Today is International Women’s Day and we are shining a spotlight on a few talented and accomplished women working in the arts in Ireland.

Katherine Lewis, Artistic Director of Irish National Youth Ballet, has enjoyed a long and varied theatrical career, which in addition to classical ballet has embraced musical theatre, radio and television appearances, and vast experience as teacher and coach.

We chatted to Katherine about her career and what advice she would give to anyone looking to be a part of the ballet world.

Could you tell us a little about your journey into theatre/ballet and how it all happened for you?
I began my dance training with the late Myrtle Lambkin in Dublin. At the age of 16, I was the first Irish student to be awarded a place at Britain’s Royal Ballet School; concurrently being the first recipient of a dance bursary from the Arts Council. A year later I became the first Princess Grace Scholar which made me the first Irish dancer to attend the prestigious Acadamie de Danse Classique in Monte Carlo, under the tutelage of the late Marika Besobrasova. In 1979, I was engaged with Irish National Ballet. For a decade, under the directorship of Joan Denise Moriarty, I performed soloist and principal roles. I was then employed as Ballet Mistress for Cork Ballet Co, Cork City ballet and Ballet Ireland.

What do you wish someone had told you when you were starting out?
Being the first Irish dancer to have achieved the above, put an unseen pressure on me. Fortunately for me I had a teacher that always said: Work hard and be a star, but don’t let the dust get in your eyes. So that’s what I did, hard work, took corrections on a daily basis, watched, listened and learned. My feet were kept firmly on the ground…. on pointe for the most part…

What qualities do you think are required to be in this industry?
There are so many qualities needed to become a ballet dancer and have a successful career. You have to be strong, be of a good classical shape with all the correct proportions, musicality, flexibility, quick mind and attention for detail etc.

What are you working on right now?
I am now the Artistic Director of the Irish National Youth Ballet. When I took over the company it’s remit was performance based. Nine years on it is proving to be the springboard for young dancers wishing to go on to full time training. This is a great move for young ballet dancers.

At the moment the company is in rehearsal for the Spring Season production of A Midsummer’s Night Dream. We are performing at the Samuel Beckett Theatre and The Civic in May.

What advice would you give to someone going into the theatre or ballet world?
For all the dancers that now pass through my hands and go on to full time training I say: Be mentally strong and do not take corrections personally, listen and observe every correction even if it’s not aimed at you, and LISTEN to the music. No matter what your ability is you are unemployable if you can’t dance on the music…

A Midsummer Night’s Dream comes to The Civic from 20th – 22nd May 2016 and tickets are on sale here.