A native of Ft. Lauderdale, Florida, Combes is one of six children from an Irish Catholic Irish Catholics is a term used to describe people of Roman Catholic background who are Irish or of Irish descent.
The term is of note due to Irish immigration to many countries of the English speaking world, particularly as a result of the Irish Famine in the 1840s - 1850s, family. Stricken as a toddler with a condition that her mother nicknamed "sloppy leg syndrome," she did not walk. (Her father died shortly after she was born, which may have been a contributing factor.) A doctor said that her legs might not develop normally if she did not do some sort of physical activity to strengthen them. Her mother, a physical education teacher who loved ballet, enrolled the 3-year-old Kathleen in ballet class. At 8 she studied with Magda Aunon, a Cuban teacher at Fort Lauderdale Fort Lauderdale (lô`d?rdal), residential, commercial, and resort city (1990 pop. 149,377), seat of Broward co., SE Fla., on the Atlantic coast; settled around a fort built (c.1837) in the Seminole War, inc. 1911. Ballet Classique. Aunon, whom Combes thinks of as a grandmother, saw her raw talent and worked closely with her. "Even when she was very young, Kathleen was exceptional," says Aunon, "not only for her natural ability and potential to be a dancer, but also because she could express feelings."
Aunon suggested that Combes enroll at Harid Conservatory when she was 14. There she studied for three years in an environment she calls "intense, yet amazing." After graduating a year early at age 17, Combes decided to go to Central Pennsylvania Youth Ballet for a year before auditioning for companies, a move that introduced her to the Balanchine repertoire and further strengthened her technique.
She soon landed a job at The Washington Ballet under artistic director Septime Webre. "I loved it there," she says. "It was fun, contemporary, and I got a lot of exposure." After three years she wanted to go to a larger company that had full-length ballets, so she auditioned for Mikko Nissinen, artistic director of Boston Ballet.
Nissinen raves about his young soloist: "She excels in all types of ballets, and Kathleen has an absolutely piercing stage presence. When she steps onstage, there is not a doubt--she is there."