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Artist Spotlight: Katlyn Addison


Photo by Joshua Whitehead

Working as the First soloist for Ballet West. Training since the age of ten. Making history as a black ballerina. Katlyn Addison is a true leader in the dance community and this week shared her insights from her experiences that can open a window of knowledge and advice to any artist.


You can see more of Katlyn's work and impact at her website www.katlynaddison.com.


What artistic skills (such as collaboration or adaptability) have you found to be most valuable professionally?


Technique, coordination, critical thinking, and PATIENCE.


I love being a professional dancer, choreographer, and teacher because artistic movement has allowed me to hone my skill and talent to create and problem solve. The constant balance of applying technique and coordination as a ballerina has encouraged me to apply what I have learned about classical technique to my movement. Bringing different parts of my body together, or apart, for the fulfillment of each movement proves to be invaluable as a professional.


Critical thinking leads to refinement and polished performance, so I have worked hard to learn how to dance freely in the moment and leave critiquing myself for afterwards. I try to share that with young developing dancers in hopes they understand the beauty of the process in ballet without being overly-critical of their personal expression.


All of that said, patience to work learning those skills has enabled me to unlock my true potential as an artist.


Photo by Tabarri Hamilton

How do you feel your education helped you transition into the arts as a career?

My education set the growth mindset that has encouraged me to appreciate the discipline, hard work and structure required to excel as a ballerina. Collaboration is critical to success in my field and my education supported the development of my communication and self-confidence skills within a group setting.


With elevated pressure at all times as a professional, my work often feels like a combination of mathematics, history, language arts, science, and social studies so I am grateful for the foundation my parents helped to instill in me. I mean, my mom is a lifelong educator and administrator so it’s not like I had much of a choice but to study hard!


What experiences have helped you gain business and leadership skills? And what do you feel are most valuable for young artists to learn?

I have been very fortunate to have supportive leaders throughout my career at Houston Ballet and Ballet West who have trusted me to take on additional responsibilities. With opportunities to learn more about ballet as a business, I gained insights into contracts, private lessons, schedules, and marketing.


Finding ways to lead have looked like designing my own student curriculums, choreographing for my peers, and leading community dance projects to share the power of ballet with youth. While business and leadership skills are important, the most valuable lesson I would encourage young artists to embrace is the confidence to freely express yourself without judgment.


In what ways has mentoring helped you as an artist?

Mentorship has been instrumental in my ability to gain practical advice, become more empowered to make decisions and learn from the experiences of others. My mentors have consistently supported my passions through valuable, and sometimes tough, constructive criticism. They have encouraged me to take risks and believe in myself, which has supported the development of confidence within my abilities. They have given me the courage to step up and out in ways that have propelled in my career.


Photo by Alexis Ziemski

Where do you get inspiration from? How do you generate new ideas?


I am mentoring a few young ladies and it's helped me as an artist to continue to practice self-love, self-respect, and compassion. They inspire me!


As a dancer, ‘that challenge within me’ constantly striving for artistically unattainable perfection is my primary inspiration. The challenge of combining my artistry, technique, and strength into one fluid movement, encourages me greatly.


As a choreographer, I generate new ideas from the music and my environment. I often get inspiration from simplistic things such as walking, people’s body language, animalistic movements, objects, etc.


As a woman, my mother and sister will always hold the greatest influence of inspiration to me. They’re innovative women with strength, education, elegance, boldness, and compassion in whatever they do.


What female artist has had the greatest influence on you?

This one is easy, Lauren Anderson.


Lauren was one of the first Black ballerinas to become a principal for a major dance company. She has always served as an important role model and mentor for me by making it possible for Black girls like me to dream big within this traditional, European art form. I also love that she was known as a dancer for her incredible athleticism as well as grace, which is how I strive to dance every single day.



Video credit: Open Skies Drone Service by Seth Wulf


Thank you to Katlyn for sharing with us! You can visit her website to learn and watch more of her. And remember, YOU can be a part of our Artist Spotlight conversations. If you are interested in sharing your experience with our readers or if you want to submit questions for our next spotlight interview, contact a team member at info@womensali.org.

©2020 by Women's Artistic Leadership Initiative