Spotlight On: Katherine Alexander

By: Debra Schreiber/Pittsburgh

From prima ballerina to founder of Exhalations Dance Theatre, Katherine Alexander has come a long way.

Katherine Alexander during Exhalations' "Expressions"/Photo Credit Debra Schreiber.

When the 21-year-old pharmacy student began ballet she stuck to it. “I was a very strict ballerina in high school,” Alexander said. She would practice between 24 to 26 hours per week.

When she began to look at colleges, Point Park University was definitely in mind; but Alexander chose Duquesne University for pharmacy. There was a dance team at Duquesne, but no dance theatre, so Alexander began Exhalations Dance Theatre.

Exhalations broke the ballerina from her mold. “I never thought as a strict ballerina I would be performing some of the things I’m performing,” Alexander said. She has now added contemporary, modern, Fosse jazz, tap, ballroom and hip-hop to her repertoire. She described the experience as, “Oh my gosh, I’m wearing foot thongs.” She has also studied Martha Graham contemporary, as well as Greek, Ukrainian and Bulgarian folk dancing.

Alexander, front, with Brandi Salter, during an Exhalations' modern number/Photo Credit Debra Schreiber.

Alexander also dances with the Junior Tamburitzans, focusing on Croatian dance and music, and plays an instrument called the brač, which belongs to the tambura family. The instrument is, “like a little guitar that sounds like a mandolin,” Alexander described. She enjoys performing with the Tamburitzans for, “celebration, carrying on traditions,” she said.

Alexander performing "Expressions"/Photo Credit Debra Schreiber

“Anytime I am on stage…that is happiness for me,” she said of her dancing, choreography and teaching.

Alexander taught and choreographed Exhalations' beginngers class for "Expressions"/Photo Credit Debra Schreiber.

Alexander has been fortunate, with no serious injuries holding her back from what she loves. However, she does have to be careful to avoid dislocations, as her extreme flexibility can sometimes cause them.

When asked if she had any regrets about not attending Point Park, her answer was no. Alexander is, “excited about being a pharmacist, and would not have been able to start Exhalations,” had things gone differently. She is grateful to her family, who has given her great support with her Exhalations venture. Her mother supplies costumes and food for the shows, and her aunt and brother help out as well.

Alexander also performs with Spotlight Musical Theatre Company and Encore Show Choir, and belongs to KE and ASP.

Anton Korsakov, First Soloist, Ballet Company of the Mariinsky Theatre

Anton Korsakov as the Nutcracker Prince

Anton Korsakov as the Nutcracker Prince

In December 2008, dancepanorama had an opportunity to interview Mr. Anton Korsakov, First Soloist of the Ballet Company of the Mariinsky Theatre. Here are the highlights:

dp: You have quickly risen far in the company’s ranks, and have attracted notice from reviewers worldwide. Some have compared you to Baryshnikov, Nureyev… how do you feel about this?

AK:

dp: Your career takes you to so many places. Favorites?

AK:

dp: In the States, we have always heard about how much more popular ballet is in Russia, how the performances sell out, and people from all walks of life enjoy the art form. As the country has changed in the last decade or so, have the people remained as devoted to ballet as before, or is this also changing?

AK:

dp: It is still early in your career, but you have had many opportunities. What have been your favorite roles? Are there some you have yet to perform?

AK:

Anton Korsakov as Don Quixote

Anton Korsakov as Don Quixote

dp: In the States and in Europe, it seems we are always looking for the next big thing in ballet, even as many companies still try to keep the classics alive. How does this compare with the way programming is done in Russia these days?

AK:

dp: To an outsider, your life seems pretty glamorous….what do you love most about your career? What do you love least?

AK:

dp: Do you ever look into the future, twenty years or so? What do you see?

AK:

Anton instructs student Haley Schwan in class. Haley is now dancing professionally with Staatsballet Berlin.

Anton instructs student Haley Schwan in class. Haley is now dancing professionally with Staatsballet Berlin.

dp: You’ve been interviewed quite a lot. Is there something that interviewers do not ask you, that you would wish for them to ask?

AK:

dp: Again, the future: from your perspective, how do you see the future of ballet, how will it evolve, and what place will it take in our global culture?

AK:

dp: Many thanks for your time and for sharing your thoughts. It has been wonderful and I’m looking forward to sharing this with others! And a huge thank-you also to Sergey Rayevskiy, of the Academy of Russian Classical Ballet, for arranging this interview and serving as translator.