Morgan in rehearsal for Firebird. "When something is taken away from you, you appreciate it 10 times more once you have it back, she says. Lilly Echeverria.

The Author of Her Own Story: A Look Inside Kathryn Morgan’s Return to Company Life

A couple years ago, if you had told Kathryn Morgan that she'd be a soloist at Miami City Ballet, learning roles like the Firebird, Mercedes in Don Quixote and the Striptease Girl in Slaughter on Tenth Avenue, she would have said you were crazy. But last April, seven years after she was diagnosed with hypothyroidism and left her career at New York City Ballet behind, Morgan signed a professional company contract once again.


In her NYCB days, Morgan was one of the company's fastest-rising stars. She joined the corps at age 17 and was soon promoted to soloist, dancing roles like Juliet and Aurora. After she left, "I was so out of shape, so sick, so miserable," Morgan says. "I gigged here and there, but I didn't ever think I'd get back in a company, and then I completely stopped dancing. I thought I was totally done." Instead, she embraced her "Plan B": starting her popular YouTube channel and podcast for young dancers, teaching, judging at Youth America Grand Prix and writing an advice column for Dance Spirit.

In 2017, she got married and moved to Houston with her husband. But when her marriage fell apart after 10 months, she found herself getting back into the studio again as a way of healing. "I had no expectations," she says. "I just started to get back in shape." In fall 2018, Morgan moved back to New York City to continue training. When she heard Miami City Ballet might be looking for dancers, she was intrigued—the company's Balanchine-heavy rep is similar to NYCB's, and artistic director Lourdes Lopez is a former NYCB principal, though Morgan had never met her before. She reached out to Lopez and was invited to come down and take class. Though it had been a long time, Morgan's strengths as a dancer, and her Balanchine roots, were quickly apparent. "Even though she was out of shape, there was an innate musicality, a real understanding of steps to music and how to make that work," Lopez says. "I didn't have to teach that aesthetic. It was kind of ingrained in her." A few weeks later, Morgan got the call that there was a soloist position open for her.

Morgan signed her MCB contract in April. Now, she's a full-time company dancer again, adjusting to life in Miami while keeping up her YouTube channel on the side. She's also in a new relationship, with former Ballet West first soloist Christopher Sellars. "I literally had people say to my face, 'You're a flash in the pan, you'll never dance again, you're far too fat,' " says Morgan. "I always tell people it's up to you. It's your story, you're the author. Just because someone says you're a failure—prove them wrong."

Morgan stands with a group of dancers at the barre before class. She smiles and leans on the barre as another dancer is talking.

Morgan starts her day with company class from 10 to 11:30 am. "She's very unassuming in class," says Lopez. "She works really hard, but she doesn't call attention to herself."

Lilly Echeverria

Morgan, in a blue leotard, black tights and skirt and color blocked legwarmers stands in a tendu front in class, with a serious expression on her face.

At 31, Morgan feels she has a healthier approach to class. "I've learned how to work smarter, not harder," she says. "I will do every combination in the center twice. That's all I need. Young Kathryn Morgan was like, 'Let's do it 800 times, and make sure they see me, and go for broke for everything.' "

Lilly Echeverria

Morgan is seen from behind in an arabesque on pointe. Lopez sits in a white plastic chair in front of the mirror, watching her.

Morgan is known as a soft, lyrical dancer, but in rehearsal for Firebird Lopez encourages her to embrace the role's animalistic side. "Firebird is pushing me out of that comfort zone," says Morgan. "It's a role I never thought I would do."

Lilly Echeverria

Morgan kneels on the floor with her hands on a scruffy gray dog. Behind her is a counter with the words Miami City Ballet printed.

"I'm not the skinny little mini that I was at 18, but I'm okay with that," says Morgan. "The fact that I can even be onstage is incredible to me, that I'm back in that kind of shape."

Lilly Echeverria

Morgan lies face down on a massage table. A body worker in a red top and patterned pants stands behind her, working on her calf.

Morgan often signs up for a 15-minute physical therapy slot when she has a break. "I'm in the PT room all the time, and my body feels great because of that," she says. "I believe in PT maintenance before an injury happens."


