Read about the very unique and inspirational adult ballet teacher Kathy Mata, who has also formed her very own adult ballet company. The company performs several times a year for many charitable causes.
As an adult ballet enthusiast, I often get asked questions about whether they (adults) are too old to dance ballet, to dance en pointe and whether adults ever get a chance to turn professional.
I’ve asked myself those questions too when I re-started ballet as an adult.
It is almost impossible for an adult to become a professional dancer in ballet, but it is possible for other forms of dance. Sometimes turning professional is not the point. I believe these adults simply hope to perform one day. There is currently a huge lack of opportunities for adult dancers to do so.
This is why I was so excited to find out about Kathy Mata and her work. She is an inspirational woman, a foreleader in the world of adult ballet. She has paved a way to bring ballet to the community and at the same time, provide opportunities for adult dancers to develop and grow as artists themselves by performing.
Kathy Mata Adult Ballet Company
Kathy is a ballet teacher specialising in teaching adults at the LINES dance centre in the city of San Francisco, United States.
What’s unique about her is that she also has her own Adult Ballet Company, called Kathy Mata Ballet. This company comprises of non professional dancers and she, as their artistic director come together to choreograph, rehearse and put on shows for charitable causes.
My first experience with Kathy Mata
Back in my early days of learning to dance ballet as an adult, I chanced upon this documentary about adult ballet dancers. It featured Kathy teaching adults, and her adult ballet company. I thought it was fantastic!
Taking class with Kathy Mata
I was in San Francisco and wanted to keep in (ballet) shape. I went down to the LINES dance centre and enrolled in a class. Lo and behold, Kathy Mata walked in. She knew right away that I was a new face and never forgot my name. I appreciated her corrections and feedback in her class.
Kathy Mata’s Students
I had a few chances to dance with her students and her company members at LINES dance center. I could tell that they are an energetic bunch. They were in all shapes and sizes, young and mature, girls, boys, men and women with varying abilities.
Some students only wanted to do the barre, and then they mainly watched the center or marked behind. Others stood respectfully at the back if the combinations got too difficult. There were some of us in pointe shoes till the end. Others took them off as they got tired.
There was a sense of positivity among them as they tried their best and work their hardest in class. They were also eager to learn and highly motivated. The thing that stood out for me was that everyone was felt safe. They were not self-conscious and not afraid of making mistakes. They were also very accepting of me, a new-comer (really, a transient dancer-tourist). That is something truly quite special.
Kathy Mata as a ballet teacher
I believe Kathy creates that environment for them – making adult dancers feel safe. She is very positive and she makes everyone feels like she cares about their progress.
There was a guy who could turn an impressive double pirouette (turns) en pointe. She asked him for a triple that day. Even though he couldn’t quite manage it, there was a big smile on his face as he tried.
I feel that speaks volume of Kathy as a teacher. Her students and company members felt the same way during my interviews with them. She is aware of the strengths and careful about their limitations of her students. According to Claire Vlach, she pays attention to her dancing style when choreographing variations for her.
Though it seems impossible, but Kathy seems to care for every student in class, giving them special attention. I notice that she would focus on ONE area of every student.
There was a lanky tall man who is probably in his 50s, whom she stopped to explain something about his knees and she did come back to comment on it again after one full circle. She also helped another pretty girl (whom I found out later is a lawyer) with her turns. In her class, the pirouette combination is usually done four times, and I remember Kathy focusing on her at least two more times to help her adjust to the new feedback.
I felt so inspired by her that I had to ask for an interview. Amazingly, she agreed to take time off her busy schedule to talk with me about her work with adult ballet dancers, and the ONLY adult ballet company in the world!
Let’s hope that we can inspire people to do the same wherever there are passionate adult dancers!