Kathryn Morgan is one of the most unique ballerinas on the dance scene today. She began performing as a soloist for the New York City Ballet in 2009 and in 2012, her dream was suddenly sidetracked due to an unexpected and devastating autoimmune illness. But she didn’t let any of this stop her from giving her dream another chance. Kathryn has since regained her health and has returned to performing, and she’s better than ever! Ballet in the City is presenting Bloch’s Evening with Kathryn Morgan on March 29-30, 2016 at the Kennedy Center, and we are so honored to have had the chance to chat with Kathryn little bit about her return to the stage, her upcoming performance, and the bright future she has ahead of her.
1. How old were you when you took your first dance class?
I was 3 years old when I started dancing. Although my parents say that I would dance around the house from the time I could walk!
2. What drew you to ballet?
Ever since I can remember, I was always drawn to music, particularly classical music. I remember wanting to “become” that music, and the only way I knew how to do that was by dancing. I saw my first ballet at the age of 2- it was a television special of the Bolshoi’s Nutcracker. I was completely taken in by it and tried to mimic the dancers, so my parents decided to put me in ballet class. I never stopped since!
3. What was the toughest part about returning to training and performing after overcoming such an invasive illness?
The most difficult aspect of my illness was mentally pushing past everything that was happening to me. To look in the mirror and see myself 40 pounds heavier with my muscles disintegrating was beyond frustrating. I got very depressed and didn’t think I would ever dance again. So coming out of that hole to start believing in myself again was very difficult, especially when other people would call me a fool and a failure to my face. But once I broke past those barriers, the rest got easier.
4. How did you feel when you finally were able to step back onto the stage?
It was a massive triumph for me to be back on the stage. After battling my illness for almost 5 years, nothing in the world felt better. I also am able to really enjoy every performance now instead of stressing about being “perfect”. Each time I dance feels like such a gift.
5. What led you to start up your YouTube channel?
While I was in the thick of my illness, I started watching YouTube videos as a distraction. It occurred to me that while there were thousands of beauty and fashion gurus, there were no dancers giving any advice of any kind. So, I thought that would be something I could bring to the “YouTube table”. I started off with stage makeup tutorials and just built my channel from there.
6. What’s been your favorite part of prepping for your Kennedy Center Performance of “The Red Shoes”?
One of my favorite things about this upcoming Kennedy Center Performance is that I was able to choose the program – I could dance anything I wanted! “The Red Shoes” was a big part of that. Having a ballet created for me is such an honor. I loved being in the studio with Donald Garverick while he was choreographing it. I will always cherish those days. It has been such a collaborative process, and I think it is one of the best things I have ever danced. I love preparing a ballet and working on it more and more each day.
7. What was the most challenging aspect of preparing for “The Red Shoes”?
The hardest thing about “The Red Shoes” is definitely the stamina it requires. It is a 9 minute solo, and of course, being the story that it is, it is not an easy 9 minutes! It takes pretty much every ounce of energy I have. But by the end, I feel incredibly accomplished.
8. What are your pre-performance rituals?
I don’t have any crazy pre-performance rituals, but I do everything in the same order every time. For example, I always do my hair first and then my makeup, warm-up, and then put on the finishing touches like lipstick and my headpiece. It’s always in that order. I also always put on my left pointe shoe first.
9. What are your favorite things to do on a day off?
I love having a nice relaxing day on days off – maybe having a Downton Abbey marathon or just enjoying the day with family or friends. I also love getting massages. I couldn’t dance well without them!
10. Where do you see yourself in 5 years?
In 5 years I hope to either be back in a ballet company or continuing to dance guest performances around the country. As long as I am performing, I will be happy! I also hope to continue teaching, as I love inspiring the younger generation.
11. What advice would you give to young dancers on overcoming obstacles on their way to pursuing a career in dance?
As cliché as it sounds, try not to compare yourself to anyone else. Worry about what you need to do and focus on being the best dancer you possibly can. Also, remember why you dance. When you are faced with an obstacle to overcome, keep that joy. The one thing that got me through my illness was my love for ballet and the fact that I couldn’t bring myself to give it up. That passion and drive will get you a very long way!