En Pointe At Home
Oklahoma City Ballet dancer, Kara Troester, feels like the luckiest dancer in the world. She’s surrounded by the best dancers from around the world, and yet she is the local talent. “It’s incredibly rare for a professional dancer to work in her hometown,” Kara said. “Many dancers go their whole lifetime without that opportunity, so I’m very privileged.”
As a three-year-old, Kara began training at a ballet academy in Edmond under Lisa Webb. During Kara’s junior year, she homeschooled in order to focus more fully on dancing. At 17, she was offered a job in a Kansas City ballet company and spent two years “learning about the ballet world.” She felt tugged back home, however, and was thrilled when her audition earned her a place with the Oklahoma City Ballet.
During the Covid-19 shut-down, Kara was especially grateful to be home. Her parents built a miniature studio for her to continue dancing until, the company brought the dancers back together into two separate pods. “Dancing in masks was not easy, and it pushed us to communicate and express emotion in new ways—especially with our eyebrows,” Kara said, laughing.
Professional ballet companies are intensely competitive and physically demanding. “We train in the studio from 9:00 to 5:00, five days a week—but most of us then go home and cross-train at the gym or take yoga classes so that our whole body is physically well-rounded,” Kara said. “The ballet dancers I know are so smart, too. They mentally meld their mind and body in a way that most people don’t have to, having a deep understanding of music and being able to memorize the moves for a two-and-a-half-hour performance.”
An added element to the physicality of dancing on stage is the costuming. According to Kara, “It’s interesting to put on a tutu and realize you can’t see your feet or wear a big, heavy prop on your head. You have to compensate for the extra weight or wings or whatever you can no longer see—but you learn to adapt. We are so fortunate to have such gorgeous costumes to go with incredibly beautiful music.”
Kara is excited to begin full performances again this year, which is also the ballet’s 50th Anniversary Season. As part of the celebration, she was recently featured in a video wearing all gold. Not just clothes, even her skin, hair and eyelids were painted gold! “This season is a mixture of dance styles ranging from super classical to incredibly contemporary pieces,” Kara said. “Alice in Wonderland is a crowd-pleaser that’s cute and quirky, and I always enjoy The Nutcracker, which I’ve done over 100 variations of in my life–but Sleeping Beauty is my all-time favorite.”
Unlike her colleagues, Kara is fortunate to have her family and friends in the audience as she performs. “I can see my parents sitting in the audience! It’s not just a sea of black from the stage,” Kara said. “There’s nothing sweeter than performing for people you know and know you’re giving back to your own community. When the audience applauds, it’s such an amazing feeling that I’m often brought to tears. It’s like heaven on earth. I’m so blessed to dance here at home.”
Visit www.okcballet.org to learn more.