Rowser, rehearsing Swan Lake with Jon Upleger. Karyn Kipley Photography, Courtesy Nashville Ballet.

Nashville Ballet's Kayla Rowser: The Ultimate Breakout Role

From now until mid-October, Nashville Ballet's Kayla Rowser will be putting the final touches on her role of a lifetime. This month, she'll dance her first Odette/Odile in the company's Swan Lake (Oct. 17-19). In our bi-weekly newsletter, Pointe spoke with Rowser for about what it means to her, both as an artist and as an African American woman.

You're sharing the role with fellow NB dancer Sadie Bo Harris. Has she given you any advice?

So much of the choreography is with your arms up and your back bent in half, so she's helped me figure out where I can breathe to get through it. I've also been thinking about getting through all those fouettés in Act III. She told me, "Your body will let you do it. You just have to tell your mind you can." So much of it is your head.


What's unique about your interpretation?

That's something I'm still shaping. It's such a romantic story, and I really want the pain and agony of Odette giving into falling in love to come across. And then with my third act, I'm not only working on tricking Siegfried, but I want the audience to think, "Is that the same girl?"


Becoming a Swan - Kayla Rowser - Nashville Ballet's Swan Lake www.youtube.com



You're one of a handful of African American women who've been cast as Odette/Odile. What does that mean to you?

When Paul Vasterling told me I'd be doing this role, I was absolutely ecstatic. It was more than just, Oh, I get to do this big role. It was, There have not been many before me who have done this. I consider myself a dancer and an artist first, but I have to embrace that I am kind of rarity when it comes to ballerinas. And to know that I'm at a place where I'm just me--there's no exception in terms of roles they see me in--is really comforting.

What do you want the audience to walk away with?

I hope everyone leaves feeling like they went on a journey with me. That's all I could ask for--that what I bring to the stage is something people can relate to. I'm going to leave it all out there.


Were there any dancers in particular you looked up to growing up?

Lauren Anderson. She was on the cover of Dance Magazine in the 90s wearing brown tights, and I remember thinking that was the first time I'd seen somebody who looks like me doing ballet. She was really a trailblazer, and seeing her on the cover of a magazine made me think that I could do this.

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