‘Boss Lady Of The Week’ Is A Weekly Column That Highlights Empowering, Entrepreneurial and Inspiring Females In Our Community
A ballet dancer and business owner, Katie Moorhead has the grace and wisdom of a centennial.
If you’re a lover of the arts, you may have seen her as Tiger Lily in the Island Moving Company‘s performance of Second Star to the Right: A Tale of Hook and Pan on the Oliver Hazard Perry. When she is not dancing on stage, grass or decks of tall shops, she is spending her time creating movement at EBB & FLOW, Newport’s first and only space to offer GYROTONIC® and GYROKINESIS® Methods. Since Katie has brought these methods to Newport, she is now one of two trainers on the island – and growing!
Originally from Pennsylvania, Katie is no stranger to a life of travel and has seen many corners of the world, whether it has been for Gyro training, dancing or pleasure. Katie is as well traveled as she is well spoken. She quotes Rumi (I’m assuming, unknowingly) and is more or less a shepherd of knowledge.
I always have (very) slowly walked passed EBB & Flow (located at 8 Freebody Street), and would take a few moments to peer into the window nonchalantly. I was curious about the seemingly medieval stretching devices that lay just behind the glass. I had never seen anyone using the machine, so I had a very distorted idea of how they operated. My imagination has since been put to rest and, let me tell you, I am a huge believer in GYROTONIC®, GYROKINESIS® and I would have never made its acquaintance if it was not for Katie.
Her vocabulary is well versed with words like arch, spiral, curve, unwind, engage. Intertwining her movement as a ballet dancer, she teaches (what she and I discussed to be) organic and authentic movements that are almost primitive. She refers to her space as a place to play, where we can learn to engage the parts of ourselves that may have been forgotten along the way.
Q: What does it mean to pursue dance at a professional level? When did you get started?
A: “Every summer since I was 13 I went all over the state to summer programs. When I was 17, I went to Washington D.C. and studied at a very prestigious ballet academy which I graduated from. Most dancers would generally attend from middle to high school; the school offers academic and art classes, kind of a dance college but for early on. I went for my senior year of high school but stayed another year as an apprentice because I fell into this vigorous training a little late [compared to her peers] and they allowed me to stay in one more year. I lived off campus then and was auditioning and looking for work, and that is when a director from Miami came and he offered me a job.”
“When you’re young, it’s cut throat and hard [to get a job] because they want you to have certain experience and be a certain height, weight, have certain hair, so many things … so, I almost went to Boston Ballet on a ‘no contract’ agreement, but I talked to my parents and decided that was silly … it wasn’t abnormal for me to go somewhere without knowing someone so, I left and went to Miami!”
Q: So you’re a modern day gypsy?
A: “Yes, very much gypsy. I am more rooted here in Newport then I have ever been in my entire life. I am just a sailor with pointe shoes.”
I am looking to trademark this title, just so you know, Katie.
Q: What do you love about Newport? Do you feel rooted here?
A:“What makes Newport fun and special is that we have a lot of transient people. This is the City-By-The-Sea, and I see bright lights and tall structures in other ways [compared to New York City]. Even if you sit outside and listen to the birds, it’s entertainment, and it’s life. If I need my New York City fix, it is a hop, skip, a jump, Pas de Bourree, or Chassé away. It is not very far.”
Katie is approaching her fourth year as a Newport resident. Her first taste of Newport was in the summer months a few years back.
“I got to see Newport in its crazier times, and I was always told to come back and see the locals.”
Apparently, we have a really good reputation, Newport. Keep up the solid work. I didn’t know that we were all so charming in the off season!
“I was overwhelmed by the love in the community, particularly for the arts, and I really felt like I could grow as an artist here, in and outside of the dance company or being my own business woman. Having a female director was also a huge pull [to IMC] for me. The company has now run for 35 seasons which speaks to the passion and the grit our director; she has to keep it all going. There are more female choreographers now than ever.”
Q: What brought you GYROTONIC® and GYROKINESIS®?
