Artist of the Week: U Grad, Ballet Dancer, Novelist

By Madge Slack

Kara Roseborough is an unusual dancer for the U’s program. Tall dancers face a lot of challenges in an art form designed hundreds of years ago when people were naturally shorter. It’s often considered an art form for small dainty women who can move quickly and gracefully. While Roseborough is certainly graceful and quick — she is also 5-foot-10, and that presents casting and partnering issues. However, as a newer company, ANB’s mission is to hire and present diversity in the world of ballet. For Roseborough, this doesn’t just mean her height.

[/media-credit] Despite having spent three years in the ballet department, Kara Roseborough graduated the University of Utah just last year with an English degree. This young writer is going places as Roseborough has recently signed a contract with American National Ballet (ANB) as part of its second company.

“It is more obvious now more than ever just how white ballet is,” Roseborough said. “Diversity shouldn’t be a burden to ballet companies in the 21st century. It should be a necessity. If art is a reflection of the people, ballet must embody this by having dancers from all different walks of life while telling stories and displaying concepts that tap into different experiences.”

“I didn’t deal with overt racism or negativity, but rather encountered microaggressions that were a reminder of my otherness.” she said.

Unfortunately, the ballet department has a habit of casting black women in villain roles. Roseborough played the witch in “Hansel and Gretel,” and the year before that Sydney Duncan, a black dancer for Avant Chamber Ballet played the evil stepmother in “Cinderella.” While this is a habit of the program, it is not the only roles these dancers were offered. Roseborough danced the Waltz Girl in “Les Sylphides” which is a traditionally white solo role. It is the biggest role she has danced to date, and to her it was an honor.

Roseborough loves classical and story ballets with a passion. While she also does contemporary work her goal is to write a few new story ballets and other works. She wants to contribute to the world she loves with all of her skills including her second love — writing.

This mission is particularly important to Roseborough who felt out of place throughout her undergraduate degree.

Roseborough completed her first novel last spring semester. It is a fantasy novel called “Shadow Traveler 1920.” It features a witch who goes back in time to 1920 and is set in Roseborough’s hometown of Chicago. Novel writing has been a passion ever since she was seven years old, just four years after she discovered ballet. She is now a freelance writer and has been commissioned to write several plays. It was the pursuit of her English degree that caused her to leave the ballet program early when she graduated in only three years.

When debating the change she said, “I recognized that I needed to do this for myself as an individual and an artist, not a student connected to the university. I had to be selfish, which you sometimes have to be when it comes to personal growth.”

It all worked out as her novel is now completed and the second is on its way. And a new job at an exciting up-and-coming company will let her continue to dance outside the lines and work towards her dreams of discovering and maybe even helping create a better world.

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