Kat Wildish grew up in Tampa, Florida, but she shot from the beach to the balletic big time at the age of 15, when she toured the southern United States as a member of Ballet Gala, on stage with such superstars as Rudolf Nureyev, Margot Fonteyn, Cynthia Gregory, and Fernando Bujones. She received further training—on a two-year full scholarship from the Ford Foundation—at the nation’s premier dance academy, the School of American Ballet.
Kat is one of those rare ballerinas who has appeared with both New York City Ballet and American Ballet Theatre. She performed with NYCB in 1981, dancng works by legendary choreographer/founder George Balanchine, who hand-picked her to perform in one of his last works, Adagio Lamentoso. In ABT (1986), then under artistic director Mikhail Baryshnikov, she performed in more traditional ballets like The Sleeping Beauty (in his version for ABT, Sir Kenneth MacMillan created the role of the “knitting lady” for Kat; Julie Kent was one of her assistants!). Kat has also been a guest artist with such companies as Zurich Ballet, Metropolitan Opera Ballet, The Eglevsky Ballet (then directed by Edward Villella), Bernhard Ballet, Connecticut Ballet, Fokine Ballet, the American Dance Machine, Dances Patrelle, and Louisville Ballet. Until she retired from the stage in 2007 she danced the Sugar Plum Fairy in annual Nutcrackers in the New York area.
Kat is unusual in that she didn’t take up teaching after retirement but began giving classes while a student herself: Her first was at age 15, and in her class was future Joffrey ballerina and Tony-winning dancer Elizabeth Parkinson of Twyla Tharp’s Movin’ Out. Thus, she combines years of practical in-studio experience with decades of systematic training. She was schooled in all of ballet’s great pedagogical traditions: Vaganova technique at Milan’s La Scala under the direction of Rudolf Nureyev, and studies with her personal coach, former Kirov ballerina Kaleria Fedicheva; and Cechetti tutelage from her mentor and friend Dick Andros. Throughout her career Kat worked closely with such dance-world luminaries as SAB’s Alexandra Danilova, Suki Schorer, Stanley Williams, and Andrei Kramarevsky; choreographers Sir Kenneth MacMillan and Glen Tetley; and Ballet Russe de Monte Carlo veterans Nicholas Orloff and Anna Youskevitch, wife of danseur Igor Youskevitch. And with a repertoire ranging from Petitpa to Bournonville to modern masters like Balanchine and Cranko, she is conversant with a whole spectrum of choreographic styles.
More recently, Kat participated in American Ballet Theatre’s project of establishing uniform country-wide standards of instruction (for details see here), and she is now an ABT® Certified Teacher of Primary through Level 7 (the highest) of the ABT® National Training Curriculum. She has also trained and mentored other teachers, notably for the Dance Educators of America and as a member of the U.S. Faculty of Education of the United Kingdom’s Royal Academy of Dance (for more information, write: firstname.lastname@example.org).
Kat is a radiant and popular presence on the New York City studio scene: She was scholarship director and manager at Steps, a longtime teacher at the Broadway Dance Center, and currently serves on the faculty of the Alvin Ailey Extension Program, one of the country’s top dance-education centers. Her approach to teaching is both witty and rigorous, creating a noncompetitive, nonjudgmental atmosphere that is encouraging to beginners and professionals alike. At the barre Kat pays special attention to placement, injury prevention—important for adult students—and careful, anatomically sound work. Yet her classes are also eminently “danceable,” emphasizing musicality, harmony, line, and stage presence.
At The Ailey Extension she not only teaches multilevel adult ballet and pointe classes—12 per week—but produces and directs several sold-out student dance showcases each year. These “Performing in NY Showcases” include stagings of classical repertoire for her own students and performances by other groups in a variety of genres, from hip-hop to modern to tap. She teaches privately as well, and has coached dancers for major ballet competitions such as the Youth America Grand Prix. And while Kat is usually to be found on her home ground, she gives a number of elite workshops nationwide and around the world: in Germany, Switzerland, Japan, and, most recently, Italy.
Kat has been cited in the media as a master teacher, notably in the New York Times article, “See You at the Barre” by Daniel C. Wakin (March 23, 2007), and in issues of Dance Teacher and Pointe magazines. She has also created her own online ballet community: maintaining this web site; producing an engaging, informative monthly newsletter; and keeping in touch with students and colleagues through Facebook.
To study with Kat is to be the beneficiary of superlative technical training, a lifetime of accumulated ballet lore, and a generous, elegant spirit. She prepares her students not only to dance beautifully, but to live with grace.