As stated on our blog Spew a few weeks ago, Kate Monthy, creative director and principal teacher at MLKBallet, made an announcement that she’ll be moving to San Francisco. The move is tentatively scheduled for the fall but could be delayed as a gig dancing for the 5th Avenue Theatre in Seattle presents itself. Monthy made the decision to move after a wake-up call (so to speak) from Vicci Martinez, who will be moving down with her.
“We’ve both been doing the same things over and over; it’s time to experience something new and bigger,” Monthy explains.
In the meantime, MLKBallet prepares to present two great shows in one week: MOVE! Underground on April 25, featuring live music and dance, and on April 29 a benefit fund-raiser that will include dance, a silent auction, and the opportunity to meet a gifted young dancer, Vorece Miller, who may have an opportunity to follow in Monthy’s pointe shoes with formal training at the prestigious Alvin Ailey summer dance intensive in Manhattan — if we can help her raise the funds.
So who is Kate Monthy, and what makes her a bad-ass in T-Town’s eyes?
Kate Monthy is a woman possessing many mad skillz. For starters, she’s a social organizer who helps bring a fresh new vision of what dance can be in Tacoma.
Monthy’s also a teacher, opening up pupils’ eyes to dance on many varied levels. And lest it be overlooked, she’s is an established, talented dancer in her own right.
With MLKBallet, she’s helped raise awareness of contemporary dance through MOVE! shows that bring together a diverse set of professional and not-so-professional dancers. Those in the audience who might not know contemporary dance begin to learn its language with pieces that speak to whatever levels of fluency they have. Those who already appreciate the art form can challenge their knowledge with innovative, sometimes esoteric pieces. And those brand-new to the world of dance — dancers with the MLKBallet program — get a chance to share the stage with professionals, feel what it’s like to be backstage with them, and learn the language of contemporary dance.
The dance education program itself echoes this with beginning dancers and professionals sharing the classroom and teacher — though not at the same time — and gaining insight from her tutelage.
Is Monthy an effective teacher because she’s had a huge amount of classical training that she can pass on? Is she effective because she can show the moves exactly as they need to be performed, be they avant-garde or classical? Or is it more that her effectiveness comes from her ability to clearly break down ballet into its multifaceted components in an understandable way, whether you’re a tutu-mad 4-year-old, or a 14-year-old with professional capabilities, or even a forty-year-old who’s always wanted to learn how to dance?
“It’s all of that,” says Shelby Alexander, a student of Monthy’s who will be performing pieces in the upcoming MOVE! Underground event with the MLKBallet Company.
“She’s mellow and not picky, but she does pay attention and cares about her dancers,” Alexander adds.
Tacoma’s Joel Myers dances professionally with Seattle’s Spectrum, with which he’s recently toured the east coast, as well as with Olympia’s Ballet Northwest, where he’ll be seen in Sleeping Beauty, in addition to duties teaching and choreographing.
“Her combination of strength and grace that come from her classical ballet training and her contemporary dance experience are what the vast majority of choreographers are looking for,” Myers says of Monthy.
“Her high, arched feet are the envy of any dancer who sees them.”
Trouble is, working with MLKBallet as she does, Monthy can’t really negotiate the full-time, foot-arching work of a pro dancer, which can mean a two- to three-hour daily commute when there is work, which is generally not full-time.
When Monthy received a call from her friend Vicci Martinez asking, “What do you want to do with your life?” Monthy responded, with barely a thought, “move to San Francisco and dance.”
“I guess you could call it a dance midlife crisis. I’m turning twenty-eight. I toured San Francisco with Zoe (Scofield), and the contemporary dance scene there is huge.”
But even with that move looming in the future, Monthy will continue to help grow what she’s begun and throw in her own innovations into the mix.
For a taste of these innovations, catch MOVE! Underground, where for a paltry $5 you can get a taste of what can happen when classical training meets some of the best live music in the South Sound.
And then hit up the Robert Daniel fund-raiser for Vorece Miller, and help send another talented dancer on her way to fame!
[The Warehouse, MOVE! Underground, live music with Vicci Martinez, John Walker and the Hitchhikers, Travis Barker, and dance with the MLKBallet Company, Saturday, April 25, 8 p.m., $5, 1114 Ct. E, Tacoma, 253.906.2190]
[The Robert Daniel Gallery, On Her Way to Alvin Ailey: A Benefit for Vorece Miller and silent auction, Wednesday, April 29, 6-8 p.m., 2501 Fawcett Ave., Tacoma, 253.906.2190]