If you ask a classroom of young girls what they want to be when they grow up, chances are at least one of them will tell you that they want to be a ballerina, teacher or athlete. Today's leading lady, Tracey Katona, gets to do all three. As a former professional ballet dancer, she currently teaches ballet at Oregon Ballet Theatre and instructs Pilates at Nike World Headquarters. If you don't think that keeps her busy enough, she's also a dance consultant and guest teacher at various destinations including Canyon Ranch. She loves teaching all athletes — from professionals to weekend warriors to those just beginning their athletic journey.
Born in New Jersey, Tracey began training at the School of Washington Ballet, Princeton Ballet school and Steps on Broadway. She danced professionally with the American Repertory Ballet, Albany Berkshire Ballet, Charleston Ballet Theatre, Trinette Singleton's Bravo! Dance Company and the Opera Festival of New Jersey. Tracey started Pilates training as a dancer, and when she moved to the West Coast, she began working with Oregon Ballet Theatre and started teaching the New York City ballet workout and Pilates at Nike World Headquarters.
When Tracey isn't teaching or dancing you can find her running for fun, both with friends and in charitable events. She also enjoys time with Jonah, her funny cat who never disappoints her after a long day.
Celebrate what makes you unique, and never give up.
How did you discover your current job?
Almost ten years ago I made a huge life-change moving from the East Coast to the West Coast. Upon moving to Portland, Ore., I was hired to teach ballet at Oregon Ballet Theatre as well as Pilates and the New York City Ballet workout at Nike World Headquarters. I got into Pilates training as a dancer. The training just made sense to me. You have to live in your body, and on top of that, we ask it to do so many things. Pilates is like Jiffy Lube for your body. You keep yourself aligned, strong and flexible, so it will run better and longer.
What is your typical day like? What types of things do you do in your job?
My typical day starts at 6 a.m. when I begin training Nike employees and athletes. It finishes at the Oregon Ballet Theatre, where I teach ballet and run rehearsals.
What is the most rewarding part of your job? The most challenging?
The most rewarding part of my job is helping people get stronger, feel better and achieve their training goals. Whether it's a person training to run his or her first marathon, an athlete trying to stay strong during off-season, a dancer trying to land a perfect double pirouette or a mom trying to get back in shape post-baby, providing the information and support they the need to realize their potential through strength and alignment is very rewarding. The most challenging part is not having enough hours in the day!
What is the biggest personal sacrifice you have to make because of your job?
Working in the fitness industry and dance world means you don't get to work conventional hours. Most people schedule their workouts in the morning, lunch and after work. Dancers, because of schooling, train after they get off, and rehearse and perform on the weekends.
What is one lesson you've learned in your job that sticks with you?
The biggest lesson I have learned as an instructor is to teach to who is in front of you. You need to address the needs of each student even when teaching a group class. George Balanchine of the New York City Ballet once referred to his role as artistic director as a gardener and the company as a garden. He said each dancer blooms differently and at different times. I love that anaolgy! I think about that whenever I am teaching -- that everyone learns and develops differently. Some need water, some need sunshine, and some need time to grow.
What do you think is the biggest challenge for women today, particularly females in your industry?
I think it's always challenging for women to balance being strong, feminine, athletic, artistic, full of conviction and passionate, without being perceived as intimidating.
Who are your role models?
I am very fortunate to have the amazing parents that I do. They taught me to to work hard and follow my dreams. They supported me when I came to them at five years old wanting to start dance lessons so I could become a professional ballet dancer. They worked more than one job to pay for my dance training, and they never missed a performance. I achieved that goal, and they have supported and encouraged me in everything I have wanted to do since.
Elizabeth Carroll, was one of the most influential teachers I had. She was demanding while making you feel so appreciated as an artist. Anthony Rabara, who introduced me to Pilates, continues to be a role model.
At Nike and at Oregon Ballet Theatre I am surrounded by talented, smart, creative, driven people. There are too many to list, but they are some of them are the most infuential people in the industry. Each day I learn something new and am motivated and inspired!
What are some of the rules you live by?
One of the rules I live by is if you see a person without a smile, give them yours. That's a quote by Dolly Parton that has always stuck with me
What advice do you have for girls who want to be in your industry?
Be authentic to yourself and trust your instincts. Celebrate what makes you unique, and never give up. You may have to change your strategy, but never give up!
Where do you see yourself five years from now?
I have stopped making long-term goals, so I have no idea where I will be in five years. But I can't wait to find out!