Reverence: She Soars to Conquer

Boston Ballet principal Kathleen Breen Combes knows how to take up a stage.
Published in the October/November 2012 issue.

Combes mid-leap in George Balanchine’s "Symphony in Three Movements." Photo by Gene Schiavone.

What’s your biggest nightmare onstage?
Sometimes I’ll blank out and forget the choreography. I hate when I do it. I’ve had a few moments where later someone asked me, “What were you doing out there?” And I say, “Sorry! Got confused.”

You do a lot of tall girl roles, especially in Balanchine. What do you think makes you such a great fit for them?
I don’t know, because I’m only 5' 4"! But I feel so comfortable in those roles. People will see me after a show and say, “Oh, I thought you were so much taller!” My feet are big—that might be the reason.

Do you have any hidden talents?

I get on a sewing kick every few months. I’ll start sewing legwarmers and skirts and stuff like that. I cut a lot of things up and remake them. I have this thing for anything loose and drapey.  

I’ve heard you’re a fashionista. What’s your style like outside of the studio?

Casual, but I’m also very girly. When we dress up for events, I like to wear hats with nets and feathers. I love 1920s and 1940s fashion—really classy outfits with high waists and cinched belts. I do a lot of shopping on Etsy.com. It’s the devil.

Do you have any hobbies with your husband, principal Yury Yanowsky?
The other night I killed him at beach volleyball. He loves to play guitar and make me write the lyrics. We play Xbox Kinect together. And we love to travel. We go to Spain to see his family every summer, and we always go somewhere else, just the two of us.

If you could have one ballet superpower, what would it be?

I’d love to be able to turn without worrying about it. To do, like, quadruple fouettés. That would be fabulous.

You’re very active on Twitter.  What do you think about the role of social media for dancers?
There’s a fourth wall in ballet. It’s considered an elitist art form, and I don’t think it has to be. It’s good for people to see that we’re human. I think that if our audience is interested in us on a personal level, they will be more interested in seeing what we do onstage. Otherwise, they can just stay home and watch it on YouTube.