PHOENIX, Ariz. -- She started as a 4-year-old at Diane’s Dance Studio upstairs at The Old Schoolhouse in Bemidji. Twenty years later, Kate Loxtercamp is a professional dancer with Ballet Arizona, one of the nation’s top companies.

Hers is a story of determination and perseverance, mixed with a whole lot of talent.

“You have to be patient and just keep going,” Kate said in a recent phone interview. “There have been a lot of times in my life where it didn’t seem like it was going to work out or it didn’t seem like this was something that was going to be viable. But I just kept showing up every day … and I got more opportunities. Just by not quitting. That’s something my dad instilled in me. He said the only way you can fail at something is to stop doing it. As long as you keep doing it and keep finding the love and the joy in it, that’s all that really matters.”

She has found that love all along the way. She began with tap and jazz dancing at Diane’s, then was introduced to ballet after joining First City Dance Studio in Bemidji. In eighth grade, Kate’s dancing career reached a pivotal point when she signed on with Reif Dance in Grand Rapids, directed by Daniel and Julie Blake.

Kate Loxtercamp, a company dancer with Ballet Arizona, was introduced to ballet at First City Dance Studio in Bemidji. (Ron Brewer Images | Special to the Pioneer)
Kate Loxtercamp, a company dancer with Ballet Arizona, was introduced to ballet at First City Dance Studio in Bemidji. (Ron Brewer Images | Special to the Pioneer)

“That was kind of the turning point where I was deciding what I want to do,” Kate said. “I was also really into tennis and academics; I had other things going on. That was the first time I had to think about where I wanted to invest my time. I kind of had to pick one thing, and I didn’t want to stop dancing, so I dropped tennis, I dropped speech and debate.”

That move also meant big changes for the Loxtercamp family. For the first year, it meant twice-a-week trips to Grand Rapids after school. For the next two years, it was 5-6 trips a week. Her mother, Julie, is a music teacher and her father, Paul, runs a small management company, a private music teaching studio and is a part-time musician. Julie and Paul also are active in the Bemidji Community Theater.

“My parents were lovely in helping me with this, because they are so arts centered,” Kate said. “They knew if I wanted to pursue (ballet) we should find a place that is more centered on professional ballet. We were very lucky to find that in Grand Rapids. That was really the defining moment of me deciding, ‘OK, yeah, I’ll keep going with this.’”

Since suffering a stress fracture in her left fibula a few years ago, Kate Loxtercamp says she has learned how to keep her body strong in a way that helps prevent injuries. (Taylor Fernè Morris | Special to the Pioneer)
Since suffering a stress fracture in her left fibula a few years ago, Kate Loxtercamp says she has learned how to keep her body strong in a way that helps prevent injuries. (Taylor Fernè Morris | Special to the Pioneer)

After juggling classes as a freshman and sophomore at Bemidji High School with her daily trips to Grand Rapids, Kate moved half a continent away to study with the Maryland Youth Ballet. Julie Blake had trained there, and the Blakes helped Kate make an audition tape that landed her a spot in the prestigious program. So, Kate moved out east on her own as a 16-year-old, and switched to Insight School of Minnesota, an online program, for her final two years of high school. She lived with a host family the first year, and her parents and siblings were able to rent a house there the second year.

“It was a much higher level of dance than I was used to,” Kate said. “It was good for me to become a little more self-sufficient. I wouldn’t trade that experience for anything.”

The program also prepared Kate for her next move and her first professional dance contract. An instructor at the Maryland Youth Ballet had a connection with Ballet Arizona, which in 2014 was starting a studio company as a sort of farm system for its main company. After a grueling six-week summer session, Kate had a meeting with the program director.

“I was given a studio company contract, which I was thrilled about,” she said. “I did not think I was going to get it. That was a very difficult summer for me. Everyone was very good.”

She spent two years with the studio company, and made quite an impression. So much so that despite being taller than most ballet dancers at 6-feet, she was offered a contract for the main company.

At 6-feet tall, Kate Loxtercamp is taller than most ballet dancers. But that hasn't preventer her from rising to an elite level. (Ron Brewer Images | Special to the Pioneer)
At 6-feet tall, Kate Loxtercamp is taller than most ballet dancers. But that hasn't preventer her from rising to an elite level. (Ron Brewer Images | Special to the Pioneer)

“Sometimes when you’re auditioning for companies they’ll have a height requirement,” Kate said. “All dancers must be between 5' 6" and 5' 9" or something. So I didn’t have a ton of luck auditioning that year. I hadn’t been used much in the company at that point, but I had worked hard, I knew I was a good dancer and I didn’t want to stop dancing. It was a real surprise to me when I got that contract.”

The contract was renewed three more times, and in the past four years, she has danced in several productions each season. She also has begun pursuing a college degree.

Her parents have alternated attending most performances, and younger siblings George and Maggie were in the audience when Kate danced in “The Nutcracker” in 2018. She has done that ballet every year dating back to elementary school when First City Dance performed it at the now razed Masonic Temple in downtown Bemidji.

Kate Loxtercamp (right) enjoyed a visit from her brother George and sister Maggie during her 2018 performance in "The Nutcracker." Submitted photo.
Kate Loxtercamp (right) enjoyed a visit from her brother George and sister Maggie during her 2018 performance in "The Nutcracker." Submitted photo.

“This past Christmas was the first time that Paul and I in six years have been able to watch a performance of hers together,” Julie Loxtercamp said. “It’s just overwhelming pride in the fact that she’s made it in a very difficult world to do so. It was just so amazing to watch her on stage and to realize how amazing of a world she is part of. It’s not that many people in this world that have a career that is so aesthetically fulfilling.”

Paul thinks back to Kate’s early days in Bemidji with a similar sense of pride.

“I’ve always told Kate how special it is to be able to go through that stage door,” Paul said. “Anybody can pay $25 to go through that front door. It takes a lot of work to go through that back door, the stage door. We’re super proud.”