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PORTLAND, Ore. (CNS) -- A burst of power from her legs carries Katherine Monogue across the dance floor while her arms become a blur of precise movements.
Under a black leotard worn during a rehearsal for a recent performance, the ballerina's stomach muscles flex, keeping the center of her body relatively still as her limbs rapidly extend and retract with control.
Monogue, the youngest professional dancer and only Catholic dancer in the Oregon Ballet Theatre, has a faith that similarly stabilizes the core of her life amid a rewarding but intense career.
"Ballet is all-consuming physically, emotionally, intellectually," Monogue told the Catholic Sentinel, newspaper of the Archdiocese of Portland. "You get criticized a lot and it pushes you in all ways, this constant strive to perfection."
But Catholic faith, said the outgoing 21-year-old dancer, "keeps me grounded. It's kind of like a secret weapon to keep me sane. Whatever hardships I face, it's there for me, pure and true."
Monogue, who was born in Tacoma, Washington, was on her tiptoes dancing nearly as soon as she could toddle.
"As early as I can remember, Katherine would carry her plate to the kitchen after dinner twirling all the way," recalled her mother, Corinne Monogue, director of multicultural ministries for the Diocese of Arlington, Virginia.