With November coming to a close, the season of the Nutcracker Ballet is upon us! One of my favorite activities for the past three years has been taking my young daughter to see our local dance company’s production of The Nutcracker Ballet. I’m looking forward to making this an annual tradition because we will get to see it performed in so many different ways as we PCS to new communities.
In this month’s Artist Interview, we take a spin in the ballet slippers of dancer, choreographer, and dance teacher Kathryn Lanier. Kathryn shares her passion for dance, the role of dance in her world as a military spouse, and the story of one very special Nutcracker Ballet performance that reminds us why this ballet is so cherished.
Now, here’s Kathryn…
MilspoFAN: Tell us a little about yourself, your journey as a military spouse, and where you are today.
Kathryn: I’m Kathryn Lanier, 29, married for four years and have so far been fortunate enough to have been at Fort Bragg this entire time. My husband and I were both born in Raleigh, NC and my spouse has been “in” the Army for 8 years. In our marriage, we have had two seven month deployments and dozens of TDYs and separation for training. I grew up dancing ballet, but fell in love with teaching and choreographing. It’s my escape from this crazy life we live! It helps me have a creative outlet, meet wonderful people and build my support system. Not to mention its time consuming, which is great for all those long months by yourself! I choreograph and teach in Sanford, NC and in the RDU area, including contributing to a wonderful non-profit performing group that empowers young women to find their voice and use their dance for the greater good.
MilspoFAN: How did you become a dancer?
Kathryn: My mother was by herself often due to my father’s work-related travels so she needed a break!!! I was a very active kid!
MilspoFAN: How has your teaching style evolved over time?
Kathryn: When I was a new teacher, there was an undertone of fear in my teaching. I was scared that I was failing my bosses, that I wasn’t going to equip my dancers to reach their goals, or that I would lose control of my classrooms. Now, my style is more fluid. I am less ridged and strive to empower my kids to work for themselves, for their betterment, rather than to achieve a specific result. Some of my students have reached the professional level, but that isn’t going to be the majority. However, everyone will benefit from learning how to be self-motivated and push through when the results are not instant or not what they expected.
MilspoFAN: Tell us about a project that has a special place in your heart.
Kathryn: Recently, I took a version of The Nutcracker to a local nursing home. To be honest, it made me so nervous!!! Many of the patrons were familiar with ballet and one even told me he had seen Markarova in Russia. However, when the music started and I was able to see their faces light up with joy and nostalgia, it was a feeling I will never forget. I was reminded of how art knows no age or time, and that it is such a powerful form of communication. I cannot wait to go back!
MilspoFAN: What does a day in your life look like? What logistical tricks do you use to balance parenting young children, military-spouse-ing, self-care, and your work?
Kathryn: I joke that the only consistent thing in my life is change. Between the military and working with kids, very few things are constant. But most days my life includes a commute, frantic meal prep, yoga pants and tennis shoes, dry shampoo and a whole bunch of ballet. I teach the little preschoolers through adults, so the level of the class usually dictates how much I sweat and how quickly I have to think on my feet. But each day is filled with gratitude for being able to enjoy such a unique life. As for self-care and juggling, honestly, I feel like I fail often. I try to drink water, take vitamins, call friends when I am feeling overwhelmed and pray for strength not to complain about ANOTHER TDY or surprise trip. Especially during deployments, I make myself say no. The military stress comes and goes, and I will burn out if I try to do everything. I have learned its ok to give yourself grace, have a hard day and just recharge. Being a milspouse can be so emotionally draining with its high highs and low lows.