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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