’s tour of Sleeping Beauty.
“That’s when I really decided ‘this is what I’m going to do with my life’,” she added.
Although she has explored and still does all forms of dance, ballet is still number one for her.
“I don’t know what I would do without it all,” she said. “
Dance is a way of expressing yourself through your every movement.
“I would love to join a (dance) company when I graduate. That doesn’t always happen, and if it doesn’t happen, I would definitely teach. After high school I’ll audition for multiple ballet schools: the National Ballet, the Royal Winnipeg Ballet, possibly San Francisco and see what happens.
“Whatever happens I’ll keep the dance going, keep the training up.”