Each year, the United States announces the selection of 141 outstanding high school seniors as U.S. Presidential Scholars -- a tremendous accomplishment for each of the young people recognized. Twenty of those honored are Presidential Scholars in the Arts, and in 2011 Max Perkins, a brilliant young performer and member of aotpr.com-favorite Extensions Dance, was named by Secretary of Education Arne Duncan as one of only two dancers selected from among several thousand candidates around the country. Each U.S. Presidential Scholar is invited to nominate his or her most inspiring and challenging teacher to travel to Washington, D.C., to receive a Teacher Recognition Award from the U.S. Department of Education and to participate in the award ceremonies, which take place at the White House and the John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts. Joining Max in D.C. and receiving a 2011 U.S. Presidential Scholar Program Teacher Recognition Award is Extensions Dance Company Artistic Director, Lizzie MacKenzie.
To be selected for such an award from such a vast number of talented candidates is of course extraordinary, but in a remarkable way, maybe not all that surprising to aotpr.com. We know Max Perkins' work from his performances with Extensions Dance, and the quality of his contribution to everything we've seen him be a part of has always been extraordinary. "Passion" and "Intensity" are words that are often used to describe an exceptional dedication to artistic expression, and although they could be used to describe Perkins' work, neither word does so adequately. Both "passion" and "intensity" imply a commitment to artistic effort, but in ways that are often either intermittent or short-term. A more complete description of Perkins' work has to include that unusual quality that some artists achieve when an exceptional level of commitment is maintained continuously, in rehearsal as in performance, in struggle as in success. It's a quality that transcends the drama of passion and the transience of intensity, but achieves the mesmerizing artistic effect of both, and Max Perkins brings that quality to everything we've seen him do.
Extensions Dance will perform May 22 and May 28 at the Ruth Page Center for the Arts in their Extensions 2011 Showcase.