I was so excited when Kate McDonald agreed to let me interview her! I first saw Kate dance while watching The Joffrey Elite, a YouTube documentary series about what it's like to be in the most elite group of the Joffrey Ballet School in New York City. In this interview, you will learn a little more about Kate and the journey that lead her to New York City!
Photo Credit to Tarzan Dan
Kate McDonald, born on the 11th of Sept 2001 in Nova Scotia, Canada, initially began her training in the circus arts where her love of performance was immediately evident. Captivated by the stage, Kate transitioned her focus to community theatre where she was cast in key roles in musicals such as Mama Mia, Hairspray, and Chicago. Although she loved theatre and acting, it became readily apparent that dance was Kate’s true passion as she increasingly pursued dance training and performance opportunities, immersing herself in a variety of dance styles including ballet, jazz, contemporary, hip hop, acro, lyrical, modern and musical theatre. Through her dance, Kate has earned many special awards and dance scholarships and has had opportunities to perform throughout Atlantic Canada and in Niagara Falls, Montreal, Calgary, NYC and LA. In the summer of 2015, Kate was invited to train in Toronto at the prestigious National Ballet School of Canada following which she flew to Paris, France where she spent a week working with a number of European choreographers as part of the 5678 Showtime Paris Dance Tour. During her stay in Paris, Kate met international fashion photographer Greg Sino who, impressed by her unique style, encouraged her to pursue modeling in addition to her dancing. In the fall of 2015 Kate had the pleasure of working with Greg in NYC and has since been combining dance and modeling in collaborative projects with many talented photographers and designers in Atlantic Canada and New York. In 2016, seeking to pursue more intensive dance training, Kate auditioned for the Jazz and Contemporary summer dance intensive at the esteemed Joffrey Ballet School in NYC and was thrilled to not only be accepted for the summer program but to also be invited to enroll in the 4 year Jazz and Contemporary Trainee Program. Recognizing the value of this opportunity, Kate packed her dance shoes and left her home in Eastern Canada to embark on this rigorous training program in New York City, determinedly pursuing her dream of one day becoming a professional dancer! During her first year at Joffrey, Kate was selected to dance with Joffrey Elite – a competitive dance troupe comprised of a selected group of Joffrey Ballet School trainees. The training and performances of the Joffrey Elite were filmed and aired as a docuseries on the YouTube Channel AwesomenessTV. Participating in the first season of Joffrey Elite was an absolutely amazing experience for Kate and really contributed to her growth both as a dancer and performance artist. Now entering into her second year at the Joffrey Ballet School, Kate has decided to focus more intently on her ballet training and will be returning in September 2017 as a Ballet Trainee at the school.
Photo Credit to Steven Vandervelden of vandyphotography
1.) How did you initially get into dance?
Although I took a creative movement class when I was about 3yo, I really didn’t get into dance until I was about 8. It’s funny because my mom joined a competitive ladies hip hop team for fun and after going to one of her competitions I begged her to let me start dancing! So we ended up dancing at the same studio!!
2.) At what point did you realize you wanted to pursue dance seriously?
I always loved dance but I don’t think I really thought about dancing professionally until I was 12 yo. I went to a 2 week ballet intensive and just fell in love with ballet! Although I was still competing in most other styles of dance I started to take more ballet classes and really focus on my technique. The following year I was accepted to Canada’s National Ballet School summer intensive and also did some training in Paris. That was really the summer that changed my life because from then on I have been dedicated to becoming a professional dancer!
3.) Can you describe your personal experience auditioning for the Joffrey Elite?
Auditioning for Joffrey Elite was such a terrifying and exciting experience. All the Joffrey Ballet School trainees were invited to audition so there were a lot of really great dancers auditioning for just 10 spots! The auditions took place over 2 days. The first day was a more technical ballet audition with call backs on the second day for a contemporary audition. I was so nervous both for the dancing and because the cameras were always right there filming everything! I was so honoured to have been chosen!!
4.) Can you describe a typical day at the Joffrey Ballet School?
Typically classes start at 9am. I try to get to the studios by about 815am to warm up and chat with my friends J Most days start with ballet then in the Jazz and contemporary program we would do classes in modern, contemporary, jazz, hip hop and theatre dance. In ballet of course the classes are ballet, pointe and partnering but also jazz, modern and contemporary. Most days I am done classes by about 430pm. I should mention that Joffrey Elite was always in addition to the regular classes so typically in the evenings, occasionally through the day. It definitely made getting homework done challenging…LOL
5.) Do you have any specific dancers, choreographers or teachers that you look up to?
