September 16, 2019
KO Student Completely On Pointe
Animated and energized, Kate Beck ’21 was never a little girl to sit and watch television for long stretches of time. But that was before she saw a ballet performance on television that mesmerized her to the point where she sat down and took notice of the arabesques and pirouettes. From that first introduction to dance on the small screen and reading a favorite book every day, Dance Tanya Dance, Beck began formal dance lessons at the age of three. Now, 12 years later, her commitment to dance is formidable. She takes 19 ½ hours of ballet class weekly at the Connecticut Concert Ballet out of Manchester, plus an average of 10 hours weekly of rehearsal during The Nutcracker or the spring show. Additionally, she added to her dance repertoire nine years of modern, five years of jazz and tap dance which tallies another two hours of lessons for each type of dance form per week.
“I really enjoy dance and the adrenaline I get from it. You’re a bit nervous going on stage, but as soon as you’re out there, you’re very aware that you have to do the steps right and get the part done that needs to get done. It’s a feeling of letting go and having all your hard work and effort being put into that one thing,” Beck said.
As a deeply committed dancer, Beck has attended intensives (see the lengthy list below) and concentrated predominantly on technique. However, this summer, Beck focused on performing and projecting confidence in her dancing as well as learning how to pick up choreography readily. She auditioned for the Burkyn Ballet and was one of 25 college and high school dancers nationally and internationally to be selected into the prestigious Edinburgh Connection.
Before heading to Scotland, the four-week program began at Northern Vermont State College in Johnson where the dancers did a performance each week from Snow White, Swan Lake, Sleeping Beauty to Jardin Anime of LesCorsaires. The day began with a two-hour ballet class followed by either variations or choreography class. The afternoons consisted of pointe or partnering classes with rehearsal times for those attending the Scotland trip and three hours more of rehearsals in the evening. Beck was selected to perform both Grumpy and a dancer in the “Moonbeams” pointe piece, danced in Act 2 of Swan Lake and Jardin Anime of Les Corsaires, and was the lilac fairy attendant in Sleeping Beauty.
“I loved my ballet teachers, especially Helen Starr, a former Royal Ballet soloist, Arthur Leethe, Boston Ballet soloist and ballet master, Thom Clower, ballet master and director of Ballet Dallas, and John Garner and Amanda McKerrow, who are ABT principal dancers. My partnering teachers, Jared Mesa and Rob Royce were excellent, and I learned a lot from partnering class,” she said.
Following the experience in Vermont, 18 dancers headed to Edinburgh, Scotland, for two weeks. During the first week, the entire group learned every part for the performances in case someone was injured or sick. In the second week, the group learned their specific part, and Beck reprised her role as Grumpy, a role she relished. “I got to fight Snow White and the Prince. I fought a lot of people. We did a lot of improv as the dwarves. We could be chaotic but not to the point of distraction. I could get away with having a blanket tug of war with Sleepy.” She also performed in the “Moonbeams” dream sequence, which required more formality and precision.
“When the show was over, we would all meet and greet with the audience and take pictures with little kids. I was glad to be Grumpy because I had a lot of great moments in the show, although a few kids were a bit scared of me until the show was over.”
After the sold-out morning performance, the group toured Edinburgh and saw the Edinburgh Castle, Victoria Street (the inspiration for Harry Potter’s Diagon Alley), Arthur’s Seat, an extinct volcano, and Calton Hill, a UNESCO World Heritage site.
Beck keeps stretching herself despite the pain and aches of pointe shoes. “You do get blisters. Your toenails do fall off. You just accept it. The show must go on,” she said.
Beck plans to enroll in a BFA program where she will continue refining her skills. “ I look forward to preparing my audition tape and want to make sure I have all the skills necessary to do it.”
She’s well on her way.
(Joanne Whitehill, the artistic director of Burklyn. Photo credit: Paul Seaby)
Programs for which Kate auditioned, was accepted and attended:
ABT Young Dancer, NYC (3 years attended)
Central Pennsylvania Youth Ballet (3 years attended)
Connecticut Concert Ballet Elite Intensive
DancEnlight Modern Intensive for Teens, Adults, and Professionals
DancEnlight Modern Intensive for Youth (under 12 years old)
Gelsey Kirkland Young Dancer, NYC (2 years attended)
Hartt From Studio to Stage Summer Dance Intensive
Kaatsbaan Extreme Ballet
2012 CCB summer intensive and Dance Enlight for Youth (8)
2013 Gelsey Kirkland Young Dancer, Bolshoi CT, (9) 4 weeks total
2014 GElsey, ABT, CCB (10) 4 weeks total
2015 CCB Elite, ABT and DancEnlight for Youth (11) 5 weeks total
2016 CPYB, ABT (12) 7 weeks total
2017 CPYB, HARTT, DancEnlight Teen (13) 8 weeks total
2018 CPYB and Kaatsbaan Extreme Ballet (14) 8 weeks total
2019 CCB Elite, Burklyn Ballet Summer intensive and Edinburgh Connection: perform at Fringe Festival in Scotland 7 weeks total