Kids Who Make a Difference: Max Perkins

There was a point a few years ago where Max Perkins’ parents asked him if dance was a hobby or something more serious.

“It’s for real,” Perkins remembers telling them.

Recently, Perkins, a senior at New Trier High School, was one of 20 student chosen from among 7,000 applicants to be a U.S. Presidential Scholar in the Arts. In June, Perkins and his fellow winners will meet President Barack Obama at the White House and will perform an original production at the Kennedy Center.

“It’s a very surreal thing,” says Perkins, 18, of Wilmette. “It’s a fantasy, and it’s totally coming true. I’m totally pumped.”

Perkins started dancing when he was 4 years old and began training in pre-professional programs when he was about 12. He has performed with the Joffrey Ballet and taken summer workshops at the San Francisco Ballet, American Ballet Theatre, The Juilliard School and others. Last summer, he was awarded an apprenticeship with the River North Dance Chicago.

During the school year, Perkins spends 16 to 20 hours training locally at Dance Center Evanston, Giordano Dance Center and Niyama Yoga in Wilmette. His entire weekend is taken up with rehearsals with Extensions Dance Company, a modern dance company in Chicago.

And, believe it or not, he still manages to get his homework done. “There’ve been a lot of late nights, coffee drinking and whatnot,” he says.

Perkins says he loves the freedom and creativity of modern dance. “I love the fact that you can say so much without saying anything with dance,” he says.

Perkins, who will be attending New York University’s Tisch School of the Arts to pursue a BFA in dance, says he’s proud of the field he’s chosen. “This year has really shown me that this is the right thing for me to do,” he says.