Winchester native follows dream on stage

When Catherine Martin was just 5 years old, she saw Ballet Magnificat perform for the first time, and fell in love.

Years later, as a preteen, Catherine saw the company perform once more. It was then she knew that was her dream — to be like those dancers.

“There wasn’t anything else I ever really wanted to do,” Catherine said. “I could’ve gone to school and done anything.”

Instead, she followed her heart.

Now, the Winchester native is in her fifth year with the faith-based ballet troupe, and is currently a full-time Alpha company artist.

“I kind of put all of my eggs in one basket, but it worked out,” Catherine said.

Catherine started dancing with the Winchester Ballet Company when she was 5. She trained under the direction of Roberto Sifontes and Anna Patsfall and went on to perform with Kentucky Ballet Theatre in “The Nutcracker,” “Cinderella” and “Ballet Under the Stars.”

For some time, Catherine was juggling both soccer and ballet, but eventually, it became too much. She had to choose one or the other. So, she decided on dance.

“To me, it is creative,” Catherine said. “To me, it’s also kind of like a math equation. Someone tells me what to do, and I find the best way to do it.”

At the time, her father Joe Martin wasn’t aware of the opportunities that would soon open up to Catherine.

At age 12, she started to attend summer dance intensives at Ballet Magnificat and Joffrey Ballet. After graduating George Rogers Clark High School in 2009, she moved to Jackson, Mississippi, to join a training program at Ballet Magnificat. In 2013, Catherine became an apprentice and was promoted to company artist in 2015.

“She didn’t think she was going to make it,” Joe said.

But she did.

“It was surreal,” Catherine said. “To imagine doing what you’ve wanted to do for so long to become a reality.”

The dream also comes with a lot of work, she said. The dancers spend up to eight hours in the studio almost every day they are not on the road. The ladies must learn the new dances and get to know new company members.

“(Dancing) kind of affects everything you do in your whole life,” Catherine said. “… You’re always aware that your body is your job. It makes it difficult to take a break.”

The best aspect about dancing for Ballet Magnificat, Catherine said, is the originality of the dances.

“The stories are meaningful,” she said. “The style of dance is a little bit more contemporary. We don’t do a lot of classical … The purpose is to share the gospel.”

Because of the company’s Christian-centered mission, Ballet Magnificat often performs in non-traditional dance spaces such as churches or schools, Catherine said. This weekend, Catherine and her fellow dancers will be visiting the Eastern Kentucky University Center for the Arts to perform for the public.

Catherine said the first half is set to contemporary worship music and the second half is a story, “The Prodigal’s Journey,” about a husband who loses his wife and goes through various trials and realizes his need for the Lord.

Ballet Magnificat has taken Catherine all across the globe, with tours in South Africa and most recently Israel. Catherine said one of her favorite places she’s traveled had been South Dakota.

“I love South Dakota just because of the people,” she said.

Joe said he only sees Catherine about twice a year since she’s on the road so much. But it’s times like these when she performs close by that especially mean a lot to him. Joe said he would spend the entire day with the ladies of Ballet Magnificat on Saturday for their performance at EKU.

And although Joe has never had a particular interest in ballet, he loves watching his daughter dance.

“We’re proud of her,” Joe said, “to see her get to where she is. The main focus is she enjoys what she does and for the right reasons. We’re happy she’s happy doing what she loves.”

As for her future, Catherine said she doesn’t have any other plans. She’s just going to keep dancing.

“And I don’t really want to dance anywhere else,” Catherine said.

Ballet Magnificat will perform Saturday at EKU’s Center for the Arts at 7 p.m. Tickets are $25 and $15.50 for children 12 and younger.