published Tuesday, March 15th, 2011

Local ballet dancer gets prestigious invitation

Katherine Stamey, 10, practices her ballet at Ballet Tennessee in Chattanooga. Stamey was accepted into Joffrey Ballet School, a prestigious New York summer dance school. 
Staff Photo by Jenna Walker/Chattanooga Times Free Press
Katherine Stamey, 10, practices her ballet at Ballet Tennessee in Chattanooga. Stamey was accepted into Joffrey Ballet School, a prestigious New York summer dance school. Staff Photo by Jenna Walker/Chattanooga Times Free Press

When it comes to most things in life for Katherine Stamey — especially dancing — it all boils down to the details.

That penchant for seeking perfection in all things has stood Katherine, 10, in good stead since she started studying ballet at Ballet Tennessee in second grade.

Katherine began attending creative-movement classes at Tutus & Tap Shoes Dance Studio on Signal Mountain at 21⁄2 years old, but she said it took the structure and technical requirements of ballet for her to see a future in dance.

  • photo
    Katherine Stamey, 10, practices her ballet at Tennessee Ballet in Chattanooga. Stamey was recently accepted into Joffrey Ballet School, a presitigious dance school in New York. Her mother, Laurie Stamey, said that she hoped the opportunity would boost Katherine's self-esteem. Staff Photo by Jenna Walker/Chattanooga Times Free Press

“[Before that], it just started to be more like playing around and not really ballet,” she said. “I wanted to learn how to do more ballet moves correctly. I wanted to try and do my technique the correct way.”

Every week, Katherine spends six hours in four classes at Ballet Tennessee’s studio in Lookout Valley. Barry VanCura, the studio’s executive director, said she has distinguished herself among her peers through her commitment to good technique.

“That’s an attribute when you study the art of ballet,” VanCura said. “Ballet is very much a devotion to precision.

“A lot of other dance forms can be freer-moving and more is acceptable, but when you study ballet, it’s either a fifth position or it isn’t. Not all students will want to be that precision-oriented.”



CLAIM TO FAME

Earlier this year, Katherine Stamey was accepted to two levels of the prestigious New York-based Joffrey Ballet school. June 10-12 she will attend the institution’s three-day Young Dancer Intensive preprofessional-level program at a satellite campus outside Macon, Ga.

ABOUT HER

  • Age: 10.

  • School: Fifth-grader at St. Peter’s Episcopal School.

  • Other activities: School chorus, chess club and piano.

  • Dancing idol: Jenifer Ringer of New York City Ballet.

  • Favorite movements: Pirouette and arabesque.

  • Favorite piece: “The Dance of the Reed Flutes” from “The Nutcracker.”

  • Next up: Katherine is preparing for Ballet Tennessee’s annual dance recital, which will take place at 7 p.m., May 21 at the UTC Fine Arts Center. The performance will feature pieces from “Swan Lake.”

TALENT SHOW

Do you know a child age 12 or younger with a precocious talent in academics, athletics or the arts? The Times Free Press is searching for children to feature in “Talent Show,” which appears in the Life section on Tuesdays. To nominate a child as a possible subject of a future feature article, e-mail staff writer Casey Phillips at cphillips@timesfreepress.com or call him at 423-757-6205.

Recently, Katherine’s efforts have begun to pay dividends when she was accepted into a three-day summer intensive program offered by the New York-based Joffrey Ballet school.

Katherine and her mother, Lori Stamey, went in January to Atlanta’s Metropolitan Theatre to audition along with dozens of other girls her age for the Joffrey program. There, they were put through their paces, performing 50 movements, often exhibited in the form of long combinations.

Stamey said her daughter was confident she had won over the panel of evaluators, but it was still a shock to receive an acceptance letter stating that Katherine was accepted into the three-day course and a more exclusive, three-week Junior Trainee program.

“I read it quickly, and my mouth dropped,” Stamey said. “We told her, and we had to pick her jaw up and put it back in. We were both blown away; it just never happens the first time.”

The course will mark Katherine’s first time living away from her parents, although they will be close by. She’ll be housed with other participants in a dormitory at Georgia College and State University in Milledgeville, Ga., about 100 miles south of Atlanta.

Katherine said acceptance into the Joffrey program is her proudest accomplishment so far, and it’s the first step toward her ultimate ambition of leading a major dance company.

“It made me think I really can dance,” she said. “It made me think I’m not just learning moves and just barely getting by ... [but] that I can understand the combination and do it correctly.”

Stamey said that, with a research chemist for a mother and an engineer for a father, Katherine’s love of precision is probably genetic, but discovering her artistic leanings was a surprise.

From toddlerhood on, Katherine would turn any space into a dance floor, whether her home living room or the center of the aisle at Home Depot. Recently, she has begun asking to turn a room of her home into a permanent dance studio, Stamey said, laughing.

Even if a renovation isn’t in the cards, Stamey said is constantly witnessing the positive effects studying dance has had on her daughter.

“She’s very confident. I think it fills a really good niche with the structure.

“I think it’s coming together. I’m not sure if she’s going to be a professional, but if she wants to try, we’ll support her every step of the way.”

Contact Casey Phillips at cphillips@timesfreepress.com or 423-757-6205.

about Casey Phillips...

Casey Phillips has worked as a features reporter in the Life department since May 2007. He writes about entertainment, consumer technology, animals and news of the weird. Casey hails from Knoxville and earned a bachelor of science degree in journalism and a bachelor of arts in German from Middle Tennessee State University, where he worked as the features editor for the student newspaper, Sidelines. Casey's writing has earned numerous accolades, including first and second place ...

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