Katie Martin of Grayslake first put on tights and a tutu at age 6 when she began ballet lessons at Dancenter North in Libertyville. She has grown up into a professional ballerina at age 23 who landed a role on the new TV show "Breaking Pointe."
The show, produced by BBC Worldwide Productions, gives an unflinching behind-the-scenes look at the world of professional ballet, the injuries, the competition, the all-consuming lifestyle of dancers, and the beauty of the performances.
"I think the show will give the viewers an insight into ballet," said Martin. "The overall gooal is to educate people about the ballet. It is beautiful and ugly and passionate. Ballet is actually a very modern form of entertainment."
She said ballet pushes dancers to make their bodies go beyond normal limits.
"In ballet, your body isn't meant to do what we make it do," Martin said. "But as a dancer, your body is meant to perform. And that is what you love."
"Breaking Pointe" pulls back the curtain on the backstage drama of the elite Salt Lake City Ballet Company, Ballet West.
The show is led by Artistic Director Adam Sklute, a former dancer and associate director of The Joffrey Ballet. The featured dancers on "Breaking Pointe" from Ballet West and Ballet West II's company of 48 dancers include: Principal Artist Christiana Bennett, Soloist Ronnie Underwood, Demi-Soloist Allison DeBona, Demi-Soloist Rex Tilton, Beckanne Sisk, Kathleen (Katie) Martin and Ronald Tilton.
A Bumpy Ride
The first episode of "Breaking Pointe" doesn't start out well for Martin. She learns that her contract is not renewed to remain with Ballet West.
"When I find out that I'm getting fired, that was one of the hardest things to go through," Martin said. "It was especially hard to have to go through it on television. It has been very intense and emotional, sharing this journey with America."
Her role on the TV show continues, however, as she fulfills the final months of her contract with Ballet West, searches for a new ballet company and tries to come to terms with leaving her boyfriend Ronald, a fellow Ballet West dancer.
"On the brighter side of things, being on TV has been a really great experience overall," Martin said. "As a ballerina, we're performers. I'm okay with sharing my struggles on the show. This is the reality - not getting a contract happens to a lot of dancers. It happens every day."
Martin's lifelong love of dance started in Lake County.
"I had always danced and loved it," she said. "I danced since I was young at Dancenter North in Libertyville, and was captain of the poms squad at Warren," she said.
She graduated in 2007 from Warren Township High School in Gurnee.
"When I was ready to graduate, my parents sat me down and said we support you," she recalled. "They said if you want to pursue ballet, we'll support you. I said yes, i want to do this."
The Journey Continues
The next day, Martin packed up, left home and started auditioning for ballet companies.
"She was a trainee at Boston Ballet for a year after graduating from high school, attended one year of college at Point Park University in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania majoring in ballet, and for the last three years has been at Ballet West as a trainee for one year and promoted to the second company last two years," said her dad, Jim Martin.
And now, his daughter can add TV actress to the list.
"The "Breaking Pointe" television show has been an exciting bonus and certainly something that has been an interesting experience," he said.
Filming for "Breaking Pointe" began in March.
"The first week, the cameras being there felt like a lot of extra pressure," Katie Martin said. "I even wore makeup - and I never wear makeup. It took getting used to having them around all the time. The crew wasn't familiar with ballet and the dancers weren't familiar with the crew. But by the second week, it became second nature."
She said that a lot of younger girls are excited about the show, as are her friends and her parents' friends.
"It reaches a lot of age groups," she said. "This show is about how we are trying to make our careers. We are showing America that hard work will pay off in the end."
She said the long hours, the injuries and the fierce competition make ballet a very difficult career path to pursue.
"There is nothing easy about it," she said, "but that is why we like it."
The experience with Breaking Pointe has increased her interest in another career - acting. She'd love to do more acting after the reality show ends.
"Keep watching Breaking Pointe and cheer for 'Team Katie' and hopefully there will be a second season," she said.
The show airs Thursday nights at 7 p.m. on the CW Network, Channel 9 - WGN. For more information on "Breaking Pointe," visit http://www.cwtv.com/shows/breaking-pointe/about.