The Natural: Emily Kadow

June 23, 2009

In a studio at New Dance Group in NYC, Emily Kadow warms up her feet with relevés in first position. Her round, porcelain-doll face is alert, and her bright brown eyes look down at the Russian Pointe shoes she has carefully sewn at the vamp. Even though her lithe body, raven hair and dramatic face are gorgeous, the 16-year-old looks more like a shy child than the winner of the bronze medal at the Youth America Grand Prix last April.


Five minutes later, as she rises to pointe and begins a variation from The Sleeping Beauty, she glides into a breathtaking transformation from young girl to ladylike pro. With each piqué to arabesque and well-placed failli, her strength and confidence increase. Her Vaganova-trained upper body is downy soft, floating above powerful legs, and it’s all wrapped together with precise technique.


During short breaks, she remains en pointe as if she could stay on her toes all day and explains, “I feel more comfortable on pointe. I’d rather take class in pointe shoes, not flat ones!” Although coach and teacher Edward Ellison of the Ellison Ballet corrects her and requests repetition, Emily remains focused and cheerful.


Finally, she prepares for a turn and springs into a quintuple pirouette. On the final rotation, Ellison says, “Dear, that’s supposed to be a triple. Don’t be greedy.” She resets and zips into another turn, this time an effortless triple with a suspended landing. And that’s when it’s clear: Emily Kadow is a prima in the making.

A Serious Start

Emily’s comfort high on relevé is no coincidence. It’s equal parts nature and nurture that have come together seamlessly.


“She has such natural facility,” says Ellison. “Some things that are difficult for others are second nature to her, like turns, balancing and développés á la second.”


But Emily hasn’t rested on these natural gifts. To take the most advantage of her physical assets, Emily has traveled—and moved—all over the world to train.


The starting point for Emily’s now-international life was Tampa, FL, where she and her sister, Kate, her mother, Teresa, and her father, Joe, lived. From there, the first stop on her journey—Carlisle, PA—was thanks to Kate, who was looking for top-level training. When Kate and Teresa decided that Central Pennsylvania Youth Ballet was the right spot, 6-year-old Emily simply followed along and was enrolled in the school’s summer program.


During Emily’s first class, her role as tagalong changed forever. “I loved ballet right away,” she says. Kate explains that CPYB also played an important role in helping Emily overcome serious shyness. “She is shy outside of ballet,” says 18-year-old Kate, who dances with the Cuban Classical Ballet of Miami. “So initially the artistry and performing part was harder for her. But now when you see her onstage smiling, you’d never know that!”


Continuing at CPYB under the tutelage of Marcia Dale Weary and Leslie Hench, Emily became a huge ballet lover like Kate. She went on pointe at the unusually young age of 7 and honed her performing chops as Marie in the academy’s production of George Balanchine’s The Nutcracker.

Traveling for Training

Although the training at CPYB was magnificent, after five years, the Kadow ladies decided to head back to Florida to reunite with Joe. There, the girls studied with Javier and Isabel Dubrocq and then popped north to Washington, DC, for a year at the Kirov Academy of Ballet. Then, they zipped back to Florida for the next leg of Emily’s travels.


But this time, Emily returned to the Dubrocqs while Kate moved on to train with Magaly Suarez in Miami. “I’ve always followed my sister because she’s two years older than I am,” says Emily. “She’s one of my favorite ballerinas and I love watching her. But after the Kirov we parted ways, and that was hard because I was so used to dancing with her.”


While it was difficult for Emily to strike out on her own, she pushed through with unwavering commitment to her art. During the summer of 2007, she found the entryway to her current life—a class at Steps on Broadway with Ellison.


Ellison recognized Emily from a previous performance and asked her to join his summer program (after she completed the Pacific Northwest Ballet intensive, which she was already scheduled to attend). She accepted, and after just one week with Ellison, Emily and her mother decided to move to NYC to train with him year round.


Though the prestigious spots at which she has trained have been thrilling, Emily admits that relocating so much hasn’t been easy. “The first time we moved I was young and I hadn’t even started ballet yet. It was hard leaving my friends and dad. And then, after five years, it was hard leaving CPYB!” she says. “But moving gets easier every time.”


To help make each transition smooth, Emily looks to her mother for guidance and comfort. “My mom makes every place feel like home. She’s my best friend and we do everything together.” Plus, the Kadows make sure they are together for all special occasions: This year Joe and Kate flew to NYC to surprise Emily on her 16th birthday!

Moves in Manhattan

These days, Emily is working hard with Ellison at his school to reach her goal of becoming a prima ballerina. While other young dancers focus on contemporary work, Emily’s heart lies with the classics and the companies that do them best, the Bolshoi Ballet, Paris Opera Ballet, The Royal Ballet and American Ballet Theatre being her favorites. “I like contemporary, but I love the classics,” she says. “The sparkles, the tutus, being a princess!” (Even her favorite movie is a classic: Charade, starring Audrey Hepburn!)


She looks to Ellison and his meticulous coaching to help her achieve the delicate but powerful skill required by traditional choreography. On days she has rehearsal either for competition or performance (this past winter she was the Snow Queen in Huntington Ballet’s The Nutcracker, as well as Clara in the Cuban Classical Ballet of Miami’s rendition, dancing alongside Kate, who was the Sugar Plum Fairy!), she arrives about two hours before her session to stretch and warm up. “I know it’s neurotic but I like to give myself barre and listen to my music,” she says laughing. Then, after rehearsal and a short break, Emily takes a four-hour class as a student of the Ellison Ballet Professional Training Program.


Obviously, this intense schedule leaves little room for a “regular” kid’s life. Since her first move to Pennsylvania, Emily has completed her schooling through correspondence or online programs. Plus, free time is rare and short. When she does get a moment off, Emily enjoys shopping with her mother at favorite spots like Juicy Couture and Bloomingdale’s, or hanging with friends from the Ellison Ballet. Even though time to fit in leisure activities is sparse, Emily says she wouldn’t have it any other way. “I don’t get to do as many fun things as other kids because I don’t have time,” she admits. “But I don’t see it as a sacrifice. I love ballet so much that it’s completely worth it to me.”


While Kate admires Emily’s focus, she hopes her little sis will learn to unwind. “She’s so neat and super motivated. But I would love her to relax, too!”says Kate, laughing. “I took her to a spa on her birthday for that reason.”


Regardless, Emily thinks her steadfast commitment paired with Ellison’s teaching gives her a leg up. “Mr. Ellison points out every detail you’re doing wrong,” she says. “But for competition, performance and becoming a professional, that’s really important. It helps you improve and dance clean. To stay focused, I think about how in the long run, I will look even better because of the corrections and repetition. Plus I work better under pressure!”


With all the awards, performances and expectations mounting, that’s a fortuitous trait. “I never feel like I wish I wasn’t here or wasn’t in class,” she says. “I’m always excited to dance.”


Photo: Eduardo Patino