Virtually every little girl dreams of growing up to become a professional ballet dancer.
Heather Kotelenets did it.
At age 5, the North Texas native began her training at Ballet Conservatory in Flower Mound and Texas Ballet Theater School, ultimately earning a scholarship to the prestigious Harid Conservatory in Boca Raton, Florida.
In 2005, her years of training culminated in a position with Texas Ballet Theater, where she’s performed in numerous Ben Stevenson ballets — Cinderella, The Sleeping Beauty, and of course, The Nutcracker — in the decade since.
It’s a career that’s taken her places she never imagined — even leading her to her husband of six years Alexander, a fellow dancer with the company. But Kotelenets is frank about the determination, laser-like focus and hard work it’s taken to get here.
“I’ve had ankle surgery; my husband’s had a knee surgery,” says Kotelenets, 30. “With ballet, the goal is to make it look easy, but it really is very difficult. It might look light and breezy, but it’s not.”
It could be a metaphor for motherhood. The couple added new roles to their repertoire — that of mom and dad — in 2016 with the birth of their daughter Mila, 9 months. Every day since has been a balancing act, but true to form, the Benbrook mom does it with grace.
Did you always know that you wanted to be a mom?
I’m very nurturing. Plus, my mother is one of the most selfless mothers around, and I see the joy she has when we’re all together. I always wanted that for myself.
Would you like to have a bigger family?
We would love more kids. We talk about having three, but you never know…
How has parenthood changed the dynamic between you and Alexander?
We’re learning to work as a team and to be less selfish. Sometimes, we’re not the best at date nights. Any opportunity we have to hang out with Mila we do.
Did you dance throughout your pregnancy?
I actually had a knee injury before I got pregnant, so pregnancy allowed me to rest and heal my knee. I was able to come back when she was 5 months old. I’m still trying to figure it out. My back is a little bit tighter; [my] hips shifted. Thankfully, as a dancer, I’m in tune with my body.
What have you found most surprising about motherhood?
How important it is to have a community of fellow mothers to talk with. The Internet is a great tool, but the more I looked at it the more I felt like I was doing something wrong. And also that you can function on such little sleep. Mothers are kind of superhuman.
What has motherhood taught you?
Not to be afraid to ask for help. I thought in order to be a good mother, I had to do everything on my own. But it’s impossible. People are more than willing to help.
What does a typical day in your life look like?
Every day is a little bit different. When we’re in a show, we wake up, hang out with Mila for a while, lay her down for a nap and then drop her off at our nanny’s and head to class. [In the studio], we start at the bar to warm up different parts of the body and then get our makeup on, do the show and then pick up our little one.
Do you thrive on a go-go-go schedule or does it stress you out?
I don’t really thrive on busyness. You learn to make it work, but you need days off to regroup. Leaving Mila in the mornings can be emotional. I love being on stage, but there are other important things in our lives.
Did you ever imagine you’d end up marrying another dancer?
I actually always said I didn’t want to marry a dancer. I don’t know why. It’s such a unique career. It’s awesome to be able to share that with him. We get to dance together sometimes, which is really special.
Is it safe to assume dancing is in Mila’s future?
We won’t push her in that direction, but if she wants to I won’t stop her. It’s in her blood.
What has dancing taught you over the years?
Perseverance. You go through a lot with injuries and casting. Being able to persevere through it all makes you stronger.
Did you always want to grow up to be a ballet dancer?
I was around 13 when I decided I really love this, so I pursued it with more drive. I’ve always loved physicality — running, volleyball, track — but there’s just nothing quite like ballet. Being able to move your body to the music … it’s a very special career.
Are you so driven in all aspects of your life?
I’m a very hard worker. I’ll keep working at something until I get it. I like to push myself to the extreme.
What do you hope to communicate to people through your dance?
Feelings of excitement. I love going to ballets. They lift your spirits. It takes you to another place for a little while … you’re able to escape the madness of the world.
Do you have a favorite ballet?
I love Swan Lake. Dracula is also really fun.
If you weren’t a dancer what do you think you’d be doing?
Nursing runs in my family. I could really see myself doing that.
Do you plan to teach when your career as a dancer comes to an end?
I have a feeling I’ll do something different … I’d really love to do nursing. But I’ll definitely stay involved with the arts somehow.
If you do get an opportunity for a date night, what’s your go-to spot?
We’re both foodies, so we love exploring new restaurants.
Do you have favorite?
We love Press Cafe.
Do you ever take time for yourself?
I feel like there’s no time for myself these days. I do love shopping. I love little boutiques. Beehive is really cute.
What would you consider your greatest accomplishment?
Becoming a professional ballet dancer. It was a dream of mine and I worked really hard in order to accomplish it.
Is there a talent you don’t have that you wish you had?
Sometimes, I wish I had a better memory. I’m always amazed at people that can remember everything about a friend.
Do you have a motto that you live by?
I just try to remind myself that some days are good and some are bad, but thankfully every day brings new opportunities.
What question do people ask you the most?
When are we going to have another kid? We had that question before Mila was born, and we still have it.