It is so hard to pick any one dancer, choreographer or teacher. I have had the opportunity to work with so many amazing choreographers and dancers in the last year! Each person has taught me something new and really opened my mind to new ways of thinking about dance and movement and performance.
I watch a lot of dance performances and videos and am so inspired by so many dancers, not just for their technical skill but also how they are able to convey an emotion and a story through their dance. Some of my favourite dancers are Misty Copeland, Sventlana Zakharova, and Juliet Doherty. And I love the Complexions Ballet Company, Netherlands Dans theatre and Alonzo Lines Ballet Company
6.) Can you describe a favorite experience at a competition or convention?
My most favourite experience happened at the Bella Moxi Competition in LA where I had the opportunity to dance with the amazing dancers from the defI Foundation (a foundation dedicated to supporting dancers with special needs). Working with this incredible group of people and sharing in their love and passion for dance was so inspiring
7.) What is your favorite part of training at the Joffrey Ballet School/being apart of the Joffrey Elite?
I love training at the Joffrey Ballet School! The instructors are so talented and so supportive of each dancer’s development. I love that at the Joffrey I have opportunity to work with many different dancers and choreographers! It is just such a vibrant and creative atmosphere to be in! Having the opportunity to train with Mr Baud and Mr Prescott on Joffrey Elite was incredible. They are so amazing and even though they could be really hard on us sometimes we always knew they wanted only the best for us!
Photo Credit to Tim Lingley of Tim Lingley Photography
8.) What is your favorite part of starring in the YouTube series The Joffrey Elite?
I have to say that seeing myself on “TV” was such a crazy experience! It is so strange to spend so many hours shooting and have it all edited down to an 8-10 min episode! We never got to see the episodes before they aired so it was always a little nerve wracking on Friday nights! I never knew if I was going to be shown saying something ridiculous or looking terrible in practice…haha…if you have a bad turning day then it is captured forever on tape! Overall though I have to say that my favorite part of being on Joffrey Elite was the people! The other dancers, Mr Baud and Mr Prescott, the camera crew and the producers…we were all one family by the end and it was such an incredible experience! I love them all and feel so lucky to have been chosen to be apart of it!
9.) Can you give us any behind the scenes "secrets" of the Joffrey Elite?
I have been asked this question a lot and the true but boring answer is not really. The series was pretty accurate. We all got along and supported each other. It really was a very positive experience!
10.) What is your favorite role you have ever danced? Do you have a dream role?
To this point I have not done a lot of classical ballet training so have never really danced a true “role”. Of course I loved dancing the lead in the first Joffrey Elite dance. It was exciting but scary because we were all just getting to know each other and we had to perform so many technically challenging lifts but it was really fun! I really want to be in a contemporary ballet company so I don’t really have a dream role as such.
11.) You also model in addition to dancing, What made you decide to try modeling? Can you tell about any memorable modeling moments?
I had never thought of modeling before I met Greg Sino in Paris. He really encouraged me to try modeling. I have done some true fashion work but since moving to New York I have been doing more collaborative dance shoots. I really enjoy modeling! It is a great way to meet new people and it is really fun! Probably my most memorable modeling moment was when my mom and I flew down to NYC for a day to shoot with Greg Sino. It was my first shoot ever! There was a hair and makeup artist and a stylist and we were all in a tiny little apartment just off Times Square. We spent the entire day shooting in the streets of NYC and then my mom and I flew home that night! It was Crazy!
12.) What has been your greatest experience or proudest moment in your dance career so far?
I am pretty proud of myself for having the courage to follow my dance dreams all the way to New York City! I come from a small city on the east Coast of Canada so moving away from my family and friends and to the big city was terrifying but I am so glad I did! NYC is full of such energetic, creative, interesting people and I feel so fortunate to have the opportunity to train in such a vibrant place!
13.) What are your future goals as a dancer?
I want to dance professionally in a contemporary ballet company but I also love theatre dance and would love to danse on broadway!
14.) Anything else you want readers to know?
My favourite foods are popcorn and chocolate ice cream, I LOVE llamas and I’m super excited to continue on this amazing adventure!
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