By Katie Grace, board president of Oyo Dance Company
Kaitlyn Culp will be one of the performers featured in Oyo Dance Company’s Hansel & Gretel, a show for children and families at Inspiration to Movement March 12-13.
Katie: So many little girls dream of being a ballerina and you are living that dream. How does that make you feel and what was your journey towards becoming a professional dancer?
Kaitlyn: I feel so incredibly lucky to be living so many little girls’ dreams, including my own! My journey towards becoming a professional dancer was a very diverse one; I started out in competition dance, studying many different styles until I switched studios my senior year of high school. There, I met the assistant director of a local company and had the opportunity to perform in a professional production, which truly sparked my love of ballet. I decided to go to college to pursue a double major, graduating last year with a dual B.A. in dance and accounting. I auditioned for almost 50 different dance companies, mostly on Zoom due to the pandemic, and ultimately decided to call Oyo Dance Company my new dance home and began my first season with them this past September. I was fortunate to perform in my first production as a professional dancer in their holiday show One Light in November and look forward to continuing to grow this season as a professional!
Katie: Ballet is an incredibly beautiful art form, but behind the scenes can be a different story. What are some of the biggest challenges dancers face and how have you overcome those challenges?
Kaitlyn: I think some of the biggest challenges dancers face are ever-changing and specific to each dancer’s experiences. Some of the challenges I have experienced have been balancing a busy schedule, dealing with difficult teachers or choreographers, and keeping my body healthy enough to dance lots of hours.
Keeping my body healthy is something I’ve really been working on recently. I spent about two years training off and on Zoom in less than ideal spaces because of university policies. Now that I have graduated and the pandemic is marginally better, I’m able to be back in a real studio but it was definitely a shock to my body to jump right back into dancing this season! I’ve been taking Pilates lessons with our artistic director, stretching after class and cross-training on my own to keep myself ready to dance everyday and build my strength and stamina back up. I also try to take our day off to really rest and reset myself for the week ahead.
Katie: What do you like most about dancing with Oyo Dance Company?
Kaitlyn: I like everything the most! I have been given so many opportunities to rehearse and perform diverse works and I love the community outreach we get to do. Some of my favorite memories so far are the bonding with my fellow company members and our amazing board members at trade show performances and events. I also have been able to work with the children in all our productions, and I have really enjoyed the process of mentoring those students and giving a glimpse into professional life for them. The company truly has a family feel to it, from the young students in our children’s show to my fellow company members and the artistic director.
Katie: You do a lot of teaching at Inspiration to Movement, Oyo’s Dance Company’s school. Besides learning steps and movement, what are some of the principles you try to instill in your students?
Kaitlyn: I try to instill skills in my students that will transfer into other areas of their lives. Especially these kids now that are growing up in such uncertain times, it is really important to me as a teacher to give them the tools to navigate that uncertainty. In my classes, we analyze the “why” a lot… why you fell down, why that step is difficult or why performing makes you nervous? Once you identify this “why” we can come up with a solution together to fix the problem, whether that be a dance step or a problem in their life. It’s important to me that my students receive something valuable from my class, and dance has inherently valuable skills that help these students no matter what career they decide to pursue.
Katie: Describe your typical day in the life of a dancer.
Kaitlyn: A typical day in my life is normally super long! Most days start with ballet class and I like to get there early to warm up a little before class. We rehearse some in the mornings, then break for lunch, and then rehearse again in the afternoons. I do office work for Inspiration to Movement and run the social media for Oyo Dance Company during my “break” for about two hours, then I teach 1-3 classes in the evenings. Just recently, I’ve started teaching private ballroom lessons as well, so that has added to my schedule even more! On average, I dance and teach about eight hours a day, sometimes more, and I make sure I am taking care of my body by drinking lots of water and eating throughout the day so I can keep my energy up!
Katie: What is the best thing about the Columbus arts scene right now?
Kaitlyn: The best thing about the Columbus arts scene right now is the arts finally coming back! I’m so happy to be able to see live theater and dance again and to participate in a new arts scene since I’ve just moved to Columbus. I’m excited to continue to explore the arts here!
Katie: What are you working on currently and where/when can we see you perform?
Kaitlyn: We are currently working on two shows! I’m currently in rehearsals as Gretel in Hansel & Gretel and as the Swan in Carmina Burana. Hansel & Gretel is March 11-13 and Carmina Burana is Ap. 9-11. Both shows will be at the Black Box Theatre at Inspiration to Movement.
See Kaitlyn perform in Oyo Dance Company’s Hansel & Gretel, a show for children and families at Inspiration to Movement (1004 Parsons Ave.), March 12-13. Tickets for Hansel & Gretel and Carmina Burana are available on Oyo Dance Company’s website oyodancecompany.org/2021-2022-season/.