Lilly Echeverria

Morgan stands with her hands on her hips while Lopez, dressed in black exercise pants and a purple striped athletic t-shirt, demonstrates a sequence from Firebird.

"She's wonderful to work with in the studio because she absorbs information very quickly and retains it," says Lopez. "She's open to constructive criticism. Sometimes dancers get insecure about too many corrections, and Katie doesn't have any of that."

Lilly Echeverria

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Peter Mueller, Courtesy Cincinnati Ballet

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Dara Holmes, Joffrey Ballet

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Dara Holmes and Edson Barbosa in Myles Thatcher's Body of Your Dreams

Cheryl Mann, Courtesy Joffrey Ballet

Wanyue Qiao, American Ballet Theatre

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Wanyue Qiao as an Odalisque in Konstantin Sergeyev's Le Corsaire

Gene Schiavone, Courtesy ABT

Joshua Guillemot-Rodgerson, Houston Ballet

Three male dancers in tight-fitting, multicolored costumes stand in positions of ascending height from left to right. All extend their right arms out in front of them.

Joshua Guillemot-Rodgerson (far right) with Saul Newport and Austen Acevedo in Oliver Halkowich's Following

Amitava Sarkar, Courtesy Houston Ballet

Leah McFadden, Colorado Ballet

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Leah McFadden as Amour in Colorado Ballet's production of Don Quixote

Mike Watson, Courtesy Colorado Ballet

Maria Coelho, Tulsa Ballet

Maria Coelho and Sasha Chernjavsky in Andy Blankenbuehler's Remember Our Song

Kate Lubar, Courtesy Tulsa Ballet

Alexander Reneff-Olson, San Francisco Ballet

A ballerina in a black feathered tutu stands triumphantly in sous-sus, holding the hand of a male dancer in a dark cloak with feathers underneath who raises his left hand in the air.

Alexander Reneff-Olson (right) as Von Rothbart with San Francisco Ballet principal Yuan Yuan Tan in Swan Lake

Erik Tomasson, Courtesy SFB

India Bradley, New York City Ballet

Wearing a blue dance dress with rhinestone embellishments and a sparkly tiara, India Bradley finishes a move with her arms out to the side and hands slightly flexed.

India Bradley practices backstage before a performance of Balanchine's Tschaikovsky Piano Concerto No. 2.

Erin Baiano, Courtesy NYCB

Bella Ureta, Cincinnati Ballet

Wearing a white dress with pink corset, Bella Ureta does a first arabesque on pointe in front of an onstage stone wall.

Bella Ureta performs the Act I Pas de Trois in Kirk Peterson's Swan Lake

Hiromi Platt, Courtesy Cincinnati Ballet

Alejándro Gonzales, Oklahoma City Ballet

Dressed in a green bell-boy costume and hat, Alejandro Gonz\u00e1lez does a saut\u00e9 with his left leg in retir\u00e9 and his arms in a long diagonal from right to left. Other dancers in late 19-century period costumes watch him around the stage.

Alejandro González in Michael Pink's Dracula at Oklahoma City Ballet.

Kate Luber, Courtesy Oklahoma City Ballet

Nina Fernandes, Miami City Ballet

Wearing a long white tutu and crown, Nina Fernandes does a saut de chat in front of a wintery backdrop as snow falls from the top of the stage.

Nina Fernandes in George Balanchine's The Nutcracker

Alexander Iziliaev, Courtesy Miami City Ballet

#TBT: Lucia Lacarra and Cyril Pierre in "Thaïs Pas De Deux" (2008)

When Sir Frederick Ashton premiered Thaïs Pas de Deux, a duet set to the "Méditation" interlude from Jules Massenet's opera Thaïs, the ballet was immediately acclaimed as one of his masterpieces, despite the fact that it is only a few minutes long. In this clip from 2008, Lucia Lacarra and Cyril Pierre, then principals of the Bavarian State Ballet, give a tender, enchanting performance that is six-and-a-half minutes of pure beauty.

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