Photos by Oli Peters for The Little Hawk.
DANCING THROUGH LIFE
by Sonora Taffa
Wearing a leotard, pointe shoes and a cropped olive green shirt, Kate Van Fosson ’13 poises herself before bending her legs and sweeping into a graceful plié. Her confident movements reveal years of training, and it becomes clear that she has achieved the fleeting dream of every six-year-old girl. Van Fosson is a ballerina.
“Ideally, ballet would be my career. I could change my mind and do something else, but as for now I want to pursue it as far as I can,” Van Fosson said. “Most people would say that the competition is cut-throat, but it doesn’t faze me much. I’m not surrounded by so many people competing yet.”
Van Fosson trains six days a week at City Ballet of Iowa, along with three other dancers. Classes range between an hour and a half to two hours long.
“I took my first dance class when I was five-years-old,” Van Fosson said. “I grew into (ballet). I didn’t become serious about it one year or date; I just developed along with my training.”
Van Fosson has reached a point in her training which requires instruction outside of Iowa City. She auditions multiple times a year in Chicago to attend summer ballet programs, affiliated with or connected to high profile ballet companies. She has attended The Rock School in Philadelphia, the San Francisco Ballet, and Gelsey Kirkland in New York City. However, two summers ago a broken foot prevented Vanfosson from attending Pacific Northwest Ballet (PNB), in Seattle.
“I woke up on a Wednesday and my foot hurt. I just thought it was something weird and I was seeing a physical therapist at the time,” Van Fosson said. “I was moving through that pain for a while, and I actually performed Don Quixote, bad foot and all. After the performance, I finally got into the doctor and they told me that it had been broken the entire time. My sesamoid was cracked.”
Van Fosson underwent a very successful foot surgery, however it forced her to take a year off of her intense training schedule. She later discovered that her chances of being able to dance seriously again had been slim.
“I had mixed feelings about it. I had been in pain for so long that I was happy to figure out what was wrong with me,” Van Fosson said. “Getting it fixed felt so good; having surgery was like the happiest point in my year. But of course I would have rather danced at PNB than sit on the couch and watch the World Cup all summer.”
Van Fosson has trained relentlessly to compensate for the time her injury forced her to take off, and she recently auditioned for the summer intensive program at PNB once again.
“Hopefully I’ll make it to Seattle this time around,” Van Fosson said. “I always make sure to not let ballet define who I am though. It’s something that I love to do, but I don’t want my happiness to depend on it like some dancers’.”
As Van Fosson’s senior year and graduation approach, she has begun to weigh her options for the future. She is looking into the possibility of a full year art school, however she also may attend a regular college and dance on the side.
“Next year I could be here; I could be gone. In dance you have to start looking into your future a lot earlier than you have to in a lot of other areas, because the window of opportunity is so small,” Van Fosson said. “City High is such a great school and I don’t want to just throw my academic education out the window. If it’s possible to both dance more and be surrounded by more people in the dance world, on top of getting a very good education, I would go (to an arts school).”
Although her future in ballet remains uncertain, Van Fosson approaches it with unwavering optimism, flexibility, and above all else, love for dance.
“I want to dance so badly, because ballet incorporates so many elements that I love into one thing. The physicality of it, the musicality of it, and the artistic point of view,” Van Fosson said. “There are so many options. It’s mental and physical at the same time. Not to mention it’s just beautiful.”