Katlyn Addison Returns to Toronto for new Commissioned Work

Photo by Spencer Bentley.

“There’s something so spiritual about dancing; it brings you out of yourself and into a world, unlike your reality.”

Ballet Jörgen was founded to support the development and dissemination of original choreography. We only dance ballets created on the Company ensuring an entirely original repertoire of ballets. To date, Ballet Jörgen has performed 263 original creations by 94 choreographers, including nine full-length ballets and five works created especially for children. Providing opportunities for choreographers from a range of backgrounds and identities ensures all voices are heard and develops artists that are truly representative of all Canadians, and we are proud to have performed works from 49 female choreographers.

One of our newest commissioned choreographers to come work with Ballet Jörgen is Katlyn Addison. Katlyn’s career is impressive — not only has she been dancing professionally for over 15 years but her credentials as a dance educator are significant in teaching ballet that is true to the artform.

Photo by Spencer Bentley.

As the first black female Principal Artist with Ballet West, Katlyn’s passion for ballet can only be rivaled by her passion for giving back to the community. She is a multifaceted artist, paving the way for the future of ballet through her commitment to her artistry, her love of choreography, and her dedication to teaching a new generation of dancers…

Katlyn Addison was born in Ontario, and began her ballet training at the age of 10 at the Quinte Ballet School Of Canada. She later trained at Pacific Northwest Ballet, Boston Ballet, and Houston Ballet Ben Stevenson Academy.

Katlyn started her professional career as a Corps de Ballet member of the Houston Ballet in 2007 and in 2008, she received the Sarah Chapin Langham Award at Youth America Grand Prix. She joined Ballet West as a Corps de Ballet dancer in 2011 and was promoted to Demi Soloist in 2014, to Soloist in 2016, and again to First Soloist in 2018. Katlyn performed as a guest artist in Principal and Soloist roles with the Scottish Ballet in the fall and winter of 2019 to 2020. In 2021, Katlyn was promoted again. This time, she made history by becoming the first Black female Principal Artist at Ballet West in their 58-year history.


Photo by Beau Pearson for So Danca USA.

Q: Ballet Jörgen is thrilled to work with you on this commissioned work — how did you connect with Artistic Director, Bengt Jörgen to make this happen?

A former Ballet teacher of mine, Mercedez Bernardez, and her husband, Jose, were running an online summer intensive called TEADE for Danza Corpus Canada. Both Bengt and myself were teaching online for this program, and Mercedez connected us to facilitate future collaborations.


Q: Can you tell us about the piece you are working on? — is there a title yet?

The title of the piece is “There Were TWO,” which was given by the composer, Jonathan Sanford.

Many times, when I am creating a new ballet I use my work as a way to amplify the composer’s personal story or the composer’s creative vision. When speaking with Jonathan, he described his inspiration for this musical creation as the story of Hercules through the music. Now, I’ve taken the story of Hercules and the title of the ballet, “There Were TWO,” and created a piece that takes you through two different couples’ journeys through space that is inspired by Hercules’ story. I am hoping that while watching the ballet the audience has an emotional response and is carried along this journey.

In the studio selfie.
During rehearsal with Katlyn; photo by Motoki Kohiruimak.
A fun moment in the studio with Katlyn and the dancers; photo by Motoki Kohiruimak.

Q: How do you approach new choreography with dancers you haven’t worked with before? — what is this creative process like?

I actually don’t have a set creative process. I don’t create much prior to first rehearsals other than an idea or concept of what I’d like to use as the inspiration for the choreography. I like to create the steps on the dancers in person, allowing the movement to arise organically from the particular dancer in front of me, which highlights the dancer’s abilities and helps the dancer feel more confident and comfortable with my style of movement.

Coming to Ballet Jörgen and working with dancers that I’ve never seen or worked with before is exciting and has brought a fresh newness to the work.


Q: What’s it been like so far?

Great! The dancers here are talented and eager to participate in the creative process. I’ve enjoyed every bit of this journey with the dancers, and I’m excited to see how this piece comes to life.


Q: In your bio I read that you are a “firm believer in using your platform to give back to your community and to help raise the voices of other minority artists.” What are some of the things that you have achieved that you are most proud of and what do you still hope to accomplish for future dancers?

As a choreographer, I try to choreograph music created from composers of colour. I am proud that I have been able to bring awareness to underrepresented and underappreciated artists. As a dancer, I am most proud of the steps I have taken that have helped to change the narrative and empower future generations of dancers.

My goal is to help create a space in which artists of color won’t be overlooked or under appreciated. I pray that the history that I’ve made over the years at Ballet West, and within the ballet community as a whole, will inspire young dancers to feel that they can dream big and with hard work, dedication, and consistency, they can be successful.