Monday, September 20, 2010

Interview with Ballet West Apprentice Katie Meeusen

Good friend and fierce ballerina Katie Meeusen is no stranger to new beginnings: after graduating from The Rock School (where we were bestest friends ;) she spent a year at Butler University before joining Tulsa Ballet II. Unsatisfied there after a season, she moved to NYC (where we reunited ;) to enter the trainee division at Joffrey. This month her dream of a professional contract came true: she started as an apprentice with Ballet West in Salt Lake City.

Read my interview with Katie about her first few weeks with the company below...Katie, we miss you in NYC!
How have your first few weeks at Ballet West been? What has the process of settling into a new company been like?

My first few weeks here at Ballet West have been absolutely amazing, and I am so blessed to be dancing for such a fantastic company. I was pretty nervous about starting work, especially coming from a school environment, but the entire company has been so supportive and very welcoming. Like starting anything new, it’s been a huge adjustment. There have definitely been days that I felt completely overwhelmed, but I’m really just trying to absorb everything, find my stride, and take it one day at a time. The company has definitely been busy these first few weeks. I am just starting to get a taste of what life as a professional ballet dancer is like…and I love it!

What is your typical schedule like? How is it different from when you were training at Joffrey?

Here at Ballet West our day starts at 10am with company class. After class we have a 15-minute break before rehearsals start. Rehearsals then run for six hours from 11:45-2:45 and 3:45-6:45 with a lunch break in between. My personal schedule depends entirely on what we are working on that week. Some days I’ll work 5 or 6 hours while others I won’t have any rehearsals at all. While in New York my day was filled with class after class. I took a technique and pointe (or pas) class in the morning followed by another technique class in the afternoon. Then I would usually take yet another technique class later in the evening.

Katie with a group from Ballet West (she's 3rd from the right, standing)

So far, how is this better or worse than when you started at Tulsa Ballet? Is it difficult to keep starting in new environments, or exciting?

My year in Tulsa Ballet’s second company was a big learning experience. However, starting here has been a vastly more positive experience. I believe it is so important to find a company that is a good fit for you and your dancing, and I felt right away that Ballet West was that place for me. It seems like a great place for me to grow as an artist and I really hope to be dancing here for many seasons.

What ballets are you performing or covering this season? What are you most looking forward to?

This season at Ballet West is full of fantastic ballets. We performed Balanchine’s Serenade in mid August in Chicago at the Chicago Dancing Festival, and I honestly could not have asked for a more amazing first show with the company! The season here in Salt Lake opens with a John Butler’s Carmina Burana and George Balanchine’s Four Temperaments. I am involved in both works and while Carmina is definitely an exciting ballet I have absolutely loved working on 4Ts. I am dancing Melancholic corps and covering Phlegmatic, and I adore both. Next in the season is the Nutcracker, which we are performing the entire month of December. I have always loved the Christmas season, and as a new company member I am beyond excited for the chance to dance so many performances. Following the Nutcracker we will be dancing The Sleeping Beauty. Then comes a triple bell with George Balanchine’s Chaconne, Jiri Kylian’s Sinfonietta, and Nicolo Fonte’s Bolero. We actually just started setting Sinfonietta this past week and I was surprised with how much fun I have had starting to learn the piece. Our season ends with an the Innovations program, which includes a mix of pieces from various choreographers as well as company members from Ballet West.

Katie with Ballet West at Chicago Dance Festival
You're an apprentice. How is that different from Ballet West II and the main company?

Apprentices are considered and are under contract as artists of the company just as corps members are. There are two apprentices this season and we work entirely with the main company and dance in all of the productions. Of course, we are at the bottom of the seniority totem pole. Ballet West II, while they perform with us for larger productions and pieces, also performs on their own. They actually are on their first official tour in Iowa right now.

What are your goals for this year?

It is interesting how my personal goals have evolved since starting here at Ballet West. In the past I always strived to train as hard as I could and eventually get a job in a professional ballet company. Now that I have crossed over into the professional world I have really had to consider what my aspirations are. This year I hope to establish myself and really find my stride in the company. I want to continue to push myself to work as hard as I can to continue to improve technically but as an apprentice I am also working to improve on the skills needed to be successful in a corps situation. I also hope to really dig into the work here and start to find myself as a professional dancer…as an artist. Eventually I hope to
rise through the ranks and have a successful and fulfilling career dancing here.

Do you miss NYC and why?

I of course miss NYC! It truly is a city like no other and I have had nights that I miss it so much it hurts! As much as I am loving every minute of my new life here in Salt Lake City, I miss my friends in the city and the teachers at Joffrey more than I can say. There was nothing like being able to hop on the train and watch ABT or NYCB perform any night I choose or wonder through the village down to the Hudson River and then back up to Washington Square to listen to the musicians by the fountain.
I miss those little things…the people, the noise, the life and excitement immeasurably. Still, we as dancers work for years with the goal of finding a job in the professional company. I never imagined I would have a career dancing in New York, so in retrospect I am just so glad I had the opportunity to live there for a time!

Katie and I (and Victoria :) in our Rock School days (circa 2005) on a trip to Central Park, NYC!

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