Kathryn Morgan

American ballerina Kathryn Morgan caused a stir when she went public about why she left Miami City Ballet. She tells us about body shaming, positive mentoring and the joy of dance.

Dance Gazette | Why Dance Matters | Issue 5 - Oct 2022

What is the biggest misconception people have about dance?

People are finally understanding that ballet dancers are human beings too. We’re actual people! For a long time everybody thought of dancers as unattainable and so glamorous – but actually, we’re just like everybody else. To be relatable is a huge thing in today’s world. Any time you can follow a dancer on social media or see their daily life, you feel: they’re like me, but they’re just a ballet dancer. That’s been a huge thing I’ve seen through my YouTube channel.

How did ballet get its hooks into you??

I started dancing as soon as I could walk. Anytime my parents had classical music playing, I was completely transfixed. My mom tells me that I said, ‘Mommy, I want to be the music.’ Ballet was the only thing I ever wanted to do. The story goes that when I was 18 months old, the Bolshoi Nutcracker was on television. I had a teddy bear with a tutu on, I took the tutu off the teddy bear, put it on me and started dancing. That was it from day one. They tried to put me in other activities at school, but ballet was the only thing that stuck. And it’s still stuck.

Photo: Kathryn Morgan

You went public about the body shaming you experienced at Miami City Ballet. What does that do to a dancer?

Every ballet dancer has something about their body they don’t like. Oftentimes, your weight is criticised, and it’s very difficult to come out of that without some sort of mental struggle or eating disorder. I’ve heard people say to dancers, that was great, if you lost five pounds it would be even better. I don’t know even how this started – because if you look at much earlier dancers like Anna Pavlova, they were never that thin. We’ve switched over into thinking that you have to look like a prepubescent child in order to have the proper lines in ballet. One of the hard things about being a woman is so many of us looked quote, ‘perfect’ when we were 14, 15, 16. You go through puberty and these natural changes and suddenly it’s like, ‘Ooh, now you’re too big.’ I’m just becoming a woman, yet you want me to fight against that? It’s a very worrisome issue in the ballet world. 

What is the one thing that teachers could do to break the patterns that you experienced?

It’s not what you say, but how you say it. I think we need to get rid of terms like ‘Why are you doing this?’ or ‘Why are you not putting your feet like that?’ Why don’t you rephrase it and say, ‘make sure you remember to point your feet.’ You can say exactly the same thing, just in a more encouraging, positive way. I remember the teachers who were encouraging – that’s when I improved. Screaming at students, in my opinion, doesn’t work. You’re damaging them and they’re going to feel like failures, to be quite frank. So when I teach, I find the positive thing, even if I’m giving a correction. What I love about teaching is the mentoring aspect. I like students to walk out of my class happier than when they came in.

Artwork: Bex Glendining

Why does dance matter to you?

It’s my form of expression. It’s my form of feeling free. I’ve never felt more like myself and free than when I’m dancing. I was a very shy kid growing up, a child that would never say anything. Then I would get in the studio and my teacher would be like, Where’d that come from? It’s my freedom, and it’s something that I love helping other people with, because it’s so many other people’s passion as well. For me, it’s just life.

Why Dance Matters

Why Dance Matters is the RAD’s podcast – a series of conversations with extraordinary people from the world of dance and beyond. We hope these insightful personal conversations – hosted by David Jays, editor of Dance Gazette – will delight and inspire you. 

The fourth season of Why Dance Matters launches soon. Please do listen and subscribe.

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REST OF Issue 5 - Oct 2022

Queen Elizabeth ii and Prince Philip, London June 2017- Trooping the Colour parade Queen Elizabeth, prince philip (Duke of Edinburgh) parade for Queen Birthday (Prince Philip last trooping retired)

Queen Elizabeth II

Queen Elizabeth II, the UK’s longest-serving monarch, died on 8 September aged 96, after reigning for 70 years. She had been Patron of the RAD since 1953.


Ambassadors assemble

The RAD has been part of dancing life for both Céline Gittens and Steven McRae, from early steps to becoming principal dancers. Now, as the RAD’s new ambassadors, they share experiences.


Happiness. Inc

What makes a happy organisation? As the RAD asks its members how they feel about the Academy, Ella Satin explores what makes for a happy company or workplace.


Home and away

Teaching is a portable skill, one that can carry you across the world. Jane Albert meets RAD teachers who have made new lives in completely new countries.


Safe spaces

Isaac Ouro-Gnao meets ballerinas and young dancers from Ukraine who have fled the Russian invasion and building new lives.

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Art at any price

Gerard Charles, the RAD’s Artistic Director, argues that arts education is being undervalued.

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Open city

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