Most dancers can name at least one – those teachers who really push hard and demand the most, but it’s clear that they do so because they care. Most often, they leave a real and lasting impression. Students look back and feel grateful for what they learned, and how they were led to grow, from this teacher of tough exterior, soft interior. Kitty Carter seems to be one of these teachers. And, for the first time, she recently came to Broadway Dance Center (BDC) on April 30, to teach her signature Team Audition Prep class!
Carter grew up dedicated to dance, spending summers studying with Luigi and loving Broadway in New York City. She trained in various styles of dance, and obtained her BFA at Southern Methodist University in Dallas, Texas. Her career grew, and she became a Dallas Cowboys cheerleader. After retiring from the squad, she became its Technical Advisor/Coach. She also owns the dance studio Kitty Carter’s Dance Factory (Dallas), where she teaches Mondays through Thursdays.
On weekends, she travels to consult for and train university and professional sport team squads, in both “pom” and cheer styles. Carter also judges competitions and pageants. She’s become acquainted with the academic dance world as well, through teaching for Booker T. Washington High School (also Dallas) and The Juilliard School. She’s even been on television – Making the Team on the CMT network, specifically, a show highlighting her work with the Cowboys.
Carter is refreshingly forthright about how she might come off in the show, her no-nonsense, high-standards teaching style framed in a way that ups the dramatic ante (and therefore keeps people watching). One has to get to know her a little more deeply to understand what it’s all about and for. “People who’ve seen the show might think I’m crazy,” she says. “I might be crazy, but crazy about what I do. I talk a tough game because I live a tough game.”
So, all of that being said, what can BDC students of her future Team Classes expect? Carter says the three-and-a-half hour classes are modeled after what they can expect during auditions for team squads – hence, “prep” classes. She starts with “slates”, where, one by one, students (mock auditionees) introduce themselves with their name and something unique about themselves. Carter pushes students to make this something really memorable, such as that they grew up on a houseboat or once worked for a big celebrity.
They move into warm-ups and progressions with across-the-floor sequences. Carter will challenge students’ command of common steps by mixing them up, such as pas de bourrée becoming back-front-side instead of back-side-front. “Whatever doesn’t challenge you doesn’t make you better,” Carter asserts. She also emphasizes the importance of spotting, important for clean formations along sports field markers, such as yardlines for football. She rounds out classes with freestyle and a combination.
Every so often, Carter will stop the music and ask a question about current events – not the smallest detail of breaking news but general information that is generally common knowledge (such as the President’s wife’s name). Carter explains that it’s important that professional team squad members be knowledgeable in these ways, because during international touring they’re “ambassadors for the U.S.”
Carter also points out the different things various teams are looking for. For example, Cowboys squad members must have solid dance technique; their choreography has difficult steps, such as multiple double pirouettes. The Miami Dolphins don’t call for that kind of technique from their squad members, but they do look for a more of a runway model physique.
All in all, Carter calls for professional team squad hopefuls to be realistic, to know what they want and to work for it. “At the end of the day, I can’t do it for you,” she says. She also underscores consistent training. “Dance is a life skill, and there’s no crash course for a life skill.” Amen to that! Intrigued? Apprehensive but still intrigued? Inspired? Come to her class and experience it all for yourself!
By Kathryn Boland of Dance Informa.