A: “My first real full session in New York City, I felt lengthened. It was really bizarre, I was walking down 7th avenue and felt like it was just me in the streets; there were bodies going by but I felt peace and happiness and I felt pains and old injuries just gone and I heard birds as if they were landing on my shoulders and I looked up and there were buildings everywhere but all I could see were trees. I thought, am I high? I don’t do drugs but I got to this place where I was high on life or just drunk on love and I thought that, wow, I need to have this again. My second experience was less euphoric than the first but was also more grounding.”
“I want to be doing this until I am 98 and I do plan to live that long! I thought, I will be a trainer. If I can pass that blessing, just once, I will have done my job as an ambassador of this work.”
Q: Could you explain to me your thought process on introducing GYROTONIC® and GYROKINESIS® to Newport?
A: “I could become a local in a sense. I knew I wanted to respect the space and go by word of mouth. It is such a new thing. I respect the modalities of business here, that was really evident to me, you don’t toot your own horn. If I wanted something to last and work, it had to reflect me, it couldn’t be an ‘in your face’ thing. I have had quite a few challenges, I have run companies before but to be a one [wo]man band it is another thing. I am the boss and the assistant and the assistant’s assistant, and the intern and sometimes I just want to yell at them all at once!”
Q: A yoga instructor, a pilates instructor, and a dance instructor walk into a bar … where do you fit in?
A: “It would be a movement party at the bar, with or without alcohol! All three are equally beautiful exercise modalities that revolve around the mind, body, spirit connection. They have a lot of similarities which I can see how people may get confused. Yoga is definitely more focused on cleansing the mind and holding particular poses in a place of challenging yourself and connecting the breath, how little it takes to move mountains if you take the time to listen.”
“Pilates is two-dimensional work it is all about lines and length and finding stability in the core, and it breaks things down in linear two-dimensional fashion where some people say Gyro looks like a blend of those two. Gyro is the mobilization but stabilization, three-dimensional movement, increasing flexibility and strength of the spine at the same time. It’s diverse, and it has this martial arts like flow.”
The Creator of the GYROTONIC EXPANSION SYSTEM®, Juliu Horvath, is still alive and well, so the methods of Gyrotonic and Gyrokinesis stay current and are updated every other year.
Q: Do you have any plans or ideas set up for your future here in Newport?
A: “Collaborating in Newport is HUGE, I have loads of fun ideas for the future once this next year hits, so many ideas. I think that’s a means of survival here, or anywhere in the world. I have a vision of where I want my studio to go, brick by brick. I am setting up for my future; I cannot dance forever. Although, this process makes me feel younger, so maybe I can dance forever!”
Q: What are your duties of being a teacher, in this line of work or otherwise?
A: “When you’re a teacher you’re a forever student, you need to stay humble and wholesome. Even if you’re a great teacher, it is your gift to keep giving. My goal is to keep my clients feeling like it is their first day, or that they’re my only client, it’s always quality over quantity. You can teach someone the formula but how they apply it in life is their own choosing. Maybe they will recreate their own formulas, I don’t want my clients to be dependent on me, I want them to be dependent on themselves. The end goal is not to come to me 24/7, I am not your subconscious, I am not your gut, I am not your intuitive feeling, so when a client asks: ‘Is this right?’ I ask, ‘How does it feel?’.”
These methods, as Katie tells me, have helped her awaken. Her work has brought her quite a bit of insight and awareness, whether it is solely in her movement or how she has come to enjoy preparing food, swimming in the ocean, or other activities.
Q: Katie’s unsolicited advice?
A: “Realize the beauty in the mistakes, and you can learn so much, it’s like jumping stones across the water. Sometimes it is really clear sometimes it is slipping, the water could be surging up, but the stones will show themselves at the right time.”
So, Katie is a real boss, a figurative boss and at the very least, a Bodhisattva in the making. You can find her (and now me) at her studio for private and group classes, don’t let the machines intimidate you!
For more information on Katie and EBB & Flow, visit www.ebbflowstudio.com.