The Grand Finale
Carmel Sisters Bond Over Ballet
The Kirk household has a unique Christmas tradition. Parents Jeff and Stephanie watch their daughters chassé across the stage clad in leotards and listen to the swells of the Indianapolis Ballet Orchestra. “The Nutcracker” is a family affair with hours of dance classes at the Indianapolis School of Ballet and practice sessions in the family’s basement leading to the daughters’ success.
Carmel sisters Mackenzie Kirk, age 18, and Josie Kirk, age 13, share a passion for ballet — and they’re quite good at it too. Their dedication has led to opportunities to travel, learn and bond together. But just like ballet, life is a balancing act.
Josie has been dancing since she was three years old. Mackenzie tried a tap class as a preschooler, but she only remembers performing with loose shoelaces. She tried other sports and activities before coming back to dance class when she was about 13. Since then, the girls have formed a stronger bond.
“They’re five and a half years apart, but you wouldn’t guess it because they have this passion in common,” Stephanie says.
Josie says she and Mackenzie talk about things only dancers can understand, bringing them closer and closer.
“Despite being five years apart, she never fails to inspire and motivate me,” Mackenzie says. “Performance-wise, especially in ‘The Nutcracker,’ I loved watching my sister evolve from year to year as Clara.”
Josie was just 10 the first time she got on stage at the Murat Theatre at Old National Centre as the narrator Clara in “The Nutcracker.” Perhaps it’s made easier by having a sister onstage too. She says she naturally fell into character when the performance started.
“To perform with an orchestra and with professional dancers was a dream come true,” Josie adds.
Mackenzie joined a professional division of the Pacific Northwest Ballet in August. She moved into her first apartment and is exploring the area when she’s not dancing or studying.
“It is a huge adjustment, but I am very lucky to be living amongst many of my peers in the same apartment complex,” Mackenzie says. “We are all learning to ‘adult’ together.”
Josie is getting a taste of adulthood even as a young teenager. Just like her sister, she attends the School of American Ballet’s summer program where she lives in The Juilliard School’s residence hall and learns in the Lincoln Center for the Performing Arts.
It may seem scary to have a daughter away in New York City for five weeks, but Stephanie has confidence in the program and her daughter.
“There are so many things children nowadays get instant gratification from, like social media, but ballet is such a slow, slow building process,” Stephanie says. “That consistent hard work is what I’m most proud of.”
Mackenzie and Josie head to class six days per week and often have had those classes together. Now that Mackenzie has begun her professional studies in Seattle, Josie has to transition from being a duet to a solo ballerina at home.
“Performing with Mackenzie in The Indianapolis School of Ballet and Indianapolis Ballet productions has been an amazing experience that I’m sad has come to an end, but I’m thankful for all the opportunities we have had and experiences we have shared,” Josie says.
Mackenzie’s move to Seattle marks a transition, but it is hardly the last. Ballet may remain in the sisters’ lives. But even if it doesn’t, the art has helped them mature.
“Ballet is an ever-changing process that has taught me to be flexible, disciplined and driven to meet its demanding standards,” Mackenzie says. “It has prepared me for any future I choose to find, whether it be in ballet or not.”
Whether stretching into an arabesque or settling into a new city, ballet has helped the Kirk sisters grow. Their family welcomes the sight of them performing together on stage or just watching ballet videos in the kitchen.