Kathleen Thielhelm



Kathleen Thielhelm

Principal Dancer
with Bejart Ballet
Lausanne for 10 years,
Master Teacher 
of Bejart Style 

and Repertoire



Ballet Intensives NYC is proud to announce one more incredible Master Teacher: Kathleen Thielhelm, Principal Dancer of Béjart Ballet Lausanne will be joining us this summer to teach Béjart style and Béjart Repertoire classes.



Watch Kathleen Thielhelm with partner Masayoshi Onuki in Maurice Béjart’s The Ninth Symphony performed in Tokyo’s NKH Hall in November 2014. Béjart’s compelling staging of Beethoven’s Ninth Symphony to Schiller’s Ode to Joy has been enchanting audiences worldwide since its inception and its idea of universal brotherhood remains highly topical. “Alle Menschen werden Brüder” (All men will be brothers) is the powerful message communicated by the unforgettable music and choreography. The video excerpt above is generously provided by Medici.tv. We highly recommend watching the full ballet available on medici.tv via this link.



Kathleen joined Béjart Ballet Lausanne in 2009.


She is attracted to the deceptive simplicity of Béjart’s work: “The movement can be very bare, but it doesn’t take away from the pieces... the work can be very emotional.” Most of all, Kathleen loves that “everything means something in Béjart. There’s a philosophy behind every moment, even behind the first position!” 



Kathleen in Béjart’s Mephisto Valse (left; photo by Francette Levieux, © Béjart Ballet Lausanne) and in IXe Symphonie (right; photo © Béjart Ballet Lausanne), with partner Jiayong Sun. Choreographed to Franz Liszt, Mephisto Valse was first premiered at Opéra de Monte-Carlo, in 1979, with Natalia Makarova and Jorge Donn as cast. Revived with Kathleen Thielhelm and Dawid Kupinsky as cast, it was presented again in Lausanne, in 2010.



Kathleen with partner Paul Knobloch in Béjart’s incredible Webern Opus V. The choreography premiered in Brussels, in 1965. Revived with Kathleen Thielhelm and Paul Knobloch as cast, the choreography was first presented at the Paris Opera, in January 2010. (Photo by Lauren Pasche, © Béjart Ballet Lausanne)



“On stage, there will be two bodies in white leotards surrounded by a light that constantly changes and creates worlds in harmony with the music […],” Béjart wrote about Webern Opus V. “The faces must not betray any emotion; everything must rise from the line of the body and from the relationship between the two dancers”. That is Béjart’s complex, emotionally charged “simplicity” Kathleen has mentioned to us before.


Last year, at Palermo Ballet Summer Intensive 2018, Kathleen Thielhelm taught our students an excerpt of Webern Opus V. 


Kathleen with partner Jiayong Sun, in Webern Opus V on a different occasion. The work is performed to live cello music on stage, always special to both audience and the dancers. (Photos by Franck Ferville, © Béjart Ballet Lausanne)



Originally from a small town in Wisconsin, Kathleen began her dance training there, at a very young age, at the Jean Wolfmeyer School of Dance. She continued her ballet education at the Virginia School of the Arts, graduating in 1999.



Kathleen Thielhelm in Cantate 51, with partner Masayoshi Onuki. Maurice Béjart set Cantate 51 to J.S. Bach’s music; the choreography premiered in Brussels in 1966. It was revived in 2011, premiering in Lausanne’s Beaulieu Theatre on December 16, 2011. (Both photos are by Lauren Pasche, © Béjart Ballet Lausanne)



She then moved to New York City on a Joffrey Ballet School’s scholarship. The Joffrey Midwest Workshop with the late John Magnus brought Kathleen to meet her longtime mentor Maniya Barredo, with whom she continued to train throughout her professional career. Kathleen danced with the Joffrey Ballet, in Chicago, for nine seasons. It was then that she, along with other Joffrey Ballet company members, was filmed dancing for Robert Altman’s 2003 movie, The Company.


Through hard work and introspection Kathleen Thielhelm came to understand what kind of dancer she was and how did she want to grow from there. Next, she decided to dream big and to go after her dreams, traveling to Europe in search of a company that would be right for whom she wanted to become as a dancer.  



Kathleen in Le Presbytère, also called Ballet for Life. (Photo by Gregory Batardon, © Béjart Ballet Lausanne)


With Béjart Ballet Lausanne Kathleen has performed numerous lead roles in such ballets as the Rite of Spring, The Ninth SymphonyCantate 51, Mephisto Valse, Webern Opus V and The Magic Flute in the role of Pamina. “Béjar’s repertoire allows dancers to manifest their own personalities,” she says.



Kathleen in Le Presbytère. (Photos by Gregory Batardon, © Béjart Ballet Lausanne)


“The Company in Lausanne provided me with great opportunities from the very beginning. I got a chance to learn and work on many important lead roles very soon, which certainly helped me understand the style. I was forced to speak with my classical training in a different way. From that perspective, practicing these lead roles can be very important in the formation of a young dancer.” 



Kathleen Thielhelm in a mesmerizing scene from Béjart’s Suite Barocco, choreographed to a selection of Baroque music from the 18th century. Suite Barocco famously premiered at the Boboli Gardens in Florence in 1997, and featured costume design by Gianni Versace. Revived in 2015, it was first performed at Opéra de Lausanne. (Photo by Jessica Hauf, © Béjart Ballet Lausanne)



Kathleen Thielhelm is an American success story. Not surprisingly, the story was eventually told about her: shot in 2011 by a Spanish documentary filmmaker Arantxa Aguirre, The American Swan in Paris was featured at several film festivals around the world. It shows a pivotal moment in Kathleen’s career: an important performance at l’Opéra national de Paris, Kathleen steps in on an opening night, to substitute a dancer that fell ill. Her performance is a big success, recognition follows quickly. 


“A focused work ethic while preparing for the roles really helped me. Classical or contemporary, the earlier a student can establish a love of working and exploring, the better. Your preparation can be your security in letting go when you have that one chance on stage.” 



Kathleen Thielhelm in the role of Pamina with partner Jiayong Sun as Tamino in Maurice Béjart’s The Magic Fluite (left: photo by Anne Bichsel, © Béjart Ballet Lausanne). The ballet originally premiered in 1981 and revived in 2017. Kathleen with partner Julien Favreau in Gil Roman’s 2013 choreography Anima Blues (right: photo by Jessica Hauf, © Béjart Ballet Lausanne).


Kathleen danced in Gil Roman’s 3 danses pour Tony, Anima Blues and t ’M et variations…. In 2015 Roman chose her for the lead role in his Tombées de la dernière pluie


Kathleen also took part in numerous original works by renown Béjart Ballet Lausanne’s Guest Choreographers: in Sthan Kabar-Louët’s Aliziam O’Est, in Alonzo King’s Figures of Thought, in Julio Arozena’s Song of Herself, and in Tony Fabre’s Empreintes, to name a few.



Kathleen Thielhelm with Julien Favreau in Gil Roman’s 2013 choreography Anima Blues (left; photo by Francette Levieux, © Béjart Ballet Lausanne) and in his dramatic 2015 piece, Tombées de la dernière pluie (right; photo by Jessica Hauf, © Béjart Ballet Lausanne)


With Gil Roman’s work Kathleen loves the opportunity it gives her to go outside the typical Béjart realm. “Gil is exploring a little more freedom of movement... of contemporary movement,” she specifies. “At the same time, he’s a very exacting dancer. And he knows precisely what he needs from you. It is a very interesting process: in the early stages of choreographing it involves improvisation, and I enjoy that freedom.”