Chandra Kuykendall and members of Colorado Ballet in Don Quixote

Mike Watson, Courtesy Colorado Ballet

After 23-Year Career, Colorado Ballet's Chandra Kuykendall Hopes for Onstage Closure

In addition to cancelled shows, the coronavirus pandemic has disrupted final performances for many retiring dancers. This week, Pointe is giving several retiring principals and soloists a chance to reflect on their careers and offer advice to the next generation.

After 23-years as a professional dancer, 22 of those with Colorado Ballet, Chandra Kuykendall felt it was time for change. The 41-year-old principal dancer, who officially retired this season, did so to spend more time with her husband and two small boys and to do all those other things being a full-time ballerina curtailed. A native of Parker, Colorado, Kuykendall trained at the Academy of Colorado Ballet for 9 years before joining Colorado Ballet in 1997. She was promoted to principal in 2007 and has performed leading roles from Odette/Odile in Swan Lake and Aurora in The Sleeping Beauty to ballets by George Balanchine, Antony Tudor, Twyla Tharp and Jíří Kylián. Kuykendall took time to talk about balancing career and family, and on missing out on a final onstage farewell.



Chandra Kuykendall, wearing a white Romantic tutu, poses in third arabesque on her right leg while Domenico Luciano, in a black and white tunic and gray tights, stands behind her on her left, holding her waist.

With Domenico Luciano in Giselle

Courtesy Colorado Ballet

Your final performance was supposed to be in April but was cancelled because of the COVID-19 pandemic. Do you feel cheated out of that experience?

I want to take a final bow. It would be really special for me. I don't want a party, I just feel really unsettled without that onstage closure. My artistic director, Gil Boggs, and I have been discussing how to make that happen this upcoming season. The feeling is that something will be worked out..

You experienced a change in artistic directors at Colorado Ballet. What advice would you give other dancers in coping with a change in leadership?

It is important to know that ballet is subjective. A new director might come in and not like you as an artist. That doesn't mean other directors out there will not like you. You just have to stay true to yourself and focus on what you do well and work on your weaknesses. If you don't fit in with where the company is going than you need to find another company where your talents will be appreciated.

What advice would you give young dancers about being in a professional ballet company?

Being in a professional dance company can put pressures on you mentally and physically. Find a way to balance those pressures with love for yourself and what you are doing so that you can continue to grow.

Do you have a signature step?

My extension would be my most notable dance feature. Part of my decision to retire was because my hips have been hurting very badly for years. I have shallow hip sockets, which were a blessing in helping me get my legs up so high, but they have also contributed to me being in pain.

You and your husband have two small boys. How did you balance your dance career with being a mom?

I learned early on that I had to focus on where I was. If at Colorado Ballet, my focus had to be 100 percent on Colorado Ballet, and similarly when I was at home.

You and your husband also own Denver Academy of Ballet. How will your role there change with your retirement?

In the past I had done a lot of the behind-the-scenes work, such as the finances. Now, I will be teaching a lot more. I am excited to play a bigger role in coaching for performances and competitions.

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Take Class From Celebrated Black Dancers and Raise Money for the NAACP Through Dance for Change

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Dolan's career could be described in one word: charmed. At just 19 years old, she's flown through the ranks at PAB, debuted a long list of roles, won a Princess Grace Award and been named one of Dance Magazine's "25 to Watch." Yet it's her challenges that have shaped not only her training but her outlook, giving her a solid foundation for becoming one of Pennsylvania Ballet's rising stars.

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SAB Student Founds Dancewear Nonprofit to Help Others in Need

When School of American Ballet student Alexandra de Roos was 8 years old, she placed a collection box at her dance studio for others to donate their gently used dancewear. De Roos, now 17, has since turned that single collection box into a nonprofit organization that aims to minimize economic barriers in the performing arts with free dancewear and classes.

De Roos' organization, Peace Love Leotards, has collected about $2,600 of new and gently-used dancewear and $2,000 in grants and donations since formally launching in April. Dancers or studio owners can request items through a form on the organization's website.

"I knew that dancewear was really expensive and that a lot of students might not be able to do the thing that they love because it's cost-prohibitive," de Roos said. "I really wanted to create something to allow people to have the same experience of the love and joy of dance that I've been so grateful to have."

After SAB shifted its winter term online amid the COVID-19 pandemic, de Roos decided to expand Peace Love Leotards. She reached out to dance companies, resulting in partnerships with brands including Jo+Jax, Lone Reed Designs, RubiaWear and Wear Moi.

"To have them be like 'We want to help you with this and we love this idea and what you're doing is amazing,' that was really exciting to me," she said. "It was very heartwarming."

Jordan Reed, the creator of custom dancewear brand Lone Reed Designs, said she has donated seven items to Peace Love Leotards with plans to donate more consistently every quarter. Custom leotards often retail at higher prices, but Reed, a former Houston Ballet corps member, said the one-of-a-kind clothing offers an "extra bit of confidence, which can go more than a long way in a dancer's journey of training."

Paul Plesh, a sales director for Wear Moi in the United States and Canada, said the company donated 11 leotards after finding Peace Love Leotards' mission to be "commendable." Joey Dowling-Fakhrieh, the founder and creative director of Jo+Jax, said dancewear "can make a significant impact on a student's confidence, as well as how much they enjoy the process of learning dance."

De Roos has worked to expand Peace Love Leotards, Inc. rapidly in the past few months, but she first created the organization at eight years old after participating in a mentorship program with competitors in the Miss Florida and Miss Florida's Outstanding Teen pageants. The pageants, which are part of the Miss America Organization, require competitors to have personal platforms they advocate for as titleholders. As a competition dancer, de Roos instantly thought about the cost barriers to dance when wondering what her own future platform would be.

De Roos said she and her young classmates often outgrew nearly brand-new dancewear, so she approached her studio's owner about placing a collection box at the studio.

Barbara Mizell, who owns Barbara's Centré for Dance in Florida, said she was unsurprised by de Roos' proposal. De Roos always had "such a way of pushing herself and she never forgot those around her," Mizell said. As the box filled up, she distributed the dancewear to others at the studio, local schools with dance programs, and the local YMCA.

"When they could start to see that it was providing happiness for others, then it was almost like the kids couldn't wait to donate," Mizell said.

Nearly a decade after the Miss Florida organization inspired her to launch Peace Love Leotards, de Roos is now a titleholder herself, as Miss Gainesville's Outstanding Teen 2020. Her new mission for Peace Love Leotards is applying for grants, and she has already received a $1,000 grant from the Delores Barr Weaver Legacy Fund that will be used to fund a Title 1 school class.

"The whole organization behind Peace Love Leotards is the dancers," de Roos said. "Being able to help the dancers that are in need and being able to think about the dancewear that they're going to be receiving or have received has been truly amazing."

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