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Youth Arts in Action annual Fairy Tea focuses on Russia

Teresa Khan MacKay is not an ordinary mother.

She's lived and worked as a fashion designer in cities all over the world, from London to Paris to New York. She trained as a Montessori teacher when the idea of raising children consumed her and has taught memory and accelerated learning techniques as a right brain specialist. She's the executive director of Youth Arts in Action, a nonprofit organization to "inspire, educate and sponsor outstanding young artists." And her four children happen to be world-class dancers.

Sons Nicholas MacKay and Julian MacKay are both students at the prestigious Bolshoi Ballet Academy in Moscow Russia. Daughters Nadia Khan, 21, and Maria Sascha Khan, 23, dance in Munich, Germany, with the Bayerisches Staatsballett, or Bavarian State Ballet.

Having her children follow each other into the world of dance is something she actively fought against.

"I avoided that," she said during an interview at the Chronicle this week. "I am the anti-dance mom."

"She said ‘somebody needs to be a lawyer,'" Julian said.

Julian, 14, will graduate in three years. Nicholas, 11, said he was a "guinea pig" for the school, enrolled as its youngest American student at the age of 9. He'll finish in another six years, or simply "a long time," Teresa emphasized.

Teresa lives with her sons in Moscow, making sure they eat and sleep between a hectic six-day-a-week Bolshoi schedule. She follows them to performances, secretly taping in the back of theaters across the city to document their journey.

Her husband, Gregory, remains in Bozeman.

"I'm holding down the fort with the dog and the chickens," he said.

Teresa puts it in perspective, saying that he has traveled for 12 years for work and it's a blessing he gets to live and work in Bozeman now.

The holiday break is time for the family to enjoy time together, for the boys to spend time with their friends back home. But before she can enjoy it, Theresa has a fundraiser for a couple hundred people to pull off, the annual Fairy Tea.

The tea is set for Jan. 7 at 1 p.m. at the Gallatin Gateway Inn.

"I love fairies and beauty and art," she said. "If they're all in one event, I'm happy."

Aside from all the planning and logistics, she spends hours the day of the event designing each table for the afternoon tea with fairy scenes. They range from flowers to underwater themes, complete with living fish.

And she does it all for free.

"I'm actually a volunteer," she said.

That way, the money raised then goes to the kids and to putting on the next event.

The kids helped by Youth Arts in Action are not only talented, they have also proven in some manner that they could have a career in their chosen field, Theresa said. The organization does, however, focus on Montana.

Requests come from all over, Teresa said, especially because her sons are at the Bolshoi.

"They have an opportunity to blaze some trails and show the way for others," Gregory said.

The organization is unique in that it gives cash scholarships. Many artistic programs will offer tuition and other scholarships, but not allow for living or travel expenses, or even help with costumes or instruments.

At least one award will be announced at Saturday's tea.

This year's tea is Russian themed, falling on the Russian Christmas Day. It features music, a presentation on Russian character dances by Julian, Russian handicrafts including Matryoshka, or Russian nesting dolls, art prints by Russian artist Nicholas Roerich, other items old world artisans at the famous craft markets of Moscow, and treats including Turkish Delight.

"There are so many really good Russian sweets," said Julian, who lugged a suitcase full of Turkish Delight on the trip back to Bozeman.

Willa Devlin, 9, will pass on her Fairy Queen crown and will play the Snow Maiden, daughter of Russia's traditional Father Frost at the Fairy Tea. It's a rite that epitomizes the mentorship aspect of Youth Arts in Action.

"I think some of the little ones look up to her," mom Aimee Devlin said.

As for Teresa, she has received a commendation from Gov. Brian Schweitzer for her efforts.

"I want to commend and thank you for all your efforts to make opportunities in art available to young Montanans," he wrote. "Your commitment is inspiring."

Though her busy life has its downsides, Teresa remains the biggest supporter for her children to pursue their dreams, even if she would prefer to have them all in one place for a while.

"I'm a mom, Ok?" She said. "I just want everybody together."



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