Katie began her ballet training in Gainesville, Florida, and as a young dancer attended summer programs at the Joffrey Ballet School, The Rock School, American Ballet Theatre and Kaatsbaan International Dance Center. She attended Virginia School of the Arts high school program and then became a trainee with the Joffrey Ballet School and performed with the Joffrey Ballet II Concert Dancers. She then danced as a member of Milwaukee Ballet II for two seasons. Katie returned to Florida to join Orlando Ballet under Fernando Bujones, and danced with the professional company from 2001-2008. Following that, she joined Sarasota Ballet from 2007-2009. Katie is certified to teach the American Ballet Theatre National Training Curriculum and is an affiliate teacher through Orlando Ballet School.
"In part, I became a teacher because I felt the need to help others dance," says Slattery (center in all black). "Working on this project has been so fulfilling, and I look forward to it each week." Photo courtesy of Orlando Ballet
A year ago, Orlando Ballet School offered a weekend workshop called "Come Dance With Us." The pilot program was designed for children with physical special needs and disabilities, such as cerebral palsy, hydrocephalus, brittle bone disease and a variety of conditions that require children to wear braces or use walkers and wheelchairs.
The workshop was such a positive experience that the school expanded it to 10 weeks. Recently, I was given the opportunity to teach within the program. To my surprise, the students were capable of participating in ways I wouldn't have expected.
In a short time, I've been so impressed with the children's ability to modify movement, not to mention the joy and incredible spirit the students bring to class each week. It has been an extremely valuable experience for me as a teacher, and I have learned a great deal working with these inspiring kids.
While teaching full-time, I was faced with a crippling injury—a tear to my labrum in my hip. Due to my temporary loss of ability to fully demonstrate, I felt lost as a teacher.
After the first surgery to repair my hip, I returned to teaching the day I was medically cleared. As a former professional ballet dancer, demonstrating was the most natural way of teaching for me. I wanted to get back to teaching my classes the way I had before the injury so badly that I sometimes ignored the continued pain. But I soon realized that pushing myself too hard, too soon, may have impeded my recovery. I was unprepared to make adjustments in order to deal with the damage to my body.
After two subsequent surgeries (a labral repair on my other hip and a labral reconstruction), I've learned a great deal about how to handle injury as a teacher and the self-care required to continue doing what I love. Here are a few of the lessons I have learned.