PORTLAND, Ore. — A burst of power from her legs carries Katherine
Monogue across the dance floor while her arms become a blur of precise
Under a black leotard worn during a rehearsal for a recent
performance, the ballerina's stomach muscles flex, keeping the center of her
body relatively still as her limbs rapidly extend and retract with control.
Monogue, the youngest professional dancer and only Catholic
dancer in the Oregon Ballet Theatre, has a faith that similarly stabilizes the
core of her life amid a rewarding but intense career.
"Ballet is all-consuming physically, emotionally,
intellectually," Monogue told the Catholic Sentinel,
newspaper of the Archdiocese of Portland. "You get criticized a lot and it
pushes you in all ways, this constant strive to perfection."
But Catholic faith, said the outgoing 21-year-old dancer,
"keeps me grounded. It's kind of like a secret weapon to keep me sane.
Whatever hardships I face, it's there for me, pure and true."
Monogue, who was born in Tacoma, Washington, was on her tiptoes
dancing nearly as soon as she could toddle.
"As early as I can remember, Katherine would carry her plate
to the kitchen after dinner twirling all the way," recalled her mother,
Corinne Monogue, director of multicultural ministries for the Arlington Diocese.
Katherine Monogue performs during William Forsythe's "In the Middle, Somewhat Elevated" at Keller Auditorium in Portland Oct. 6, 2016. A devout Catholic, Monogue often draws comparisons between her faith and the inspiration she feels as a dancer. Courtesy Oregon Ballet Theatre
Throughout her childhood, the family lived in nine states because
of the demands of her father's military career. Through each move, Katherine
Monogue stayed with dancing. Trying jazz, hip-hop and modern dance, she
explored every variety except ballroom and loved all but tap.
By high school, Katherine Monogue was attending her Virginia
public school from 7 a.m. to noon, dancing for six hours with the Washington
School of Ballet in Washington, returning home "and shoving food in my
mouth," and then, exhausted, tackling homework. While keeping up with
coursework online, she managed to complete five advanced placement classes.
"She has this dedication, passion and hard work that she
brings to things, be it school, the movement of her body, her faith,"
Corinne Monogue said a few days after watching her daughter dance in Oregon
Ballet Theatre's "Giants." Performing in two sections of the
three-part show filled with cymbal clashes and brisk movements, the young
Monogue danced both in the principal role and in a demi-soloist position, in
which she performs as part of a small group.
Founded in 1989, Oregon Ballet Theatre is the largest
professional ballet in the state, with about 30 dancers.
Katherine Monogue got her start with the Portland-based company at
age 17, when she was accepted into its apprentice program.
It took a little worry and a lot of prayer for Corinne Monogue
and her husband to allow their teenager to move cross-country and live on her
own in a new city.
"She has so much faith in our Lord that we had to put our
faith in the Lord, too," Corinne Monogue said.
During her apprenticeship, Katherine Monogue danced 12-hour days
while squeezing in her senior year of high school online. It was difficult, and
some days she did not want to get out of bed. But her hard work paid off.
The apprenticeship period is typically two years, but after just
one year, Oregon Ballet Theatre hired her as a full-time professional
Although she's the troop's only Catholic — attending Mass at St.
Mary Cathedral of the Immaculate Conception in Portland and ushering when she
can — Katherine Monogue has a number of colleagues who are devout Christians.
However, many dancers in the company are not religious.
Katherine Monogue, though, does not emphasize the differences.
"We come from all walks of life ... and I see God in all of them.
"I'd rather show my faith," she added, "than tell
The ballerina acknowledged that while her faith in God is
unwavering, she's struggled with her spirituality at times. "I'm more of
an analytical person," she said. "But in dance, there are those rare
moments that I feel something greater that I can't explain."
A couple of summers ago, Katherine Monogue revitalized her faith,
spending two weeks volunteering with the Franciscan Sisters of the Eucharist in
Bridal Veil, Oregon. She pulled weeds, cleaned the chicken coop and gave a
presentation on ballet at the sisters' Franciscan Montessori Earth School.
"The sisters are amazing; they are so funny and have
wonderful stories," she said. And for someone who often seems to defy
gravity with her athleticism, "it felt good to get my hands dirty in the
Katherine Monogue said some people worry that ballet is a dying
"There are a lot of stereotypes about ballet, but it really
is beautiful. I'm constantly moved when I watch other dancers," she said.
The dancer knows her professional ballet career will not last
forever; she is taking classes through Oregon State University and hopes
eventually to attend medical or nursing school.
But for now, she enjoys fulfilling a dream. Katherine Monogue
said she hopes that when people see her perform, or watch an elegant pirouette
or jete, they will fall in love with the classic fusion of grace and strength.
In a sense, ballet is like her beloved faith.
"Ballet," she said, "often transcends words."
Scott is special projects reporter for theCatholic Sentinel, newspaper of the Archdiocese of