Colorado Ballet Principal Dancer Chandra Kuykendall recently started her 20th season with the Company.
“Chandra is one of the few dancers we have who is from Colorado,” said Colorado Ballet Artistic Director Gil Boggs. “How remarkable it has been for her to have such a successful and sustaining career right here in her hometown. It was a pleasure to promote her to Principal Dancer in 2007 and to see her growth as an artist during the last 11 years has been extraordinary.”
According to Boggs, having a dancer spend 20 seasons with a single company is relatively rare in the ballet world and it is even more rare for a dancer to spend the majority of her career in her hometown. “Chandra not only grew up here, she trained at Colorado Ballet Academy,” said Boggs. “Having one of our Principal Dancers as a graduate of our Academy is a testament to the quality of our instructors and faculty.”
This season, Boggs will highlight Kuykendall as the primary Lucy in Colorado Ballet’s season opener Dracula, opening October 6 at the Ellie Caulkins Opera House.
About Chandra Kuykendall:
Chandra Kuykendall moved with her parents to Parker, Colorado at the age of two and she started taking ballet at the age of six from a woman who taught out of her basement near her house. When she was eight, she took classes at Cleo Parker Robinson Dance for one year, then began taking classes at the Academy of Colorado Ballet in 1988.
“My training at the Academy was pretty ideal, we had a very small class and my teachers were very strict but also very, very loving,” said Kuykendall. “I was able to perform in The Nutcracker from my very first year in the Academy and I did that throughout all of my training. In the upper levels, we got to perform more with the Company and this was a really invaluable experience because it taught us what life would be like as a professional dancer.”
In addition to her training at the Academy, Kuykendall also participated in summer programs with San Francisco Ballet, New York City Ballet, Kirov Academy, and the Bolshoi Academy in Vail, CO. She graduated from the Academy of Colorado Ballet in 1997 and joined the Company that season. She spent the 1998-1999 season with Leipzig Ballet in Leipzig, Germany and returned to Colorado Ballet in the fall of 1999.
“One of my proudest moments of my entire career was being promoted to Principal,” said Kuykendall. “This was in 2007 and it was after a performance, Gil (Boggs) came on stage to announce it to the Company and I was completely shocked. I had no idea I was going to be promoted and it was really one of the best moments of my career.”
According to Kuykendall, being a Principal dancer is a big responsibility. Principals not only need great technique, but they must have the ability to connect with the audience and carry a ballet. She said that she also feels that it is equally important to set an example for the entire Company.
When asked about what audiences may not know about Kuykendall, she said that she is a mom to a seven year old son. “Sometimes it is hard balancing motherhood and being a Principal dancer because they both take a lot of your time and love,” said Kuykendall. “But, my family is very understanding of my career and I can separate the two and give ballet my attention when I’m here at the studio and I can give my son attention when I’m home with him. I feel like he helps me be a better dancer and dancing helps me be a better mom.”
During her 20-season career in Denver, she has seen the ballet world in Denver change significantly. She said that when she first came to the school, the Company was very small and there were only a few well-known companies in the city. Kuykendall said that now, Colorado Ballet has grown and there are many more companies and opportunities to see classical and contemporary ballet in Denver. Audiences have more exposure to dance and she said that makes them more excited to see ballet. “I feel like Colorado Ballet is such a strong company, we have strong dancers, we have a strong staff to support us,” said Kuykendall. “I have never had any desire to leave, I’m so fulfilled artistically here. The ballets we get to dance and the roles I’ve gotten to dance are really wonderful.”
She has danced many principal roles during her career at Colorado Ballet. Some of her favorite include Odette/Odile in Swan Lake, Giselle and Petite Mort, which the Company did during Ballet MasterWorks in February 2017. She said that was a bucket list ballet for her, but said there are still ballets that she would like to dance.
For Kuykendall, it is impossible to sum up the last 20 years at Colorado Ballet. The Company has been her home and her coworkers have been like family. “I have met so many amazing, amazing people, teachers, coaches, choreographers,” said Kuykendall. “My partners have all been so wonderful supporting me on and off stage. I have met friends that I will have for a lifetime. I have so many beautiful memories inside these studios and it’s just really hard to explain how these years have affected me and how much love I have for this place.”
Looking toward the future, she said she would like to continue doing what she is doing as long as her body holds up and she remains inspired and motivated. Because of her love for the art, she knows that when she decides to retire, she will do something in the ballet world.
“For as long as I can remember, ballet has defined me,” said Kuykendall. “It’s been what I do, what I love, it’s who I am. I am a ballerina and as artists we are creating art, but we are also are the art, so every day we’re growing and learning and changing and evolving and this is really a beautiful thing to experience and I feel like the audience can see this. They can see on stage this human aspect to it, and it really connects them to us and makes them feel like they’re really a part of the experience while they are watching the performance.”
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