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.
I think I'm ready to move up a level—my dance classes aren't challenging me. But how can I talk to my teacher about that? I'm nervous.
Good for you for taking your training into your own hands! But I understand your anxiety—these situations can be delicate. I'd suggest approaching your teacher in a way that puts this all squarely on you. You could say, “My dancing isn't improving the way I want it to, and I feel as though I need to challenge myself more. Would it be possible for me to take a class or two in a higher level?" That'll carry more weight with your teacher than anything that implies blame—“You're not challenging me" or “The classes aren't hard enough." If you show your teacher that you're ambitious and self-motivated, odds are good that she'll be willing to give you a shot at a higher level.
Sauts de chat are so much fun, but I can't get the same height in my grands jetés. What's the secret?
Grand jeté and saut de chat may look similar in the air, but the grand jeté takeoff is completely different than the saut de chat takeoff. First, make sure you're really using your plié. Push hard off the back leg, which will help launch your body into the air. Then, think about getting the front leg to 90 degrees as quickly as you can. A lot of dancers are slow getting that leg up, which keeps them from achieving good height at the apex of the jump. You should essentially initiate your jeté with a high grand battement.
The other grand jeté secret is to think “out," not “up." Sauts de chat go “up" thanks to the rapid développé of the front leg, which gives them their distinctive pop. But because you brush rather than développé your front leg in grand jeté, you have to think about moving “out" over that leg to be able to achieve a full split in the air. Yes, you want height, but you also want to travel!
I have a bad stress fracture in one of my metatarsals, and the doctor says the only way to heal it is to stop dancing for at least a month. I can't imagine doing that! Do I need to give up dance cold turkey? What can I do to keep up my technique?
Injuries are the most frustrating things in the world—especially ones you can't do anything about. But if your doctor says you need to rest, you must rest. It's the only way you'll heal. Difficult as it is, put your time away from dance in context by thinking of your career long-term. If you don't stop now, you could be setting yourself up for a much more serious injury in the future.
You may not be able to dance, but there are still physical activities that don't put any pressure on that injured foot, and they'll help you stay in tune with your body. Swimming, Pilates mat work and arm exercises could be great options for you. (I swore by Pilates every time I was injured.) If you keep your muscles and joints strong and stretched, you'll find that once you're allowed to return to the studio, you'll be able regain your technique relatively quickly.
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