The Morgan Mystique

It’s easy to see why Kathryn Morgan describes the last year of her life as “a dream.” In 12 months, the New York City Ballet corps dancer went from doe-eyed School of American Ballet grad to critical darling with a major lead in a brand-new full-length ballet.


Last October—a week before the company launched into rehearsals for its winter season—Kathryn, 19, sat down with DS at the New York State Theater to reflect on the whirlwind start to her professional career.

Saratoga Sweetheart
It all began at the 2006 School of American Ballet Workshop Performance—an annual affair that often culminates in company contracts for a select few. “She had that sparkle that stood out completely,” recalls longtime teacher Sean Lavery of Kathryn’s performance in Bourée Fantastique. “She has a quality that is very appealing onstage. It’s fulfilling to watch her.”


A few days later, Co-Chairman of Faculty Kay Mazzo and NYCB Ballet Master in Chief Peter Martins offered Kathryn an apprenticeship. But as chance would have it, Kathryn was chosen for a lot more that summer.


At the end of NYCB’s NYC season, Lavery needed a dancer for the role of Juliet in his Romeo and Juliet pas de deux, scheduled for the company’s summer season at Saratoga. “I wanted someone who was young and naïve but had some imagination—not someone who could just do the steps and wear the dress,” says Lavery. As he looked down the roster, he saw Kathryn’s name as one of the new apprentices. “I thought, I can’t throw this pas de deux at this girl. It’s so early. She doesn’t have experience. But I kept coming back to her.”


Lavery brought his idea to Martins, who gave him the green light. When Lavery gave Kathryn the news, “her eyes popped out of her head,” he recalls. She had one week to review the choreography on videotape. On the first day of rehearsal, Lavery introduced Kathryn to her partner, Tyler Angle. “The pianist started, and she got halfway through it,” says Lavery. “I was sitting there with my mouth hanging open. She had looked at the videotape, and knew it!”


Two weeks later, Kathryn performed the role. “She absolutely pulled it off,” says Lavery. “I thought, this girl’s got guts, she’s got brains and she’s got talent. She’s going to go somewhere.”


From Mobile to Martins
Like many young dancers, Kathryn had dreamed about dancing for a world-renowned professional company. But she knew the moment she saw NYCB’s Nutcracker, at age 8, that this was the company for her. “Everything was fast and exciting,” she says. “I enjoyed watching the corps. In Balanchine ballets, the corps does so much—every person is dancing.”


Kathryn studied at the Mobile Ballet School in her hometown of Mobile, AL, and spent her summers at the Joffrey Ballet School in NYC and at Central Pennsylvania Youth Ballet. She attended the SAB intensive at ages 13 and 15.


After two summers there, she left Mobile permanently to attend SAB’s year-round program. She and her mom currently share an apartment across the street from the State Theater. (Her dad, a dentist, visits every other weekend.)


In February 2007, after only half a season as an apprentice, Kathryn was promoted into the corps de ballet. Martins had been working on his much anticipated full-length Romeo + Juliet since the prior October, so Kathryn had no expectations of being cast in anything out of the ordinary. Then in March, her name appeared on the rehearsal schedule for Juliet! “I was shocked,” she says. “I’d always said to my mom, you know the one thing NYCB doesn’t do is a full-length Romeo and Juliet, and I really wish they would! I grew up listening to the music and pretending I was Juliet.”


Kathryn jumped into rehearsals with Martins right away: “There was no time to soak it in!” The Romeo to her Juliet was Seth Orza, who had already danced with her in Christopher Wheeldon’s Carousel A Dance. (Orza now dances for Pacific Northwest Ballet.)


Unlike the quick pace of rehearsing ballets that have been in the company’s repertory for years, having a ballet choreographed on you is a slow but thrilling process that few novice professionals get. Kathryn and the rest of the cast (which included Tiler Peck, Sterling Hyltin and Erica Pereira as the other Juliets) spent a lot of time developing their characters and discovering how to imbue Martins’ intricate choreography with intent.


Playing Juliet is no easy task, especially considering how many famous ballerinas have portrayed her over the years. “I tried to be myself in the part so it was more natural,” Kathryn says of her interpretation. “I tried to show each emotion in each scene, how she changes from the innocent girl to the emotionally distraught girl who ends up killing herself.”


Her interpretation rang true for the critics. She danced with “a remarkable blend of bloom, spontaneity and rapture,” said Alastair Macaulay in The New York Times. “Ultimately, you want to please the audience,” Kathryn says of the feedback. “Reviews help you see how you’re touching them and how you’re coming across.”


