Dancing since age 2, Madison Brown is inching closer to fulfilling her dream of becoming a principal ballet dancer with one of the three leading classical ballet companies in the nation with the help of a full scholarship to its training school – and a balanced approach for success.

The 16-year-old is the daughter of Redick Brown and Jennifer Mazyck-Brown of Wellington, Florida.

Her mother is a native of Orangeburg and the daughter of John and Gloria Mazyck, who have lived in the city for more than 40 years. Jennifer is a South Carolina State University alumna and former Miss South Carolina State University (1998-1999), while her husband is also a S.C. State graduate.

The American Ballet Theatre in New York City is one of the three leading classical ballet companies in the nation. Madison, a junior in Florida Virtual School, started classes at the ABT Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis School, its training school, in October after snagging a full scholarship.

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She was recently promoted to the ABT Studio Company, where she will, for example, work on more rigorous repertoire in hopes of getting into a main company as a principal dancer.

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Brown recently performed in a production of “The Nutcracker” with the ABT in California in December, but is no stranger to big stages. She performed in 2018 on NBC’s dance competition series “World of Dance,” which was led by a team of dance superstar judges – Jennifer Lopez, Derek Hough and NE-YO- and host/mentor Jenna Dewan.

Her father said his daughter’s scholarship to the JKO School is just part of longtime dream for success, with her performance in the “The Nutcracker” being an equally impressive feat for her.

“This has been her dream for as long as we can remember. Now all of her hard work is paying off, and she gets the opportunity to perform on the stage with the main company of American Ballet Theatre. So we’re just elated that she gets to do this,” Redick said.

“We tell her often that not everyone knows what they want to do with their life, and even those that do don’t always get the opportunity to experience it. At 16 years old, she gets to live out that dream and hopefully start what will be a budding career as a professional ballet dancer,” he said.

He and his wife flew out to see their daughter in California.

“The performance was beautiful. It was our first time seeing the American Ballet Theatre perform “The Nutcracker.” Our first time watching it with Madison’s first time on stage with them was a blessing,” Redick added.

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He continued, “We try to take care of what’s between the ears and let the professionals deal with creating and crafting the best dancer that they care, and God takes care of all of it.”

Madison said her performance with the ABT in “The Nutcracker” was “just very surreal and was not anything I expected by any means.”

She said she never stopped working on her craft after leaving “World of Dance” and was grateful to have accomplished all she has since.

“I just went back to training, kept working hard and slowly but surely everything has just kind of paid off. I’ve always kept my head on straight and kept myself busy, but also always listened to my body. I think that comes with maturity and always knowing when is too much and when I can push harder,” Madison said.

She said balancing her virtual school duties with her JKO School requirements has been a bit of a juggling act, but staying focused makes it easier for her.

“I think it does. I hope that I’m a bit more sharp minded and always extremely aware of what needs to be done, what can hold off and what I need to prioritize and things like that,” she said.

Through it all, dance has always been a mode of expression for her.

“It’s been something I’ve done for longer that I can remember. It’s something I’ve always had in my life, and I think it also played a really big part in making friends and not ever feeling lonely with moving a lot when I was younger,” Madison said.

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She continued, “Dance is more consistent than my friendships, and with that always being there, every time I get to perform and every time I dance, it just feels just like home in a sense. It’s very welcoming, and it just fills up my soul and just makes me happier than ever.”

What are the types of dances she likes to perform?

“Ballet is definitely like my number one right now just because that’s what I want to do for the majority of my future, but I also really enjoy doing contemporary, or more of like jazz and the kind of more relaxed stuff… I think it’s always a nice way to kind of like relax and not have to strain quite as much when you’re doing ballet,” Madison said.

She danced for a few months at Tamalyn’s Dance Studio in Orangeburg.

“I don’t remember much from dancing in Orangeburg, but I just remember it being like very wholesome and always fun in my heart. Seeing how some young dancers are trained and the pressure that was put on by teachers, if I remembered dancing like that when I was 5 years old, I wouldn’t have wanted to dance,” Madison said.

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“So I think definitely beginning dancing at that studio really helped me kind of always want to me to keep dancing because it was always such a joyous experience. With Orangeburg as a whole, everywhere you go it’s a smile, or ‘You need help with that? Can I open the door?’ It’s people saying, ‘No, ma’am,’ ‘Yes, sir,’ ‘Thank you,’ or ‘You’re welcome,’ and I always try and make sure I do that because I just always want to be as beautiful a dancer as I am a person. I think Orangeburg and the lifestyle there has always helped me with that,” she said.

Jennifer said she is proud of her daughter and her accomplishments.

“It’s just been a joy to watch her kind of mature through this. This has kind of always been her dream. Of course, she’s following kind of Misty Copeland’s path, the same type of journey. To get selected to do ‘The Nutcracker’ in California was just kind of the icing on the cake,” she said, referring to Copeland, who became the first African-American woman to be promoted to principal dancer in ABT’s 75-year history in 2015.

“It’s just been a journey. Redick and I both went to South Carolina State, but majored in biology. The arts weren’t kind of like in our background. So we never knew anything, and we kind of learned as we went along. This has kind of been our life since Madison’s was 2,” Jennifer said.

The couple, who also have a 14-year-old son and 12-year-old daughter, have lived in Florida for approximately a decade, but Jennifer said Orangeburg “is always home.”

Madison said she will continue to work hard to fulfill goals, but that won’t be the end of her story.

“I definitely think there is an extreme amount of value in hard work, but you can work hard without determination. You could just work yourself to do it. So I think part of it is having the love and the drive to be determined enough to work that hard and to want something out of what you’re doing,” she said.

The teen continued, “So I think if you have your head on straight, and you have the right support system and you know what you’re doing, hard work is only half the battle. You have to want it just as bad as you’re going to work hard.

“You can see when dancers work hard, but then their face is blank and then you don’t feel it from them. But you have to want it, too. I think when you want it, it’s much easier to work hard.”

Contact the writer: dgleaton@timesanddemocrat.com or 803-533-5534. Follow “Good News with Gleaton” on Twitter at @DionneTandD

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