From JKO to ABT: Katherine Williams

Published in the April/May 2012 issue.

Photo by Nathan Sayers

There’s something soothing about watching Katherine Williams dance. You sense her sweetness and her ear for music. And even when she’s working hard, she looks like she truly loves every moment onstage. 

Franco De Vita spotted Williams at Youth America Grand Prix when she was 13—before JKO even existed. He gave her a full scholarship to Boston Ballet’s summer program, where he was then teaching. And when De Vita took over JKO, he offered Williams another scholarship. “It was like we joined the school together,” she says.

Williams, now 22, describes JKO as the perfect transition into professional life. “Franco is like finishing school,” she says. “Everything he does is so clean, and he gets you working on how you present yourself as a dancer. I tend to have chicken arms, so he made sure I always coordinated my upper body from the back without any funny angles.”

In January 2007, Williams joined the second company; less than a year later she entered the main company. She remembers being nervous at every rehearsal that first year: “Everything felt so important, even if it was just a character part in Swan Lake where all you do is stand on the side.” She soon learned that there are times when she needs not to push so hard. Although she hasn’t had major injuries, Williams isn’t taking any chances. She regularly practices stability exercises to keep her calves and hamstrings strong. “Ultimately, you simply can’t be successful unless you’re healthy,” she says. “To be a professional, you have to be smart, you have to take care of your body.”