We are so excited to introduce Katerina Novotna - a dancer, dance teacher and choreographer living in Sydney, Australia. Katerina pursued her dream career as a dancer despite her former education in chemistry and is hoping to open her own dance studio in the near future. She is the mother of a 2.5-year old girl called Natalia.
Kat, can you tell us a little bit about yourself? Where did you grow up, what led you into dancing, how did you become a dance teacher and choreographer (brief bio/history/backstory)?
Of course, with my pleasure. I am from the beautiful city of Brno in South Moravia, Czech Republic. I've been dancing since I could even remember. But I started to dance more seriously when I turned 15. I always wanted to be a dancer and dance teacher, but at the same time, I also had a passion for makeup artistry and chemistry. A bizarre combination, isn't it?
My parents always wished I led a different path of the profession and only saw dance as a hobby. Unfortunately, my intentions failed after finishing high school. I couldn't follow my dreams the way I envisioned because I had high expectations for myself. In 2008, I finished my Bachelor's degree in Eco-Chemistry and 2 years later, a Master's Degree in Physical Chemistry - Nanotechnology.
I combined my beloved dancing with interesting studies. That was very hard and tiring, but I couldn't accept dance as a hobby only. So I did both! Literally, from school to a dance class and competition rehearsals. I started creating my own choreographies and worked on my own unique dance styles, combining Hip Hop and Lyrical Jazz.
Originally, you wanted to pursue your career in a completely different area. What was it that changed your mind?
After my Master's graduation, I moved to Prague and started my PhD studies. However, I wasn't happy. I realized I am not that passionate about science like I used to be. The only thing I wanted to pursue and do was dance. My decision was very shocking for my family, and it brought many misunderstandings and difficulties. But finally, I was "on my way".
You moved to Australia in 2014 and you found new opportunities for your dance/teacher/choreographer practice. What was the change of environment like? Have you experienced any difficulties?
The European dance environment is very different and much more extensive from the Australian dance scene. In my opinion, Australian dance society is style limited. Tap, Contemporary and Jazz are at a high level; however, Hip Hop styles need more attention and proper education. As a European dance teacher, my education is my personal experience and knowledge. As an Australian dance teacher, I should be educated in dance, at least having certifications.
In the beginning, I met many difficulties to find a job. I couldn't understand why my interviews were unsuccessful. But I was given a chance at Like dance studio, based on European standards, and Hip Hop underground studio Dancekool.
You also started studying again and found a job. How did you manage to do all that together with your dance practice?
My dream is to open my own studio one day and provide special and unique classes for children, adults, people with disabilities, seniors and future mothers. I would love to create a one-stop-shop which caters to everyone. This led me to pursue a degree in Project Management in Australia. During my studies, I found an event/marketing position for a marketing agency. Amongst all of this, dance was the main thing I looked forward to at the end of the day.
And then everything changed - you got pregnant. How did the pregnancy and birth of your baby girl affect your life, your art practice, your other job etc.?
Honestly, pregnancy didn't stop me at all, just slowed me down a little bit. I was still teaching, working and studying. Unfortunately, I was sick 24/7. Instead of gaining weight, I was getting skinnier. Dancing helped me to stay active and keep my body full of endorphins. I have a very strong muscle core because I have been dancing all my life. Giving birth was very challenging and long, almost 32 hours. I was back at the studio when my little one was 2.5 months old.
Do you have a daily routine? Do you stick to a specific schedule or do you just improvise (when working/preparing for classes/baby duties)?
I tried to set up a schedule for everything to keep managing Natalia's routine; however, as a mother, you need to know how to improvise. Plans from A to Z usually fail. Kids don't like to follow their mother's schedule. Natalia taught me how to manage my time better. Sometimes it is hard to find time to prepare my dance classes. I create on a bus, on a train stop and on my way to the studio. I must look like an absolute weirdo in the eyes of other people.
How do you feel about motherhood? Was it something you always desired or has your perspective on it changed once you became a mum?
Being a mother is the most beautiful and the most challenging job of my life. It is tough, and on the other hand, my heart was never so full of love. I didn't see myself as a parent before my 30s. I think it just happens when you are mentally ready, and you have the right person on your side.
What are the biggest challenges for you at the moment?
Sleeping routine is the biggest challenge. My beautiful angel is so active and hasn't discovered what down-time is just quite yet, so it makes it very difficult to find time for myself.
What are you plans for the future (career, parenting, art)?
I love to lead and inspire the new generations of dancers that I tutor. I will continue teaching and pursuing my dream of one day owning my own studio. I have a passion for self-growth and learning/sharing new techniques and would love to share this passion with my daughter as she grows.
Who inspires you (where do your ideas come from/what artists, creatives do you look up to)?
There are far too many amazing artists out there to say that one was the main inspiration for me over the years. The inspiration I have with music simply comes from the music itself, when you hear a great beat or a sensational lyric that really touches the soul and makes you want to get up and express yourself.
My true inspiration is my daughter. Helping her to become the amazing human being I know she can be is my greatest goal. Since becoming a mother and being around fellow mums, I got to understand how hard each day can be. I am truly inspired by mothers I meet, with their utter audacity and determination to do the best job they can. I strive to pass on this kind of strength to my students and also my daughter.
What advice do you have for fellow art mums?
I would say to art mums and all mothers of the world: "don't be so strict on yourself". Don't forget that you have needs, like everyone else. Don't put yourself last and always value your self-worth. You are beautiful and inspirational.