'SYTYCD' Finalist Inspires Young Dancers During Hometown Visit

On a break from "So You Think You Can Dance," Makenzie Dustman, 18, of Temecula, on Tuesday stopped by the Murrieta Community Center, for a meet and greet with students in Miss April’s Dance classes.

Makenzie Dustman, 18, a "So You Think You Can Dance" finalist, is pictured with Miss April's Dance students Quinn Valdivia, 10 (center), and Christina Burnham, 7. (Photo: Maggie Avants)
Makenzie Dustman, 18, a "So You Think You Can Dance" finalist, is pictured with Miss April's Dance students Quinn Valdivia, 10 (center), and Christina Burnham, 7. (Photo: Maggie Avants)

On a short break from the whirlwind of competing on Fox’s prime time TV show, “So You Think You Can Dance,” Temecula 18-year-old Makenzie Dustman took the time Tuesday to visit and inspire some young local dancers.

Dustman stopped by the Murrieta Community Center Annex, where she took questions from students in Miss April’s Dance classes, a City of Murrieta recreation program she once taught for.

“Don’t let fear get in the way of your dreams, never give up on something,” said Dustman, who made it to this year's Season 10 Top 10 on the show for which thousands of dancers across the nation audition.

The 2013 Great Oak High School high school graduate stood in line with 700 other people when she auditioned March 22 in Los Angeles.

Fast forward to the day after her June high school graduation, when she left again for the show. She stayed in Los Angeles, learning and performing new dance numbers each week as the competition played out on air. After having made it into the Top 10, Dustman was eliminated Aug. 13.

But as of Wednesday, she was back in Los Angeles filming for the show finale, set to air Sept. 10.

Then it will be time to prepare for the "So You Can Think Dance" Tour, featuring the Top 10 finalists. The 42-city tour begins Oct. 1 in Lansing, Mich. and ends Nov. 27 at Kodak Theater in Los Angeles.

A dancer since she was 2, Makenzie would not have it any other way, her mother, Jennifer Dustman, told Patch.

“She was the kind of kid that was full max, everything is full out for her,” Jennifer said.

Makenzie, the youngest of three, comes from a family of performers, her mother, a singer, explained.

Makenzie’s father recently retired from leading the music department at Long Beach City College, while her sister is a character performer at Disneyland in Paris, France, and her brother is a drummer, Jennifer said.

So although Makenzie was accepted to three universities and had chosen to attend Chapman University, there are no qualms from her parents about her taking this break from education.

“She realizes a dance career is short-lived, so she needs to do it while she can,” Jennifer said. “She will work as long as the work keeps coming.”

In addition to being on the dance team at Great Oak for four years, the last of which she was the captain, Makenzie attended and competed for Murrieta Dance Project. She also trained in Redondo Beach and spent summer 2012 studying at Netherlands Dance Theater.

April Vidal of Miss April’s Dance, who has watched Makenzie grow up because her daughters attended the same local studio, was delighted to have the up-and-coming star speak to her students, who range in age from 2 years old to teenagers.

“She is humble and she has a beautiful heart, I believe that is why she is successful,” Vidal said.

Makenzie encouraged the dancers not to fear rejection.

“I went to so many auditions and never got a call back,” Makenzie said. “You get stronger each time you are rejected.”

Each dancer beamed as they received a signed photograph and T-shirt from the SYTYCD star they had watched on their TV screens and were now meeting in person.

When asked what she learned from Makenzie, 10-year-old Quinn Valdivia said: “To keep dancing and believe in myself at all times.”

Emilia Burnham, 11, said she learned: “To keep following my dreams and I’ll be successful in life.”

Makenzie plans to keep pursuing her passion for now, which would ultimately be performing on Broadway, she said.


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