RP Artist Katherine Barkman is a principal dancer with Ballet Manila. In this continuation of her interview with RP, she talks about staying strong, well and confident.
Last year, Katherine performed as a guest principal at the “Ballet Stars in Jurmala” gala in Latvia. She calls the event a “big turning point” and a “defining moment” because of how she handled a sense of intimidation at being the youngest invited guest artist. “It was my first big international performance as a professional dancer,” she says. “I was feeling insecure, wondering if my abilities were up to par with the other dancers. I had to be brave – to trust myself and my abilities. I will never forget dancing Le Corsaire that night. I abandoned my fears and simply did what I loved without seeking approval or affirmation. Apparently, the audience loved it, and that experience became for me the beginning of a journey of self-love and self-discovery. I learned that there is nothing fiercer than believing in yourself and your own power.”
“As a ballerina, I face a variety of challenges every day!” Katherine says. Those daily challenges might include tasks such as learning new choreography, debuting a classical role, improving technique or “mastering complicated tricks,” she explains. “However, I find that the biggest challenges are always mental – being present and staying optimistic despite frustration or fatigue. So, I am constantly checking what goes on in my mind and overcoming whatever limitations it sets.”
“I do a lot to care for myself – mind, body, and spirit,” Katherine says. For the body, “I am diligent in taking class and do extra exercises for my abs, turnout and extension. I use ankle weights while stretching to strengthen my legs and keep my jumps light. I have become a vegetarian and enjoy a healthy, balanced diet of plant-based protein — with an occasional treat of ice cream or dark chocolate!” For the mind and spirit, she meditates twice a day and travels when she can, to “clear my mind and rest my spirit,” she says.
Katherine has an important message for aspiring ballerinas: “I hope young dancers will learn and appreciate the importance of being healthy and strong, balancing work with play, and loving themselves. Dealing with body image issues can be very difficult in the ballet world and it is one of my goals to promote the overall health of young women, to break the conditioned thinking that ballerinas have to be super thin and have to look a certain way. Whether onstage or offstage, keeping yourself healthy and happy is still the best thing.”
Katherine emphasizes the value of her family to her well-being. “Coming from a tightly-knit community in the suburbs, I grew up surrounded by a built-in support system of relatives and friends,” she says. The move to the Philippines was difficult for both her and those she left in the United States, but she has enjoyed continued support from her family and even visits to the Philippines to see her perform, especially when she is debuting a new role. “My parents, in particular, make it a point to be there to share those precious moments with me,” she says. “We also call each other every day and I continue to seek their advice in all the major decisions I make. I could never have followed my dream without their unconditional love and constant encouragement. They give me the strength to keep going.”
About Katherine Barkman
Katherine Barkman grew up in Pennsylvania, started studying dance at age three, and trained extensively as a pre-professional with Vaganova Academy graduate Nadia Pavlenko. In 2014, she was awarded the gold medal (classical) in the Philadelphia YAGP and participated as a finalist in New York City. The next year, she received the gold medal for classical variations and bronze medal for contemporary at Tanzolymp in Berlin, gold medal at the Valentina Kozlova IBC in New Orleans, and bronze medal at the Concorso Internazionale di Danza in Spoleto, Italy. After joining Ballet Manila in 2015, she won the Grand Prix at the Asian Grand Prix in Hong Kong as well as a silver medal for pas de deux. Since 2016, she has also participated as a guest principal artist in international festivals and productions in Latvia, Hong Kong, Canada, the United States and Russia.