Saturday, May 4, 2013

Mom in the Spotlight: Dancer, Teacher, Choreographer, Kate Walker

photo: Rappsnapper Photography

Kate Walker graduated magna cum laude with a Bachelor of Fine Arts degree from Cornish College of the Arts in Seattle, Washington. She is a former member of Dallas Black Dance Theatre II, and artistic director of DekaDance. Kate is also currently working on her Masters in Sport and Exercise Psychology.  

Kate has taught master classes around the country and her choreography has been commissioned by Dallas Black Dance Theatre II, The Hockaday School, Brookhaven Community College, and Contemporary Ballet Dallas, to name a few. She has been featured in Dance Studio Life and Dance Teacher magazines for her teaching and continuing studies in sport psychology. 

As a member of the Booker T. Washington High School for the Performing and Visual Arts faculty, Kate teaches ballet and modern techniques, as well as portfolio, kinesiology, and she co-directs Repertory Dance Company II.

How many children do you have?  Boys?  Girls?

I have one boy, Declan (pronounced “Deck-lan”), who is almost 4. 

Did you always plan to continue dancing and being a mom? 

I’m not a great “planner,” I am a fantastic procrastinator; so I think what happened was I just put off stopping dancing. Seriously though, I was 27 when my son was born and people, mostly other dancers, kept asking me if I was retired. It drove me nuts! What some people see as retired, I see as being picky. I am definitely still performing, creating, and teaching; it’s just that now I choose my projects more carefully because I value my time with my family.

How do you balance teaching, choreographing and motherhood?  When do you create new movement?

Man, I don’t know if we ever really balance everything. My husband has been on my case to be more fully present in each moment. I tend to be connected to my phone: constantly texting with fellow faculty members and dancers, or checking out people’s shenanigans on social media, so I am trying to unplug and really enjoy what I am doing at each moment.

As for where I create, the dance studio has always been a sacred space for me, but I rarely get time by myself in the studio anymore. So like most teachers and choreographers, I create most movement in my car during my commute and hope like crazy it will actually work when I get bodies to try it out on. Luckily, I teach some absolutely incredible students at Booker T. Washington High School for the Performing and Visual Arts (BTWHSPVA) who constantly challenge and inspire me, and most importantly, they will try anything!

Photo: Ken Smith

There are times when I look at my body, even through my harsh dancer eyes and think, wow, you look pretty good lady, and other times when I am plunged into a pit of despair over it.  What are you feelings about your body?  Are your feelings any different post- motherhood?

I usually have the “you look good” moments first thing in the morning when I pick out my outfit for the day (of sweats and t-shirt, I mean let’s be real), and then I spend all day long teaching high school students. That can kill a girl’s confidence pretty quickly. Nothing like standing next to 14-18 year olds in leotards, tights, and perfect make up for hours on end while I’m sweating my butt off and well, not a teenager anymore. 

When I cut myself a break, I know I am a much better dancer and performer now than I ever was before becoming a mother. The body may not respond as quickly as I’d like sometimes, but I’m also not in class consistently like I used to be. I get my butt kicked at the gym on a regular basis, and I’m much stronger than I used to be so I tend to use that to boost my confidence. I take great pride in being able to do more push ups than most high school kids, but ask me to do cardio next to them and I’m screwed. To sum up, I still have the same love/hate relationship I used to have with my body, now I just use my hectic schedule as an excuse when I’m not feeling it.

Has being a parent changed your approach to teaching? If so, how?

I’ve always been pretty no nonsense in my approach to teaching, and, as clich√© as it is to say, I think of all my students as my kids and try to treat them that way. So maybe my approach to teaching hasn’t changed so much, but it has definitely changed my approach to interacting with parents. Since I teach in a high school, a portion of my job is interacting with parents and guardians of students. My son may be a decade younger than the kids I teach, but I can talk to parents with common experience and understanding, and a huge amount of respect because I know what’s in store for me!

These days, instead of being purists, dancers must have a number of forms in their technical tool belt.  How does this play into your teaching?

Well, it is my secret desire to be a breakdancer. Ok, maybe not so secret. I teach ballet and modern at many different technique and ability levels, and one of my favorite things is to learn my students’ secret dancer identities. You know, when you have a student and you find out they’re a tapper, irish step dancer, ballet folklorico superstar, or whatever it is. I think it’s awesome to see how all those different skills can be applied to the movement I’m creating. Cookie-cutter dancers have never interested me and I like to think that makes my classes less intimidating to people. (But really, I’ve enlisted some of my high schoolers to teach me how to break dance, it’s going to be epic.)

What’s your favorite dance TV show - past or present?  

While I really appreciate the come back that dance has made through shows like “Dancing with the Stars” and “So You Think You Can Dance,” I’m really more of a golden age of musicals kind of girl. I adore anything with Gene Kelly, Fred Astaire, Donald O’Connor, Ann Miller, and the list goes on. My son loves “On The Town” and “Singin’ in the Rain” which makes me incredibly happy; we watch those a lot! 

What ‘s your "Is this really happening to me?" mommy tale that will give you years of mileage at cocktail parties?

Oh, there are so many to choose from, my son is a budding stand up comedian with impeccable timing! He is master of the one-liner, as so many toddlers are, but I think my favorite Declan-ism was when he was asked what he wants to be when he grows up, he responded “I want to be an artist so I can art everything!” I think every dance mom has her fair share of screaming in the audience and talking during quiet pieces stories, but when Declan came to one of his first concerts after he started talking he tried to talk to our department chair as she gave her welcome speech. The best part was when he yelled “Hi, Lily” she answered him from the stage!

Once you become a parent, treating yourself is rare.  How do you self-indulge these days?

The regular turn off the brain and body indulgence is mindless television and movies, when I can manage to stay awake for them. It usually takes me two or three tries to actually watch an entire episode or movie because I just zonk out. I also have really fun colleagues who are great to hang out and kick back with. We laugh a lot, at work and at home, which does wonders to de-stress.

Your advice to mothers of young children, particularly mothers in dance?

The best advice I got was “make your own normal.” Whatever your child grows up with will be normal for him or her. If going to the studio and being in the theater late is a common occurrence for you, then that’s what your children will understand. Just know where to draw the line. It’s really hard to say “no” to things, but learning that word was a revelation for me. I always thought people would be offended if I told them no, but it really never mattered in the long run, they always understood. You just have to make sure your family time is precious and your loved ones know they are valued. I’m still working on that, every chance I get I make sure my guys know how much I love them.

Photo: Brian Guillaux


  1. Great mom! its new a teaching to our child
    thanks for sharing

  2. Cool - a dancer from my home town! :) I love reading these interviews - gives me inspiration in my own dancer/mother journey. I will be looking up Kate and her company DekaDance. Thanks Keesha!

  3. I love you Kate Walker!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! Much love


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