The critics aren’t the only ones singing her praises. “The way she dances is rich, full and lush,” says Lavery. “She doesn’t look like a delicate kid anymore. She’s a beautiful dancer with a maturity that’s amazing for her age.”


Kathryn, meanwhile, remains focused on her future, especially happy to tackle the numerous ballets on the lineup this season that she’s never performed. Her number-one goal is to build strength and improve how she articulates her feet.


So what has she learned from her first season? “This is so hard, but don’t compare yourself to anyone else,” she says. “Everyone is different. You might see someone and say, ‘Oh, they have beautiful feet’ or ‘Oh, they have beautiful legs,’ but focus on your strength and what you need to work on.”


Want to see Kathryn perform? She’ll be at the New York State Theater during NYCB’s winter season, starting January 3. For more:

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What’s in Your Dance Bag—Based on Your Zodiac Sign

Sometimes our dance bags feel like portals to another dimension—we have no idea what half the stuff buried in our bags even is. (Note to self: Clean out dance bag.)

But have you ever wondered if there's a method to the madness? We're pretty sure there is, and as always, we're pretty sure it's something to do with astrology. That's right, your resident Dance Spirit astrologers are back with our best guess at what you keep in your dance bag—based on your zodiac sign.


You're always going 100 mph Aries (or maybe even more), so it's pretty much a guarantee that your dance bag is fully stocked with snacks to power you through the day. Granola bars, trail mix, yogurt, fruit. It's like a Whole Foods in there.

You've also usually got about six different pairs of shoes in your bag. As an Aries, you love adventure, trying new things and, most of all, a challenge. So when it comes to classes, you're all over the map. Tap, jazz, ballet, character, modern—you'll try them all.

Something else you won't go without? Your signature red lipstick, obv. How else are you going to show off your fiery personality? (And look amazing while doing it, TYSM.)


As a child of Venus, you always want to look your best, Taurus. So your dance bag is a hair salon/makeup station, all in one. If your dance besties need to borrow a hair tie, or are looking for a fun accessory to spice up their bun, they know you're the one to go to.

Also important to you? Smelling your best. Taureans love comforting, luxurious scents, so your dance bag is typically equipped with a favorite perfume or deodorant. (Or both.)

But what's most important is the bag itself—admit it, you've been using the same dance bag for years. We get it, Taurus, nobody likes change, and least of all the stubborn bull of the zodiac. But if your dance bag is really starting to smell like feet (or if your bobby pins are starting to slip through the holes in the bottom), you might want to consider investing in a new bag.


Gemini, you love to switch it up. So you're pretty much guaranteed to have at least three different dance fits in your bag at any given time. And your dancewear is always on point. You love to keep up with trends and try edgy, new looks.

Ever the intellect, you usually have a book in your bag, as well. You're always making book recs to your fellow dancers, and you refuse to be bored between rehearsals or backstage.

Though you might act carefree, Gemini, we know that at heart, you're ruled by Mercury—and you have more in common with your sister sign Virgo than you'd like to admit. That's why you always have a toothbrush, toothpaste, and some floss in your dance bag. No way you're getting caught with food between your teeth (or bad breath during partnering class).


Not to be obvious, but as a water sign, the first and foremost thing a Cancerian keeps in their dance bag? A water bottle, of course. (Preferably a Hydroflask, S'well or any bottle that comes in a fun color.) No dehydration here, please and thank you.

Your dance bag also functions as a de facto vending machine for your dance besties, since you always come prepared with the best snacks, and you're always willing to share. As a bonus, your snacks are almost always homemade, since you're practically a five-star chef.

And while we're wary of zodiac stereotypes, there is a pretty good chance your dance bag is stocked with tissues. And there's no shame in that—because, really, who can get through a performance of Romeo and Juliet without shedding some tears? Props to you for being in touch with your emotions, Cancer.


We'll state the obvious, Leo. You love to look at yourself, and sometimes the studio mirrors just aren't enough. So, naturally, you always keep a compact mirror in your dance bag, just in case your makeup or your bun needs an extra touch-up.

You also love bright colors, and you're not afraid to wear more daring dancewear than any of your besties. You've usually got a couple of leotards packed in your bag, just in case you need to make a fashion statement, and they're always fun. Bright colors, loud prints, stylish necklines—you'll try anything.

But something not everyone knows about you? You're an amazing friend, and incredibly loyal, Leo. That's why you've usually got something in your bag for your dance bestie, be it her favorite brand of granola bar, a fun sparkly pin for her hair, or a note reminding her she's a star, on and off the stage.


You're incredibly hardworking, Virgo, so you've always got the tools for success in your dance bag. TheraBands, foam rollers, tennis balls—you're the one dancer your teacher can always count on to be stretching between classes.

