‘Breaking Pointe’ ballet dancer teaching classes at Dancenter North in Libertyville
BY KATLYN SMITH firstname.lastname@example.org June 13, 2013 4:34PM
Season premiere: 8 p.m. July 22
Where: 540 N. Milwaukee Ave., Libertyville
Phone: (847) 367-7970
Updated: July 22, 2013 2:54PM
Katie Martin says she has been playing catch-up her entire career.
The untrained viewer would never know. The 24-year-old looks younger than her age, an asset in the selective world of ballet. And despite no acting classes, the dancer’s strength is her theatricality on stage.
But she started heavy training late, during her high school years at Dancenter North in downtown Libertyville. She got the part of the snow queen in Dancenter’s production of “The Nutcracker.”
“That’s when I realized what hard work was,” said Martin, who grew up outside of Grayslake and graduated from Warren Township High School in Gurnee. “That’s when I realized this is addicting.”
Now, Martin is back at Dancenter North to teach young dancers lessons from her brush with fame.
She starred in the first season of the CW reality show, “Breaking Pointe.” The series follows the various ranks of dancers at the prestigious Ballet West in Salt Lake City. The big draw is the intimate look behind the glamorous productions.
Cameras are there for every spill (and every expletive) during classes in front of a demanding artist director, Adam Sklute. Veteran principals are open about their jealousy of younger dancers. And aware of its younger audience, producers spotlight the “tumultuous” romantic relationships.
In the first episode of the series, Sklute did not renew the contract for a tearful Martin.
“You’re very exposed when you’re dancing,” Martin said. “That’s hard when you expose and you give everything you have, just to say ‘Oh no, that wasn’t good enough.’”
During the remainder of her contract, though, she earned the lead of the “Little Mermaid,” a Ballet West performance that did not air on the show.
Martin says dancers face rejection every day.
“I think in watching myself get rejected, that kind of boosted my confidence as backward as that sounds. It’s just really given me that extra pep in my step. I can do this.”
Now, she dances for Ballet Idaho in Boise. The new season of “Breaking Pointe,” airing in mid-July, will feature Martin in several episodes.
This summer, Martin has a three-month break and jumped at the chance to teach eight classes until the end of June.
“This is where I became a dancer,” Martin said. “This is were it all started. I love to just show my appreciation.”
Two other professional dancers also are teaching classes.
“They don’t come back with any sort of attitude or air of greatness,” said Cheri Lindell, Dancenter’s director, praising Martin’s “beautiful feet.”
On Wednesday, June 12, Martin led a class on jumps and turns for the second-most advanced level of dancers. She started the class asking students if they had done their sit-ups.
Her brown eyes were laser focused on their feet as she urged them, “Don’t wimp out!” After class, one student asked her for tricks on how to deal with aching toes. She suggested buckets of ice and numbing cream used for teeth.
“They normally crawl out of these classes,” Martin said.
She also instills lifelong lessons.
“If you are professional, you keep your composure and you don’t make a big fuss in the studio -— I think that those were big learning lessons for me,” Martin said. “I do try to show that to my students as well.”
The summer before what would have been her freshman year at the University of Iowa, Martin began her professional training with the Boston Ballet in a class with all younger dancers.
“That hurt my pride, but it also kind of lit the lighter,” said Martin, who put in an extra 30 minutes before and after class just to stretch.
She was accepted into a one-year program and decided to pursue ballet full-time.
“You need to go 100 percent or not at all,” Martin said her parents told her.
Ron Tilton, her boyfriend and a Ballet West dancer featured in the series’ first season, noticed her fitness the first time he saw her dancing on stage.
“You can tell, especially when you get stage lights on, how much work she puts in even on her downtime to be in perfect shape,” Tilton, 21, said.
In Boise, Martin is a member of the corps de ballet, the rank just below the soloists. She hopes to work her way up to the title of principal, but she’s realistic about the demands. Classes run from 10:15 a.m. to 6:45 p.m. (with an hour off for lunch), plus she does cross training in the gym, Pilates and cardio.
“I dream so big,” Martin said. “I want everything and anything.”