In September, Ballet in the City welcomed former New York City Ballet dancer Kathryn Morgan to Cleveland for a weekend of performances and master classes. Kathryn treated audience members to an intimate look at her career, and performed three variations for her crowd, including the world-premiere of The Red Shoes, a piece choreographed specifically for her. Kathryn also taught two master classes for students of all ages the following day.
Here, Kathryn reflects on her weekend in Cleveland and what is to come for her and Ballet in the City, including an upcoming trip to the Detroit Opera House on November 6 and exciting new tour plans for 2016.
Ballet in the City: Describe your Cleveland experience – what were your favorite parts of the weekend, and what was your overall feeling about the time that you spent here?
Kathryn Morgan: I couldn’t believe the reception I got in Cleveland. It didn’t really occur to me until they were setting up the performance’s after-party while I was getting ready, and it was all decked out in red shoes, that this was all about me. I’m never the person that’s going to tell you, “Oh, the whole show is about me.” That’s not what I do; I’m all about giving back and having the focus be on the other dancers. But then it occurred to me, wait a minute, all these people have come to see me. The next day when I was teaching the master classes, I had over 100 kids between the two classes. I was like, “Oh my gosh, they are all coming to take class from me.” It just hadn’t really occurred to me that it was all about me.
I’ve never had a performance all about me before. It was just amazing, everybody was so kind, and it just really was lovely. I met so many incredibly people and the things they were telling me meant the world. Everybody knows I’m dealing with the thyroid illness and all that, and I went into Cleveland knowing that I wasn’t my stick-thin self and that’s always a very conscious thing for a dancer—especially one who was in the New York City Ballet. Nobody said a word about it the whole weekend. Nobody was like, “Oh, Kathryn looks kinda big.” Everybody just said how much they loved the performance, how much they loved The Red Shoes, which was a goal of mine because I knew how spectacular the choreography was from Donald Garverick and I wanted to see other people’s reactions. They loved it. The reaction we got from that and the performance – people were crying and I just thought, “Nobody really cares that I don’t look like my teeny tiny self.” People were saying, “You are such an inspiration.” All in all, I was overwhelmed with the amount of love and joy I received. I was very refreshed.
You can check out Kathryn’s account of her trip to Cleveland in the YouTube videos below from her channel, Life With Katie.
Cleveland was the first place that you danced The Red Shoes. Tell us a little about how it felt to do a piece like this that, again, was created for you in this show about you that was focused on you and your career.
I have been in other people’s ballets before and I have had pieces in an original cast of things, but never a solo like this, never something solely focused on me, and never a piece that I was completely not only happy with but that we collaborated on. Don would ask my opinion and ask what I wanted to do. Other choreographers in the past—especially when you’re working in a big company setting—often times you have zero input. It was a complete collaboration the entire way. The Red Shoes is one of the best pieces of choreography I have ever danced. It was truly remarkable. I loved it and I’m so excited for everybody else to see it in other places, as well. The collaboration between Don and I, and the fact that I was just so excited to perform it and just couldn’t wait for people to see it, that was really special.
You’re now going to be dancing the show in Detroit at the Detroit Opera House. Talk about how the show has already evolved since Cleveland and what Detroit ticket-holders should expect.
We have definitely fine-tuned it. Cleveland brought to light what was great about the show, and what wasn’t great about the show. One of our biggest problems in Cleveland was that there were some technical issues—we didn’t get to run the show, and so we didn’t realize how short the first act was. The first act was over in about 15 minutes. We’ve added some things and we have couple other little surprises in there. I’m doing a whole different second video; it’s just me dancing (which should be highly entertaining, I’m sure!). We’re still in talks about what I’m dancing on the program. The Red Shoes will definitely be in there, Black Swan will still be there, and we have a lovely younger dancer named Emily who is also taking part in the show, which I think is so special to show the younger dancer progression to professional. She’s going to perform a little solo called Bluebird from Sleeping Beauty. I think that’s going to be really exciting. I was so excited when Jessica talked to me about that, I was like, “Yes, you have to include that!”
Do you and Ballet in the City have any other exciting tour plans for 2016?
We are going to the Kennedy Center (in Washington, D.C.) at the end of March! We could not be more excited. We’re getting not the biggest theater there, but it’s one of the biggest and huge, huge names have performed in it. I’m bringing a partner for the Kennedy Center, Jesse Carrey. He was my costar here in To Dance The Musical in New York, and he’s going to dance a couple of things with me. I’m still dancing The Red Shoes. He and I haven’t finalized the program yet, which is why I don’t want to announce what the program will be. We were also going to be heading to Florida for a big gala that we are going to be headlining during the first week of April.
I’m just so thrilled to have met Jessica and to be partnering with Ballet in the City, because this is something we’re looking at long term. We can take this anywhere. That’s the great thing about the re-branding, that Ballet in the City can be in any city. It could be in Europe, it could be in Australia, it could be on the other side of the country. We’re just really excited to see how many places we can travel to, and how many places we can bring ballet to and bring my story to people to hopefully inspire them.