In our "Dear Katie" series, former NYCB soloist Kathryn Morgan answers your pressing dance questions. Have something you want to ask Katie? Email firstname.lastname@example.org for a chance to be featured!
Are you in the D.C. area? Have you secured your tickets to Kathryn Morgan's evening at the Kennedy Center? The lineup is bonkers: Katie's dancing a scene from Romeo and Juliet, the Turning Girl from George Balanchine's Who Cares?, a pas de deux from Don Quixote and more! Talk about stamina!
In case you still need convincing, take a look at Morgan's latest rehearsal video in which she slays a turning sequence and is completely stunning.
A video posted by Ꮶathryn ℳorgan (@kathryn_morgan) on
I'm not sure how it took this long to figure out, but Kathryn Morgan and Adele are a match made in dance video heaven.
Exhibit A: Morgan whirling around the studio in an amaaaazing velvet burnout leo to the sounds of Adele's "Hello," as covered on piano and strings by Brooklyn Duo. The lovely choreography was created by Morgan's friend Lyndell Higgins.
An instrumental version of the song lets Morgan shade the music with her own interpretation of frustration, hard work and triumph—all themes that Adele has belted out in her own way.
Oh, and that turn sequence at the end? It's like the dance equivalent of Adele's highest high-note.
(Photo by Nathan Sayers)
My teacher always casts me in flashy pieces with lots of turning and jumping, but I’d really like to try something more lyrical. How can I keep from getting typecast? —Danielle
If you keep getting cast in flashy pieces, you probably have really strong technique—congratulations! But I understand your dilemma. Nobody wants to be typecast. To break out of your box, start by focusing on the more lyrical parts of class. Casting begins in the studio, so if your teacher sees improvement there, she’ll be more likely to cast you in lyrical pieces. During adagio, for example, pay close attention to the
music; let it flow through you. Or, if there’s a waltz combination, try to use up all the space in the studio and really dance.
The other thing I’d recommend is simply talking to your teacher. Don’t accuse her of not casting you in those roles—negativity will only hurt you. Instead, tell her you’re interested in broadening your horizons. Say that you’d appreciate the challenge of a lyrical role, and assure her you’ll work as hard as you can on it. Even if she says no, ask if you can understudy a lyrical part. That way, you’ll be able to show her what you can do without the pressures and risks that come with performance.
I feel like I’m really bad at networking. How can I get my name out in the dance world in a way that will help me earn jobs? —Avery
The first key to networking is to be friendly in general, and especially when you’re at an audition or in class. If you make a connection with a teacher or another dancer, don’t be afraid to talk about yourself. You obviously don’t want to be a braggart, but unless you tell people about your accomplishments, they won’t know! That said, don’t be overly aggressive. It can be obvious when someone’s trying too hard to network. Frequently, it doesn’t take much—a single conversation can sometimes lead to a job. So just be your lovely self.
I’d also recommend keeping your resumé on hand, in case a teacher mentions she’s looking for dancers for a particular project, for example. Class can sometimes turn into an impromptu audition! Make sure your resumé is updated, well-organized and has a clean layout.
And social media can be a powerful tool. To build your following, try posting dance pictures or short video clips of yourself, and make smart use of hashtags. Again, it’s all about getting yourself out there. You can’t expect people to find you on their own—you have to give them a little help.
I’m pretty flexible, but while my extension is good to the front and side, I have trouble getting past 90 degrees in arabesque. Do you have any tips? —Kelsey
Extensions to the front and side are all about the hamstrings, but arabesque primarily has to do with your back. So to get that arabesque higher, start by working out your back muscles. I’d recommend taking Pilates classes, which are excellent for strengthening your back. But these exercises are also helpful:
1. Lie on your stomach with your hands under your forehead. Lift your upper body off the floor, lengthening outward as if trying to reach the opposite wall. Lower slowly. Repeat 12 to 15 times. You should feel the burn in the upper part of your back; if you start to feel it in your lower back, you’re lifting too high.
2. Beginning in the same position, lift and lower each of your legs 12 to 15 times, keeping them turned out. Again, try to think of lengthening them toward the wall behind you.
You can do many combinations of these exercises—lifting up one leg and the opposite arm simultaneously, for example, or, once you’re a little stronger, both legs and both arms.
The other thing that helps is to remember that an arabesque should lift from the inner thigh, not the hip. So as you raise your leg, feel the inner thigh rotating to pull it up. That will make your legs so much lighter and freer.
Our former cover star Kathryn Morgan has had a dream-come-true career in many ways: She only spent half a season as an apprentice at New York City Ballet before being offered a company contract, and she was tapped to dance the title role in Peter Martins' version of Romeo + Juliet when she was still in the corps.
All of these successes made it even more difficult to comprehend the news when, in August 2012, Morgan had to put her dancing aside to deal with hypothyroidism. In the meantime, she occasionally guested with her hometown company—Mobile Ballet in Mobile, AL—and started a YouTube series featuring tutorials and advice for aspiring ballet dancers.
Kathryn on the January, 2008 cover (photo by Erin Baiano)
Now, it sounds like Morgan is close to making a comeback: She's back in NYC this month to train with Garielle Whittle— a former faculty member at School of American Ballet—and Nancy Bielski, at Steps on Broadway.
Unfortunately for New York audiences, she won't be returning to NYCB. But Morgan told the New York Times that Peter Martins' decision was a blessing in disguise. Now she's free to audition for classical companies in Europe, where she hopes to find a new home.
As we've heard from other dancers who've been through serious injury or illness, to stay strong you have to stay positive. Kathryn Morgan is a role model for her impeccable dancing, but she's also a role model for her patience and determination. We'll keep watching her wherever she ends up.