‘Born into dancing’

Published 7:54 am Monday, November 20, 2017

 Danville teen dances her way into the future

She’s been dancing her heart away since she was 2 years old and Danville High School senior Evelyn Lackney hopes to keep dancing for the rest of her life.

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Recently accepted to Western Kentucky University’s dance program, 17-year-old Lackney said she hopes to someday dance with a small company, maybe in New York or Chicago.

“After that, I would like to do the business side of dancing, managing a company or something along those lines,” she said.

Photo submitted
Evelyn Lackney, left, as the Sugar Plum Fairy, with Becca Walther, as Clara.

Lackney recently earned the role of the Sugar Plum Fairy in “The Nutcracker” and will be performing the piece with the rest of her dance school, Mindy’s Jessamine School of Dance, on Dec. 1 and 2 at Bethel Harvest Church in Nicholasville.

She was 9-years-old when she “started taking it really seriously.”

Thanks is owed to Mindy Jackson, dance instructor and owner of Mindy’s Jessamine School of Dance, Lackney said.

“She helped me a lot,” she said.

The daughter of Todd and Susan Lackney, she’s not the first in her family to dance, or portray the Sugar Plum Fairy. She has three sisters, two of them who also dance. 

“I was just born into dancing. I was in the studio before I was even born, in a sense,” she said.

 Lackney will be the first to pursue it as a potential career. That, she said, is pretty exciting.

“I’ve had no examples on what to do. It makes me feel, not ‘special,’ but super individual and separate from my sisters. It’s so different from what they’re doing. I don’t want to be known as their sister, I want to be known as myself,” she said. “Unique, I guess that’s the word.”

Dancing takes up the bulk of her time, but the teen also works at Orange Leaf in Danville, as well as being part of the National Honor Society, in the Spanish club and on student council at her school.

This summer, she spent a month in Chicago, participating in a Summer Dancing Intensive with Deeply Rooted, in residence with the Chicago Ballet.

“For the whole month, every day for six hours, I’d be dancing. That’s kind of what made me decide to just take it all the way, to dance after high school. I realized I could do it,” she said. “It was pretty cool.”

Lackney heard about the intensive from a fellow dancer who currently attends Western Kentucky University.

“She went to the intensive and just said it changed life completely; it changed the way she views dancing and herself,” she said.

At first, she was hesitant to try the experience, because it would be a month out of her summer. But, she took a chance and it was completely worth it.

“I changed so much — not just my dancing, but me as a person,” Lackney said. “At the intensive, they put an importance on not dancing the steps but learning to move, and learning to get a sense of who you are in your surroundings, your environment.They taught me to be completely 100 percent fearless and just go after it and do what you want. I came back and I did that … There’s no point for me to hold back.”

Lackney also credits what she learned at the intensive for helping her earn the spot of the Sugar Plum Fairy.

“My class was so competitive. There’s seven of us who wanted it, or were interested. I had to completely give it everything to get that,” she said. “Before Chicago, I was so shy and timid and held myself back. I had to really break through.”

While at the intensive, Lackney had to navigate the bus system, make sure she was getting to class on time and meet a whole new group of people. She called it a good experience to be on her own for the month.

She had classes daily in ballet, modern and African styles of dancing, each for an hour and a half. The majority of the dancing was modern because they also had rehearsals focusing on the modern style of dance.

It was there that Lackney danced a piece called Nia Keii.

“That was my performance piece that I danced at the end of the intensive … That was probably my favorite. That will always be my favorite piece I’ve ever done,” she said.

She said the piece is about bringing joy into the world “It was just so exhilarating to perform,” she said.

Lackney now spends 12-15 hours a week dancing in class, not counting the hours she dances and stretches. 

“I try to keep my body moving every day. It’s kind of easy, though, because I literally dance everywhere I go,” she said. “I’ll be in Walmart dancing.” Her incessant dancing sometimes annoys her friends, but “they’re really proud and excited to see where it takes me.”

Lackney is looking forward to attending Western. The dancing style there is more modern and contemporary, her favorite styles, but they still do ballet and tap, jazz … ” I’ll be getting a little bit of everything. They have a couple of hip hop classes every now and then.” 

The audition, she said, is more of a placement process than an acceptance process.

“Usually, people who audition know what they’re doing. They try to accept as many people as they can — if you want to study dance, you should be allowed to study dance.”

While she’s not opposed to eventually opening her own studio, Lackney said that’s not her first plan.

“I’ve thought about a studio. I do want to major in dance and business. That’s always an option for me after a while. It’s not a closed-off option, but it’s not my first go-to,” she said, explaining that she wants to get more experience teaching before pursuing that option.

“I’m way more nervous now than I was performing. It can go either way, it depends on what I’m doing,” she said.  The nerves, however, can be useful. “It’s helps more. Usually people shut down when they’re nervous. I don’t … I think it helps sometimes when I’m nervous. It just shows that you care about what you’re doing.”

Someday she’d like to perform Sleeping Beauty or Swan Lake. “Those are super challenging. I like to push myself, so I think it would be cool to be able to push myself to the limit and do those,” she said. “Plus, they’re beautiful pieces.”

Over the years, she tried a multitude of hobbies,  from basketball to horseback riding,  but nothing ever brought her joy like dancing. “I think because it’s a way for me to express what I’m feeling in any situation. It just makes me feel beautiful. If I get down on myself, I can dance and everything just goes away. It’s a complete stress relief.”

For others out there interested in dancing, Lackney said to just go for it.

“It’s so unlike team sports or anything like that,” she said. “Everything builds character, but dance is just — it’s an art, it’s a sport, it’s completely incredible.”


Students from Mindy’s Jessamine School of Dance will be performing The Nutcracker on Dec. 1 and 2 at Bethel Harvest Church 3260 Lexington Road in Nicholasville.

To get tickets, call (859) 881-0851, or jessaminedance.com/performances.