Cupcakes & Conversation with Kathryn Morgan, Soloist, New York City Ballet
Kathryn and I share a passion for widening the reach of ballet; bringing ballet to people who, at the moment, just don’t see what ballet has to offer them or why it’s even relevant to their lives. And so of course, I had to interview her to find out more. Tweeting ballet dancers have been in the press recently, and social media is one way of de-mystifying what goes on in the ballet world to a wide audience. The Cupcakes & Conversation series of interviews is another. I hope you enjoy.
What motivates you at 8am on a Monday morning ?
Just starting a new day of dancing. Honestly, my passion for ballet is what constantly keeps me going, even though I am a morning person and get up easily anyway!
What are you looking forward to dancing this year ?
Many different ballets – because we tend to find out casting only two weeks before, it is hard to know for sure what I will be doing! However, things that are possibly coming up for me are Scotch Symphony, Divertimento No. 15, Who Cares, In the Night, and a new ballet by Peter Martins.
Who would you most like to dance with & what would you dance ?
My favorite person to dance with is Tyler Angle! So anything with him! But at some point in my career, I would love to dance Swan Lake, the MacMillan Romeo and Juliet, and Giselle. I also want to do as many Balanchine and Robbins ballets as I can. But I’m only 21, so I have time!
If you could dance anywhere in the world (not only in a theatre), where would you dance ?
I want to dance all over the world – Covent Garden, La Scala, the Opera Garnier, to name a few. However, I am already dancing at my dream place – New York City Ballet!
How do you prepare your pointe shoes ?
First, depending on the ballet, I cut the shank. If I need a hard shoe, I only cut a fourth of the shank; if I can have a softer shoe, I cut half of the shank. Then I shave edges of the outer sole with a Stanley knife to give the shoe a more streamlined look. Then I simply sew on the ribbons and elastic. For performances, I always rosin my heel and toes before I put the shoe on. Then I scrape the bottom so I don’t slip and rosin like crazy! It’s a long process, but for me, it is worth the extra effort.
What is your daily routine at the moment ?
I wake up and eat breakfast while I check my email and read for a while. Then I have a little routine that consists of some yoga and Pilates mat work that I always do before I leave in the morning. We have 10:30 class for either an hour or hour and a half depending on the day. We then rehearse all day with an hour off somewhere until 6:00. If there is a performance, I grab a little something to eat, get physical therapy, do hair/makeup, and then perform at 7:30 or 8:00. If I don’t, I usually just head home, eat dinner, and either watch television, workout, sew shoes, take an Epsom salts bath, get random things done, or all of the above! I try and always go to bed at a decent hour because I really need my sleep.
You can ask six famous people to dinner – who would you invite ?
Audrey Hepburn, George Balanchine, Darci Kistler, Fred Astaire, Coco Chanel, and HM Queen Elizabeth.
What would surprise people about you ?
My mom is my best friend. We really no longer have a mother – daughter relationship. I can tell her anything, and she is my rock.
Who inspired you to dance ?
I grew up watching many different dancers on videos – Alessandra Ferri, Darcey Bussell, Julie Kent, Darci Kistler, and so I was inspired by and looked up to all of them. But I think what really drove me to dance was not a ‘who’ but a ‘what’ – music. Even before I could walk, I was obsessed with music, especially classical, and it was as if I wanted to become the music itself. Dancing was the only way I knew how.
What is your best piece of advice ?
Although it is easier said than done, don’t compare yourself to others. If you constantly worry about what other people are doing, you are letting time go by that you could be using to improve your own dancing. There is always going to be someone who can jump higher, turn more, and have better extension. Instead, work on what you need to improve and be proud of your own strengths. Believe in yourself!
How do you prepare in the hours before a show ?
I definitely have a little routine. I always shower so I feel fresh. I make sure I eat a little something to have energy but nothing too heavy to weigh me down. Then I always do my hair first and makeup second. I am a little obsessive about my makeup; it is actually somewhat of a stress-reliever for me and calms me down before a performance. Then I head down to the stage about an hour before I am scheduled to dance to stretch, warm-up, and get my shoes on. Then I get into costume at about the ten minute call so I can jump around onstage and practice a few things before curtain.
Which role has tested you the most & how ?
Definitely Aurora in The Sleeping Beauty. It is the most technically challenging role I have ever done. The hardest part is knowing how to pace yourself throughout the course of the evening. It is not a role where you push as hard as you can for five minutes and then you’re done. With Aurora, you carry the e
ntire ballet and have to show not only pristine technique but the character change from an excited 16-year-old to a regal princess.
If you were asked to design your own ballet costume, what would you create ?
Either something long and flowing in a pastel color or a tutu with tons of sparkling jewels! Two totally different costumes, but I think both are ‘me’ in some way!
What do you look for in a dance partner ?
First off, someone I can completely trust. Also, someone who cares not just about the steps but about the music and artistry of whatever ballet we are doing. I think that is why Tyler Angle I and dance so well together. We both hear music the same way and have the same artistic approach to our roles. Most importantly, I trust him 200%.
What is your favourite quote ?
“Strive to be quietly excellent.” – Rick Morgan – my dad! I grew up on this statement.
Do you have a ‘signature step’ – one that comes naturally to you ?
I am not really known for any one ‘step’ per se. My trademark is definitely my artistic side and lyricism. I love getting into character and acting onstage. I think this is because I am shy in real life, and ballet is my way of expressing my emotions. Even if the ballet I am doing has no story, I love finding something to convey in everything I dance.
A phrase I use far too often is … ?
” I’m sorry”. I’m always saying it in rehearsals!
What’s been your best on-stage moment so far ?
I believe it would have to be dancing Juliet (from Romeo & Juliet). It is the most fulfilling ballet to dance because it allows you to feel every emotion anyone could ever have. My debut was so exciting and will be something I will never forget. However, I have loved developing the role over time and finding a different story with every Romeo I dance with – I’ve had three!
Do you have a secret skill which no-one knows about ?
Well it’s not a secret, but I play the piano. I took lessons for seven years.
In terms of your ballet career, where would you like to be in a year from now ?
I hope to just be dancing as much as I can. I would love to guest and perform in many places and do a wide variety of roles. I hope to keep improving both my technique and artistry and challenge myself to be the best dancer I can. One other thing I hope to do is bring ballet to people who, right now, might not know anything about it. That is why I enjoy using facebook, twitter, and other technology, to expose the world to ballet.