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Double Life of a Skater

For most of her 20 years, Katherine Healy has led a double life. In 1983 at age 14, she became the first U.S.-born ballerina and the youngest dancer ever to win a Gold Medal at the prestigious International Ballet Competition of Varna, Bulgaria. She has performed extensively in Europe and Japan, and even before her victory had worked with such greats as George Balanchine and Jacques D’Amboise.

Since she was 10, Healy has also been a professional figure skater, appearing in ice shows with established skaters. She made her solo debut at 6 as the protege of 1976 Olympic champion John Curry in a Madison Square Garden exhibition, and at 9 was the subject of photographer Jill Krementz’s book “A Very Young Skater.”

Sunday night Healy will display both talents in “Star Spangled Ice,” a cabaret-style ice show starring 1980 Olympic champion Robin Cousins and other world-class skaters at the International Training Center in Blue Jay, near Lake Arrowhead. The show benefits the International Foundation for the Advancement of Ice Skating.

Having discovered both endeavors at age 3, the New York-born performer now spends more time en pointe than on ice.

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“Ballet is my priority, my native language,” she says. “It’s shaped me and defined my style. But I’m a big skating fan, and I’ve been fortunate in that people ask me to do these shows.”

All serious figure skaters study ballet for its artistic merits, but how does the sport benefit Healy’s dancing?

“It gives me stamina and brute physical strength,” she says. “I specialize in the bravura ballets, so jumping and stroking really help the muscles.”

After spending two years as a principal with the London Festival Ballet, Healy now free-lances as a guest artist and attends Princeton University, where she is a senior art history major. Her post-graduation plans are “rather vague,” she says.

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“I may join a ballet company, but not if it means giving up skating. And I’d like to act again (she played a dying ballerina in the 1982 film ‘Six Weeks’),” she says. “Ballet is youth-oriented--people tend to peak at 30 or 35. So I am keeping an eye on the time.”


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