Katherine Roarty knows how to balance, and not just when she dances. Just this year, Katherine taught a hip hop class for the University, instructed seven classes a week at Twist and Shout Dance and Cheer in Mahomet, choreographed for the Mahomet High School Dance Team, and was the Recruitment Chair for Chi Omega Sorority ; all in addition to going to class and getting her homework done.
“I’ve had my hands pretty full,” she admits.
The senior dance major hails from Pittsburgh, where she started regularly taking classes in the 3rd grade. “I used to make up dances during recess with my little boom box and cassette tapes. My teacher told my mom that she had to get me into a dance class,” she remembers.
Since then this collegiette has not stopped dancing. She danced for her studio’s competitive team, which gave her the opportunity as a junior in high school to be picked as one of 24 teens to represent the United States in a Barcelona competition, where she helped take home first place. “It was cool to see all of the other countries and what they were doing,” she said.
She was on her high school’s dance team, a member of the Illini Dance Team for one year, and has even tried out for So You Think You Can Dance twice.
“I tried out my freshmen year during our spring break in Milwaukee. The first day it’s the cattle call, like thousands of people, you’re standing in line at six in the morning, all of that,” she recalls. She made it past the first round and went on to interview with producers. She got to dance in front of judges like Nigel Lythgoe until she, and the rest of the contemporary dancers she was grouped with, hit a speed bump.
“They kept a few of us at the end and put all of the contemporary girls together. Then Nigel goes, ‘actually, since this is the last city, we don’t need anymore contemporary girls’ so no one from Milwaukee went on,” she said.
Two years later as a junior in college, Katherine tried out again with a friend from home, this time in Chicago. She again made it past the first round and danced in front of the judges we all see on TV, but this was the season that the show cut the number of dancers down from the usual 20 to 10, and the competition was even more competitive.
“Before they were cutting people that I was like ‘wow, they were really good!’ This time they were cutting people that I would have voted for to win the whole show. They said they were being really selective this year and I was like, you know what? That’s fine. It was still cool, I got to meet all these cool people, go out and dance on a huge stage, and got a lot of great feedback. I’d definitely do it again if it were ever convenient again.”
It could definitely be convenient soon, as Katherine is moving to New York City in June. This past summer Katherine lived there while attending The Broadway Dance Center’s summer intensive with 70 other dancers.
“It was kind of like a shortened schooling of the showbiz of dance,” she said. “It was a required 10 classes a week, seminars, master classes, and performance opportunities. It was all about how you get a job, what’s paid, and how you go into an audition and score well. They talked about makeup, injuries, auditions, we got to choreograph and perform. It was pretty much the best summer.”
At the end of the intensive they held a mock audition, similar to what the dancers would experience in a real casting, and Katherine made it all the way through the dance rounds. It turns out that one of the judges was the president of McDonald Selznick Dance Agency, the biggest dance agency in New York, and wanted to sign Katherine and 3 other dancers. She was even willing to wait until Katherine finished up college.
“The thing that is great about agencies is that if I didn’t have one, I would only know about jobs posted online. Everyone goes to those and you wait in long lines and it takes up your entire day. With an agency, I will get my own time slot. They’ll call MSA and tell them what they need and then I’ll get a call and go in and audition. It’s a really good start for what I want to do.”
After graduating Katherine will be even busier than she is now. She’ll help with the Mahomet dance recital, then fly to New York to dance with the Mark Morris Dance Group for two weeks through a scholarship from the U of I, go back home for her sister’s high school graduation, fly back to New York for an Alvin Ailey modern dance intensive, take a short trip to San Francisco with family, and then start working for the agency.
“For the next five years I just want to dabble and see what opportunities come my way. I want to know who I am in this dance world before I go off teaching other people.”
Katherine is especially interested in using movement in education and child development, what she did her senior thesis on, but could see her career going down many different paths. Grad school abroad, choreographing work in the commercial and showbiz fields, and even becoming a professor at a University like Illinois are all possibilities for this campus celeb.
“I have a lot of aspirations, I’m definitely excited to see where everything goes!”