Katherine Healy, the 14-year-old who won a gold medal in last week's prestigious junior women's ballet competition at Varna, Bulgaria, is expected to announce Tuesday that she will continue her high school education until she graduates and will not at this time join any ballet company as a staff member.
Healy prevailed at Varna despite enormous odds--14 Soviet-bloc judges and not one American judge. Though she had performed superbly, she said she didn't really expect to win. When an interpreter at a hotel informed her that she had been awarded a gold medal, "I became a little heap on the floor," she recalled.
Healy was born in Manhattan and now attends a Catholic high school in Brooklyn, where she lives weekdays with relatives. She commutes most weekends to her family's home in Bryn Mawr, Pa. She has three more years until she finishes high school.
Unlike most ballet students, she has spent hundreds of hours at dance performances, almost always sitting in the front row, studying star dancers.
"I think that's been very helpful and important," the 5-foot 1 1/2-inch, 85-pound ballerina said during a visit to the West Side studio of her teacher, David Howard. "You have to know what you're training for and what to expect when you get up on stage. You have to know what to do to get your performance across to the audience. Ballet is not only technique.
"The first ballet I saw," she added, "was 'The Sleeping Beauty' with Rudolf Nureyev. He's the best partner and I'd love to dance with him. My favorite ballerina is Gelsey Kirkland and the American Ballet Theatre is my favorite company. I'd love to dance with Mikhail Baryshnikov.
"But I haven't thought about joining a company yet because I think I should finish high school first."
However, Healy has decided to accept guest engagements when those appearances do not conflict with her schoolwork.
She has signed to appear in a summer-autumn cross-country U.S. tour headed by Soviet defectors Valentina and Leonid Kozlov. The schedule includes Baltimore on Nov. 29.
In New York reaction to her medal continues to be one of astonishment. Even her coach said he is stunned by the Varna award.
"Americans just don't win there," Howard said. "The chances of their awarding a gold medal to an American based on talent were minimal."
Howard said that Healy, because of her youth, should refrain from an all-out performing career at this time. "She should stay in school . . . She shouldn't face too much pressure too soon, and I think her parents know that.
"But she has all the makings of a prima ballerina. She has steel running through her instead of blood. And she has an incredible point of view about performing because she has seen so many performances. She can look at a performance by Gelsey Kirkland or Natalia Makarova and zero in on what magical things they do."
"It's nice that I won," Healy added. "It's a great honor. But there's a long way to go for me before I become a total dancer. There's nothing for me to be conceited about."