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Spanning Two Continents

San Francisco Ballet Principal Dancer Katita Waldo Reflects

by Dean Speer and Francis Timlin

April 9, 2005 -- San Francisco Memorial Opera House

We met up with the vivacious Katita Waldo backstage at the San Francisco Memorial Opera House while she was on break during the April run of Programs 6 & 7.

DS/FT:  We like to ask all dancers the same, initial question and that’s, “How did you get started in ballet?”  We’ve found that readers really enjoy learning about each dancer’s journey and everyone’s story is unique and interesting.

KW: I was born and raised in Spain.  The Boshoi Ballet came to Madrid – it was "Swan Lake" – and the image of Act II has stayed in my head since I was age 5!  I just knew I wanted to do it.

Alain Baldini, who was Paris Opera trained, was my first teacher and I studied with him until I was 11 (1979).  My family moved to Ithaca, New York and there I attended what was then the best school, The Ballet Guild of Ithaca – now the Ithaca Ballet.

It’s interesting that for about the last four or five years of my performing career, I’ve looked to and have been focusing on basic training.  Going to my roots, so to speak!

We performed as a part of the Northeast Regional Ballet movement and I first saw Tina LeBlanc at this time from her ballet school at a Regional Ballet Festival, although I didn’t get to actually meet her until she joined SFB.  I stayed in Ithaca for another two or three years and then went to North Carolina School of the Arts where my teachers were Melissa Hayden and Duncan Noble.  I was there from ages 13 to 17.  I moved to Washington, D.C., where I was a member of Washington Ballet for two years.

I married my husband in North Carolina – he’s a musician and composer, and we’ve now been married for 16 years and an “item” for 21!

While in Washington, I got to work with Robert Steele.

One of my teachers at Boston Ballet!  About the longest legs I had ever seen on a male dancer ...

He’s an incredible teacher – a guru, really!  He helped me find emotion and passion in dance; really magnetic.

What brought you out West?

My husband is from San Francisco and I decided to audition for the School; they suggested I audition for the Company!  Nevertheless, I spent about a year and a half in the School where I got to work with such wonderful teachers. Larissa Sklyanskaya, who helped me a lot with mechanics, and of course working with Jocelyn Vollmar and Anatole Vilzak was very special.

I had a one-year apprenticeship and have been in the Company ever since.  My first principal role was being paired with Anthony [Tony] Randazzo in Peter Martins’ "Calcium Light Night"; a brutal piece! [Laughs.]

What has been fun for you this season and what are you looking forward to?

The 2005 season has been fun.  Lots of revivals.  First "Lambarena" and "Maelstrom".  Muriel and Yuan Yuan were out and I had to learn Yuri’s [Possokhov] premiere, "Reflections" in about 9 minutes – and performed it that night!  The pas de deux in "Rush," "In the Night," Myrtha in "Giselle," "7 for 8" pas de deux (debut), "Study in Motion," and both the Sugar Plum Fairy and Snow Queen in "Nutcracker."

Tell us more what it was to work on Helgi’s [Tomasson] new Nutcracker – certainly a major event in the ballet world.

It was such a huge project that at times it didn’t seem like it was going to make it.  It was great throughout and Helgi’s enthusiasm carried it.  He created the new "Snow Queen" on me.  He had definite visual ideas of how he wanted it to be.  As I said, it was a huge undertaking and a big risk, but nice to have it be such a success.

What’s on for the upcoming tour to Paris?  Sounds exciting.

We’re all very excited about visiting Paris!  We’re taking a slightly revised version of "Don Quixote" (only one intermission, and limited sets due to it being an outside venue) and we’re taking three world premieres – new works by Lubovitch, Wheeldon, and Paul Taylor.

What pointe shoes do you wear?

I wear Freed 4 ½ X on the left and 5 no X on the right, as my right foot is “archier.”  It’s a constant battle with the right shoe.  My maker for both is “Crowns.”

What do you like to do outside of the ballet?

I love to read English mysteries and enjoy reading about the history of the Elizabethan era.  We have a Maine Coon cat whose name is Webster and who weighs in at a fearsome 17 pounds and is 16 years old.  Our son, James, is five and likes to dance!

Any final comments about your career or anything special you’d like us to know?

I’ve been with the Company for 17 years and I love it from the top to the bottom.  There is a great camaraderie and gentility about everyone.  We are fortunate to have a great and wonderful repertory.  I average about 12-13 ballets each season.  I got to stage a work – "Magrittomania" – at the Bolshoi last May as both Yuri and Ashley [Wheater] are not available to do this and I volunteered!  Imagine, four weeks in Moscow!!


Edited by Staff.

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