Lizzie Mackenzie has been dancing, teaching, coaching and choreographing in Chicago and the Chicagoland area for 21 years. She is the co-founder of Extensions Dance Company, now in its 14th year and also of Extensions Dance Center, currently in its 8th year. Lizzie is originally from Toronto, Ontario and she is a graduate of the performing arts boarding school, Interlochen Arts Academy in Interlochen Michigan.
After graduating from Interlochen, Lizzie was recruited by Nan Giordano and became a scholarship student at the Giordano Dance Center in Evanston IL. Spending one year as a scholarship student and 2 years as an apprentice to the company, she was hired by Giordano Dance Chicago in the Spring of 2000. She enjoyed 5 years of learning and growth under the direction of Nan Giordano and rehearsal director, Jon Lehrer. By age 21 she was living her dream of dancing and touring the world, performing repertory works by some of the most relevant contemporary and jazz choreographers of the time, including Mia Michaels, Liz Imperio, Ron De Jesus, Randy Duncan, Davis Robertson, Tony Powell, Mark Swanhart, Alberto Arias, Jon Lehrer, Nan Giordano, Gus Giordano and so many more. Lizzie was honored to also tour with Gus Giordano as his teaching assistant for some time and she was part of the professional faculty at the Giordano Dance Center for 5 years, where she was able to learn and continue to refine her teaching abilities. Searching to expand her network and seek out new opportunities for growth, Lizzie left Giordano Dance Chicago in 2005.
In the summer of 2006, Lizzie was hired by River North Dance Chicago, under the direction of Frank Chaves, an opportunity that allowed her to continue to learn and grow as an artist on many levels. With River North she was also able to travel internationally and nationally, performing works by Frank Chaves, Sherry Zunker, Lauri Stallings, Sidra Bell, Robert Battle, Harrison McEldowny, Kevin Iega Jeff, Julia Rhoads and many others. She became a staple faculty member at the famous and highly sought after River North Workshops and Intensives and she was a regular teacher for the company, giving warm up class before concerts on tour and also at residencies and master classes all over the world. The training, guidance and opportunities provided with River North Dance Company propelled Lizzie forward as a dancer and also as a teacher, choreographer and director. She retired from River North Dance Company and full time dancing after River North’s spring concert at the Auditorium theater in 2011.
Between the years of 1999-2014 Lizzie was a principle dancer in the Chicago Symphony Orchestras yearly holiday production “Welcome Year” where she also became and maintained a membership with AGMA, American Guild for Musical Artists. She has danced with Lehrer Dance under the direction of Jon Lehrer, LEVELdance under the direction of Eddy Ocampo, Chicago Repertory Ballet under the direction of Wade Schaff, The Cambrians under the direction of Ben Wardell and she currently dances with C5 Entertainment on a project basis under the direction of Jeremy Plummer. She has enjoyed the challenge of becoming experienced on a variety of Aerial apparatus with C5. Lizzie was accepted to Springboard Danse Montreal under the direction of Alexandra Wells, where she had the opportunity to work with Ms. Wells, Amy Shulman, Andrea Miller, Margi Gillis and Laurence Lemieux and in 2016. In 2017 and 2018 she attended the GAGA intensive in Tel Aviv under the direction and guidance of O’had Naharin and artists of Batsheva Dance Company. In 2014 Lizzie appeared as Victoria, (the white cat), in Paramount Theater’s production of CATS choreographed by Harrison McEldowny and directed by Shawn Stengel and Jim Corti. She has also served as assistant to the choreographer, (Rhett Guter), for Drury Lane Oakbrook’s Jeff nominated production of West Side Story.
Lizzie has taught and coached dance all over the world with various organizations including the Jazz Dance World Congress, Dance Masters of America, Chicago Dance Connection and RDA (Regional Dance America). She has been an artist in residence at Northwestern University, East Carolina University, Illinois State University, University of Illinois, Webster University, Western Michigan University and Grand Valley State University, her class was listed by Dance Spirit Magazine as one of the top 3 dance classes to take in Chicago and she has been quoted and featured numerous times in Dance Teacher Magazine. She has held positions on the advanced professional faculty at both Hubbard Street Dance Center and Visceral Dance Center among others. She has appeared on the cover of DANCE magazine and she has been featured on ads, posters, t-shirts and billboards for Dance For Life Chicago, River North Dance Company, Giordano Dance Chicago, Illinois Theatrical, Leos Dancewear and others. She was also the featured model in Gatorade’s launch of its new branding, booked through her then agency “Planet Earth Agency”.
Lizzie’s choreography can be seen on various professional companies, with her most recent and current projects being Dance In The Parks (summer 2018), Still Inspired (fall 2018) and Aerial Dance Chicago (fall 2018). Her choreographic work can also be found on a variety of collegiate dance programs and youth dance companies across the country. She has received countless awards for her choreography including the “New Voice” honor from Dance Chicago in 2006, the “Choreographer of the year” from Dance Chicago and the Cliff Dwellers Foundation in 2007 and she was a finalist in the “AWARD Show” for the Chicago region. She has been a teacher and adjudicator for Chicago Dance Connection, Dance Fest Canada and VIP productions, a moderator for Inaside Dance Chicago’s choreographic sponsorship events and she continues to teach, choreograph and coach across the country for various organizations, studios and schools.
At the core of Lizzie’s love for teaching is the joy it brings her to see her students gain confidence as people and artists through their work in the dance studio. She is known for an intense teaching style with high expectations, yet she continues to foster a loving and supportive learning environment through mentoring and the expression of respect she shows her students. Through her extensive and continued education in the field her knowledge and ability to communicate and share her knowledge with all ages and levels of dancers is unmatched. Her students have gone on to various collegiate dance programs such as The Juilliard School, USC (University of Southern California, Glorya Kaufman School Of Dance), Ailey Fordham BFA, New York University (Tisch School of the Arts), Marymount Manhattan, Boston Conservatory, University of Arizona, Chapman University, Relativity School, CalArts, Point Park University among others. She has numerous students currently working in the dance world in numerous professional dance companies, Sleep No More in New York and Shanghai, on broadway and also in videos, commercials and with performing artists on the West and East Coast alike. Lizzie is currently on the guest faculty for Giordano Dance Chicago (company class), and the guest faculty for HSPro under Alexandra Wells and Hubbard Street Dance Chicago. She is a co-founder of Zilliewear Dancewear and she is currently serving as the president of the board of Directors for Chicago Dance Crash.
Photography by Leni Manaa-Hoppenworth & Cheryl Mann