On pointe: meet Charlotte McKinley

Senior plans to attend the American Musical and Dramatic Academy in New York

CHARLOTTE

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McKinley (center) dances in the fall dance showcase.

The Shield: When did you start dancing?

Charlotte McKinley: When I was 4 years old.

S: What are some of your best and your worst times when dancing?

CM: My best times dancing… Every time I place in my solo, then I feel really good, or when I get a scholarship at conventions. The worst part would be after conventions. I feel like I’m not worth anything, like, “What am I doing with my life?” But you keep going. Everybody is so good, and you’re surrounded by the best of the best. You’re competing and then you’re like, “Wow, what am I doing?” You realize every single one of your flaws, but you just have to keep going.  That’s the worst part. It’s such a tough world, but you just have to have thick skin. It teaches me to be very humble in life.

S: What is the appeal of New York and LA?

CM: New York and LA are the two places where opportunity lies for the entertainment world, and I need to get out of Texas and expand my world. Also, when I traveled to New York, I felt the energy is exactly how I was: very busy and energetic and weird. I love the atmosphere of New York.

S: What is your schedule like?

CM: I go to school Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday, and then I have dance from 5:30 to 9:30, except Thursday and Friday. Saturday I have rehearsal from 9 to 5 at night. I don’t have time to do homework, so I have to do it during class or stay up. It takes me 30 minutes to get to my dance, so I have to leave here from school and then I get home at 10 every day. So I either stay up really late then go to bed, or I just do it in class; I used to have to time manage. It’s just hard to keep up with school and your craft.

S: With such a busy schedule, have you ever had doubts about dancing?

CM: I’ve never had doubts about dancing because I’ve never had any doubts about things that I love to do. But I’ve had doubts such as asking myself, “Am I really going to make it in this world?” I ask that question almost every day. But you keep going because we all have a purpose in this world, and I believe I’m on the right path.

S: How will being in New York/LA change you as a dancer?

CM: New York/LA will change me as a dancer and performer because I will be working with people (in my college) who are currently working in the industry, and it will provide a lot of opportunities to make this a career where I can pay my bills. Although the people I work with now have worked in the industry, the people in New York/LA are working and know how to make it currently, which is important.

S: What did you have to sacrifice to continue dancing? 

CM: I had to quit volleyball because they switched the period to the end of the day, so I can’t do volleyball at the same time. I used to do volleyball in the mornings and then dance in the evenings. But I had to quit volleyball and then take less AP classes because I cannot keep up with the homework, and because I’m a slower learner in general. And I sacrifice going out with friends, parties, spending time with family. Every time you see me I’m either spending time with my friends or stuff because I want to get my childhood taken care of because I know it’s going to be taken away.

S: Are you interested in singing and acting as well? 

CM: Yes. I would love to be on Broadway one day. My goal right now is to start commercial, so you do music videos and award shows, things like that. Then as I get older, Broadway. That’s why I’m graduating in LA, because LA is more commercial.

S: What ultimately is your dream job?

CM: My dream job/jobs are literally not possible. One, to dance for Michael Jackson and two, to be Beyoncé. But since those can’t happen, it would be to be on Broadway or to be in a music video, just something related to a musician who is changing the world with their music. I’d like to become a part of something bigger than myself.

S: What is it like when you’re performing? 

CM: People tell me this all the time: it’s like I’m a completely different person. I don’t know why. I guess I’m so silly during school, but whenever I’m on stage, it’s serious business. It feels like, this is weird, but it feels like I’m connected to the universe. I just connect with music in a different way. It’s more important to be connected with your soul. It’s so serious, but that’s what I feel. Everyone has a purpose, and that’s mine.

S: When did you know that dance was your purpose in life?
CM: It’s not that dance is my purpose in life; it’s to be happy. I realized that dancing/ entertaining people was what I’m most comfortable doing when my dad made me take two years off of dance to go to Kealing. It was the worst two years ever. I played every sport, and I was good at them, but it wasn’t what I was most happy doing. And school was so boring. I knew that I needed something more. About the beginning of junior year I knew that I needed to entertain. When I begin to feel like I’m not worth anything or feel like giving up, I always think, “You’ve made it this far. You’re already in pain. Might as well get a reward from it.” I know that I will not live a satisfying life with a 9-5 job and have a “normal” life that everyone surrounding me will have. The purpose of life is a life of purpose.

S: Anything you want to add?

CM: I just like the dance world because, like on the Grammys, there was like five or six people that I had met and that I’ve taken classes from, and they were on the Grammys. It really connects you with the industry, and it’s really easy to make connections. I’m just going for my dream. I don’t know how the outcome will be, so it’s just a chance because it’s the entertainment world.

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