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Rising Stars: Meet Madeline McMillin

Today we’d like to introduce you to Madeline McMillin.

Hi Madeline, thanks for joining us today. We’d love for you to start by introducing yourself.
I started ballet lessons at the age of three in Plano, Texas. I continued to pursue ballet from that point on, commuting all over the Dallas-Fort Worth area to receive diverse training. I spent two years at the renowned Booker T. Washington High School for the Performing and Visual Arts in Downtown Dallas where I was exposed to a whole new way of moving and experiencing dance.

At Booker T. I learned to hone my technique in modern dance and embrace my individualism. Those formative experiences with like-minded, free-spirited classmates shaped the person I am today and taught me confidence. At the age of 16, I had determined that I needed to complete my dance training at a school affiliated with a ballet company in order to pursue my dream of becoming a professional ballet dancer. I was accepted into the Professional Division of Pacific Northwest Ballet after attending the summer course in 2014. I completed high school remotely while training intensely in Seattle for two years. My first experiences those years rehearsing and performing with a professional company were very much a sink or swim situation of catching up and adapting to the specific skills of dancing in a Corps de Ballet. Those years I experienced high highs and very low lows as I navigated casting, auditions, and living on my own. I spent four years at a Trainee level position with three different companies until finally receiving a company dancer position at Los Angeles Ballet in 2018.

Can you talk to us a bit about the challenges and lessons you’ve learned along the way. Looking back would you say it’s been easy or smooth in retrospect?
I was very focused at a young age on a specific path that I envisioned for myself. I had tunnel vision. Once life started to stray from that path, I became anxious and depressed. I was single-minded in how I expected things to turn out. I thought if I put in the work, showed up everyday, worked the hardest, and progressed the most then I would achieve the result, but that isn’t how the world works. So much is out of our control and more than ever with the global pandemic this past year, I had to learn to let go of expectations and get to the root of being an artist without the external accomplishments I spent so long validating myself by. This extended time off from performing with a ballet company can have the effect of making you get used to a life without dance or alternatively make you realize how much you need it in your life. I have gotten to a place where I recognize how much I want it in my life, but I can also find happiness and fulfillment from other forms of art. Now I feel empowered to be in a ballet class on my own terms as my choice and desire to be there, not out of that being my only option to dance or be artistic.

Thanks – so what else should our readers know about your work and what you’re currently focused on?
After abruptly ending my third season with Los Angeles Ballet due to the pandemic last spring, I turned my attention to my other passions as an artist. My once single-minded focus on ballet has evolved and expanded over the past 13 months. I am interested in new work, choreographing, and bringing dance to different platforms and mediums. I am consciously expanding myself and identifying as an artist, not just a ballerina, and that has influenced how I approach dance. In November of 2020, I formed a new virtual dance collective called LA Grooves with two of my friends and fellow Los Angeles based ballet dancers. Amidst the indefinite hiatus from theater dance, we had grown tired of passively waiting. With the itch to create stronger than ever, we decided to take action and find a way to evolve as dancers with the changing landscape of the world. I am immensely proud of what we have accomplished as an all female, dancer-run collective with our first two virtual programs Nutcracker Sweets and A Love Letter to LA. Both performances are available to rent and view from home at lagrooves.com for $10-$12.

Are there any important lessons you’ve learned that you can share with us?
Now, looking back, it’s easy for me to say that everything happens for a reason and it all worked out, but my journey as a dancer is far from over, and I still experience highs and lows in the uncertain career of an artist. I have always been an optimist, finding the silver lining in every situation, and I think that is why I was able to persevere despite an unconventional path. I have strayed so far on and off course throughout my life that I don’t envision a certain path for myself anymore. At least not one that looks like a straight line. My goals change sometimes everyday, but they always are rooted in scratching my itch to create. Ultimately, no one will believe in you if you don’t believe in yourself. True confidence is rooted in self-love. I am at a place in my life where I am practically incapable of comparing myself to anyone else because of how deeply I appreciate the uniqueness of everyone. No one can be me or experience the inside of my head or see my vision the way I do. Doing the work is important, but doing the work as you is the only way to create an impact. Stay present so that you will be open and ready for inspiration and unexpected opportunity.

Contact Info:

  • Email: madsmcmillin@gmail.com
  • Website: lagrooves.com
  • Instagram: @madsmcmillin


Image Credits:

Jack Hartin Lindsay Thomas Beau Campbell Elliot McGucken

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