Matt, our playbill editor from Skies America, interviewed one new dancer that will be featured in each of the holiday ballets. Meet The Nutcracker‘s Kate Oderkirk!
WORK AND PROGRESS
By Matt Williams, Playbill Editor
Fans of Oregon Ballet Theatre will get their first real look at company artist Kate Oderkirk this holiday season, when she dances several roles in The Nutcracker, including the Sugarplum Fairy. But no matter how effortlessly the petite blonde executes pirouettes and grand jetés on stage, her abilities didn’t come easy. Behind the scenes, Oderkirk is nothing short of a workhorse. “I try to think, today I’m going to go in and do this better than I did it yesterday,” she says of her work ethic. “And I think that’s really the hardest part about being a dancer. You can go in and do it every day, that’s fine. But you’re not going to get anywhere. Finding that motivation inside yourself to really push yourself every day – more than you did before – nobody can do that for you. That’s the hardest part.”
That work-first mentality has shaped Oderkirk’s whole career, which began when she took her first ballet class at age 4 in her native Santa Monica. It was amplified at age 10, when she decided she was going to go all in and try to become a professional ballet dancer. Oderkirk soon realized she was blessed with natural talents (she was always practicing with older girls) but to be even better, she needed to give more than what was simply asked. Along with her best friend, now a dancer at The Sacramento Ballet, she began taking extra night classes and renting movies to learn more about her craft.
After two years at San Francisco Ballet School, Oderkirk was hired at her first professional company, Tulsa Ballet Theater. She says it was a dream come true – except for the Tulsa part. After five years she needed a city with a little more to offer culturally. “I lived in a big house with a big porch, and I thought, I’m just not ready for this yet,” she says, laughing. She sent her work to OBT, which quickly responded with interest. “I was ecstatic,” she says. “If you find a workplace that you fit into well, and it’s in a city that’s awesome, that’s the dream. It’s like, what else do I need?”
Very little, it turns out, especially after she spent time in OBT’s studio. Oderkirk remembers admiring the company from afar, always checking in to see what Christopher Stowell and company were performing, but became even more enamored with them after joining the team. “It seems like a big family,” she says. “All the energy is very positive. Everyone seems like they want to work hard every day, and everybody is very supportive of each other. Christopher is good at giving everybody a chance. He believes in all of his dancers.”
Oderkirk’s big chance has come relatively quickly, in the form of the Sugarplum Fairy, a major role within The Nutcracker. Luckily, like any tenured ballet dancer, she is intimately familiar with the ballet. Ask her to name Nutcracker roles she’s danced over her career and Oderkirk lists off essentially everything possible.
Still, Sugarplum will be her first pas de deux, and first major role here in Portland. “You’re carrying the entire second act, basically,” she says. “It’s the part that everybody’s leading up to. It’s the principal role. There can be some pressure, some anxiety. The first time you get to be at that level, it’s also very exciting.”
No doubt by the time she hits the stage, she’ll have worked off any nervous energy in the studio.
Get your Nutcracker tickets here!