Hi, my name’s Katja Rochat and I come from a small town called Aubonne, in Switzerland. I’m a professional dancer, a dance teacher, training to be a Pilates teacher and I love French bulldogs!
I started dancing when I was 9 years old (which is quite late when you think about it, the average age is around 6-7 years old) at Ecole de Danse Julie Duruisseau, a ballet school in Aubonne, Switzerland. As soon as I started, I fell in love with this art form, and I just never stopped. I was incredibly lucky to have supportive parents who regardless of what was ahead of me, believed in me. I even got the chance to attend summer intensives at places such as Boston Ballet, American Ballet Theater, La Scala di Milano in the Netherlands, Trinity Laban Conservatory in London, Berlin. At the age of 16, I got accepted into the Orlando Ballet School in Florida. It was a huge step forward for me as I was leaving my family to move to another country (and continent) to pursue my dreams of becoming a dancer.
After graduating from this school, I went to Point Park University in Pittsburgh to get my Bachelor’s in Dance with a minor in Education. I graduated with Magna Cum Laude with a high honours. I had the chance to teach in multiple dance schools while in college and be an apprentice with the Slowdanger company while finishing my last year of school. After that, I got to perform as a guest artist for multiple organisations. Right after college, I joined the Savannah Ballet Theater in Georgia, where I got to perform solo roles; growing greatly as a dancer and a human being while I was there.
I have so many dancers that I look up to, and still do! My all-time favourite is Natalia Osipova, her jumps are out of this world! I love the movement quality of Gillian Murphy and the virtuosity of the British ballerina, Darcey Bussell. Let’s not forget the male dancers – Roberto Bolle, Marcelo Gomez, and Daniil Simkin.
So, a normal day for me when in a company (pre-Covid) would mean getting ready in the morning at around 8 o’clock. I put my hair into a bun, put my makeup on and eat a light breakfast. Then I head to the studio to be there by 8:45 am so that I’ve got a good 45 minutes to warm up before the morning company class. I would start with some light stretches, then go into abs, planks, strengthening, toe work with a Theraband, and a light cool down to centre myself before class. All of that is accompanied by a cup of coffee! Right now I do all of the same things but with a different schedule since I’m a freelance dancer.
The dances I would usually practise depend on the repertoire that we have during that time of the year but typically we would start the day with an hour and a half long ballet class. After that, we have a short break before a rehearsal of one of the shows, lasting around three hours. As we dance and take class, it is our responsibility and our job to make sure that our body is warmed up correctly so that it can understand and execute the movements closest to perfection! Our body is our instrument and we for sure need to take care of it and listen to it as we go on with the day.
This is followed by a quick lunch break. I tend to spread my daily food into six smaller meals throughout the day filled with lots of fruits and veggies (like a salad) but also nuts, proteins such as eggs and low-fat cheese to keep me energised throughout the day. Of course, I always have a protein bar with me in case of an emergency. I also make sure I get enough carbs intake at lunch, such as a handful of beans that I put into my salad. I do love sweets, so from time to time, I allow myself a piece of 80% chocolate.
Then I move on to another rehearsal for a different show for three hours and by the end of the day, around 5-6 pm, most dancers get to go to their second job. After every class, I hope that they find joy and happiness but most importantly that they get to learn something new (either about themselves or the art form). In a dance class, you don’t only learn steps, get stronger and more flexible but also acquire knowledge of musicality, spatial awareness, respect of your classmates/teacher, understanding the history behind the art, being patient, teamwork, precision, determination, and self-confidence amongst others.
My favourite to practise is ballet, it will always be my first love. I love the history behind it, how precise the steps need to be, yet we have room for our own artistry which makes every dancer unique. I am also quite addicted to improvisation/contemporary dance, it allows the dancer to express their feelings, what is going on in their mind and body, and the relationship of the dancer with the space around them. I like to think that no matter which dance style we are into, we shouldn’t leave our feelings at the door, instead take them with us in the studio and use them as a lead for our artistry.
I would have to say, Jazz isn’t my favourite. I enjoy taking a Jazz class from time-to-time and learning about the style’s history but don’t expect to see me on Broadway!
However, this was pre-covid so now my schedule is a bit different as a freelance dancer, but I still get the chance to dance every day and keep my body in shape for the professional world.
As mentioned before, I’m training to be a Pilates teacher with the BASI teacher program. I’ve decided to add another string to my bow by getting certified in Pilates, which is quite beneficial for both dancers and people who want to give it a go and strengthen their body, mind and spirit. It is going fabulously! Pilates is such a great cross-training activity for dancers. Another one is yoga, which helps you unwind after a long day or focus on an important one. Fitness is also very important with targeted exercises as well as PBT (Progressing Ballet Technique). With Pilates training, I get the chance to learn so much anatomically, physically, and mentally and have the chance to bring this knowledge to dancers and anyone I teach. As far as dance teaching, I’ve been a teacher for about seven years now and I love every part of it. I teach every day, from ages four to adults and these students are for sure a joy for the heart to have!
Another aspect that makes me happy is knowing that I am truly able to express who I am throughout the day and the dances. Being able to fully immerse myself into the character of the role I dance for in a show is such an incredible feeling. Once I am on stage and get to transmit these feelings to the audience, this is the best part of my day! But from a dance teacher’s point of view, it’s to see the sparkles in a child’s eyes when it’s time to dance with the ribbons on the Giselle music or when a more advanced student smiles to their ears as they understand a renverse or a valse en tournant.
Then, I usually end my day with a nice and long stretching session to allow my muscles the time to elongate to their full ability. I also take the time to go over corrections that were given in class (to me or other dancers), then I write down parts of the choreography I need to be extra attentive to and at the very end of the day. Once I’m home and ready to go to bed I take some time to visualize the dances we are doing so that I know where I have room and time to insert my artistry.
For anyone wanting to go into dance, never be afraid to go for it! We were all beginners at one point and the learning process never ends, which is one of the awesome parts of this art form. Just like my favourite dance quotes says: “The earth without art is just eh!”
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