|Katelyn Prominski, currently on tour with "Flashdance - the Musical"|
Thirty years ago, the movie Flashdance galvanized legions of dreamers to "Take your passion and make it happen," and launched a fashion movement (legwarmers and off-the-shoulder sweatshirts). In 2008, "Flashdance – the Musical" premiered in the UK, bringing the character of Pittsburgh, PA steelworker Alex Owens and her quest for a dance career to life for theater-goers. In 2013, a touring company brought the show to audiences in the US, and now, "Flashdance – the Musical" stops at Philadelphia's Academy of Music from November 19-24. We interviewed cast member Katelyn Prominski, a former member of the Pennsylvania Ballet, about the show, life on the road, ambition, and her sage advice for young dancers.
When you're not on the road, where do you call home?
Right now, home is New York, NY, but I have a soft spot in my heart for Philadelphia because I lived in Center City for three years!
You are a multi-talented performer – dancer, singer, model, actress – and that would be a lot for anyone, but you're also a teacher at Broadway Connection and an online student at Drexel. What drives your ambition? What is your ultimate goal?
The life of a dancer is super short, so when you get to a certain age, you start thinking about your future and how you will survive after dance. I feel fortunate that I was able to make the transition from being a professional ballet dancer into musical theater. After my performing career is finished, I have so many goals, some of which may have to wait for another lifetime. I would love to be a lawyer, work in public relations for a nonprofit, or get into casting!
You trained with The Washington School of Ballet and San Francisco Ballet School, and danced in the corps de ballet with Boston Ballet, Pennsylvania Ballet, and Suzanne Farrell Ballet. What was the training you had as a child that led to these prestigious assignments? Did you study tap-jazz-ballet and participate in recitals at a local studio like a lot of kids?
Oh yes, definitely! I began dancing when I was 5 at the local Madison Community Center, which was only a few blocks from my house. There I took classes in tap, jazz, and ballet, but all I cared about were the recitals with glitzy costumes. When I got to a certain age, my mom switched me to another studio in our area that was more serious about ballet training and allowed more room for me to grow and get the basics solid. In high school, I moved to the Washington School of Ballet, where they had a program that let me go to school for half a day and dance for the rest of the day. Upon graduation, I joined the Suzanne Farrell Ballet and also attended the San Francisco Ballet School to polish off my training.
What was your first paying gig? How did you get it?
The Suzanne Farrell Ballet was officially my first professional paying job, even though I had already performed with The Washington Ballet while I was a student. Every summer, Ms. Farrell runs a three-week intensive program at The Kennedy Center in Washington, DC. On the third day of classes, after we had lunch and were about to begin our second technique class of the day, she offered me an apprenticeship.
What led to you retiring from ballet and moving into musical theater?
Retirement comes early for most ballet dancers. While I always dreamed my career would have lasted longer, I was plagued with some health issues, which were destroying my body. Turns out I was dancing with undiagnosed type 1 diabetes for two years! Stopping dancing and taking care of myself was one of the hardest things I had to do. I was uncertain of my new path, but I knew I needed to take a break. When I started getting everything under control, I realized I needed to find a way to perform again. While going back to my regular ballet company life would be too difficult, I decided to make the transition into musical theater, which was a passion I had when I was younger.
How do you stay healthy on the road?
I have gotten very creative with hotel room cooking! Right now I travel with a Crockpot in my theater trunk, but I have had a hot plate and a toaster oven in there as well! Naturally, I make healthy choices, but it can be hard to even find options! I remember when we were in Memphis, there was nary a whole grain to be found!
"Flashdance – The Musical" is of course based on the iconic film of the same name. The musical stays mostly true to the movie, but there are some new characters added. Tell us about them and how they advance or enhance the story.
The musical has 16 original songs and a few other aspects that really enhance the character of Alex Owens, the lead female, and her journey. I loved the movie, but really think the musical is like the special extended version. You will see all the favorites from the film, like the iconic dance moves and water scene, and hear fabulous renditions of “Maniac,” and “Flashdance… What A Feeling.” The musical is such a great tribute to the 80s and is such a fun show!
What role or roles do you play in Flashdance?
I am a member of the ensemble, so I play several characters during the show. I am the lead ballerina, which consists of me being Alex Owens’ dream dancer, a New York City Ballet dancer, and a ballet student at the illustrious Shipley Academy. I also am a steel worker, street dancer, and two different nightclub dancers! The quick changes are incredibly fast and efficient, so one moment I’m a steel worker and the next I’m a street dancer, all in about 16 counts.
I haven't seen "Flashdance – The Musical" yet (I'll see it in Philly), but I'm a longtime fan of the movie and its message of empowerment. What does Flashdance mean to you, and how has being part of it affected you?
The show is really about following your dreams and reaching them, no matter what odds are against you. I am so grateful to be a part of this show because I have been in the same situation. While I was never a steel worker in real life, becoming a dancer is a super feat, no matter your background.
What is your favorite number in the show?
Of course I love Alex’s famous audition scene while we’re singing “Flashdance… What A Feeling,” and also when I get to play the Firebird during Alex and Nick’s first date. However, I really love a song in the first act called “Justice.” It’s an original song with Nick Hurley and his male steel workers. I play no part in “Justice” but the song is so catchy, it’s great!
What is your daily routine like on the road with Flashdance? What does it entail?
Every day on tour is different. Sometimes we have rehearsals during the day, but usually it is a good time to exercise, rest up, see friends, or explore whatever city we are in. We have 8 shows a week, so I’m usually trying to conserve my energy!
Who is on your wishlist of entertainers you'd like to work with? What is your dream role? Why?
It would have been amazing to be in the studio with George Balanchine, who died in 1983. I have been taught his ballets by dancers who originated the specific roles, so I feel like I get a definite sense of the initial intentions. The creation process of a piece is one of my favorite experiences, so working with him would have been incredible. When I was in ballet companies, I really got to work with every major living choreographer, or someone that was directly below them, which was very lucky.
Many of our readers are young, aspiring dancers – what advice do you have for them?
Keep dancing and you can always work harder than you are already working! Honestly – dancers are always trying to achieve perfection but the bar continues to get set higher. For instance, when you perfect doing a double pirouette, then you start working on your triple pirouette! It’s a long journey, but it’s most amazing in every way. Also, focus on yourself. The moment you get sidetracked by drama, then you are taking time away from your own needs. It’s not worth it!
"Flashdance - the Musical" runs from Tuesday, November 19, through Sunday, November 24, at The Academy of Music in Philadelphia, PA (240 S Broad St, Philadelphia, PA 19102). For tickets or more info call 215.893.1999 or stop by KimmelCenter.org.
Posted on Tuesday, November 19, 2013