You also love to be prepared, so you've usually got a makeshift first-aid kit in your bag. The thought of suffering a blister or floor burn without the appropriate salves or bandages makes you shudder, and, hey, it's always better to be overprepared, right?

What's most noticeable about your dance bag, though, isn't what's inside of it. It's what it looks like—your bag is pristine. It never smells like feet, and you've got a hard-core system for what you keep in each little zip pocket or compartment. And TBH, all of your dance friends are jealous, though they'd never admit it.


Like your sister sign Taurus, appearances are important to you, Libra. You like to look good (no shame in that), so your dance bag is always stocked with the essentials: extra hair spray, lip gloss, concealer, bobby pins and a spare leotard, in case you get just a bit too sweaty.

You also love to socialize, so if this were the 1950s, we would say that you always keep your date book in your dance bag. As it is, you always have your phone with you, and it's usually blowing up with texts from your dance besties asking to make plans.

Your dance bag wouldn't be complete without your secret supply of chocolate. But to be clear: This isn't your average Hershey's bar. Libras aren't afraid to indulge, so you keep a bar of luxury dark chocolate tucked away for when the cravings hit.


You can't fool us, Scorpio—the contents of your dance bag aren't some big mystery, like you'd like us all to believe. In fact, they're pretty basic: For starters, you always have a black leotard or two in your bag. After all, black is your signature color.

One thing that isn't in Scorpio's dance bag? Toe pads. You love to look tough, so you'd never be caught dead wearing toe pads with your pointe shoes. However, this does mean you need a hefty supply of Band-Aids for the inevitable blisters.

You also love all things mystical and, dare we say, witchy. You're the Halloween queen of the zodiac, after all! So it's no surprise you always have a crystal or two in the front pocket of your dance bag. Let us guess…moldavite?


You're an explorer, Sagittarius, and that applies to your dancing. You're always trying new dance styles, and that's reflected in your dance bag. You always have the trappings of your latest obsession in your bag: heeled shoes for ballroom, kneepads for contact improv, sneakers for breaking, the list goes on and on.

But on all of your adventures, there's one consistency: You love making memories. And that means literally—you document everything. At each performance or recital, you're bound to be the one with a Polaroid or disposable camera in your bag, and you can usually be found snapping backstage candids of your dance besties.

Your other favorite form of documenting? Writing it down. You love to learn, so you're always taking notes. You can usually be found after class scribbling down your dance teacher's latest piece of wisdom. Your dance bag is crammed with half-filled notebooks, and you wouldn't have it any other way.


You like to be prepared, Capricorn. And we mean prepared—for every bad scenario imaginable. That's why your dance bag is a mini survival kit. The first Capricorn dance bag guarantee? A stitch kit, of course. Losing a ribbon on your pointe shoe mid-rehearsal is your worst nightmare.

You also always have at least three spare leotards handy. After all, what if you spill something, or get too sweaty or, worst of all, show up to an audition in the same leotard as your dance rival? No, thank you. As a Capricorn, you're expecting the best and preparing for the worst.

Another key to your survival kit? Headphones, so you can drown out the noise around you and focus on your dancing. And before anyone asks, the answer is yes, you have the perfect playlist—for each and every occasion.


Aquarius, you love helping others. That's why it sometimes seems like your dance bag isn't even for you—it's filled with stuff you bring for your friends. Snacks for one dance bestie, Band-Aids for another, and tampons, of course, just in case anyone needs one.

But when it comes to you, you're all about originality. That's why you always have tons of fun accessories in your bag: striped legwarmers, colorful socks, tie-dyed sweats and more than a couple of fun additions to your ballet bun, just to make it a little more interesting.

You're also a rebel at heart, Aquarius, which is why there's usually something in your dance bag that just borders on breaking the rules. Maybe your studio is strictly black leotards only—and yours is gray. Or phones are completely banned—and you just put yours on vibrate. We see you.


Like your fellow water sign Cancer, you're big on hydrating during dance class. But as a Pisces, you're a little more imaginative (and a little less practical), meaning you're usually carrying your water in something aesthetically pleasing, like a mason jar, a tumbler, or one of those fancy water bottles with a crystal in the base.

Unlike Cancer, you're a mutable sign, meaning you can adapt to just about any situation. Counterintuitively, this actually means your dance bag is pretty sparse. Unlike other zodiac signs who feel the need to overprepare in case of disaster, you're comfortable in most situations, and your dance bag reflects it. You like the basics, nothing else.

Something most people might not know about you, though, is that you get cold easily. We're not sure why, but it's a Pisces staple. That's why if you keep anything in your dance bag, it's the coziest of warm-ups.

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