This time of year, visions of sugar plums frequently dance through our heads. What perfect timing! Kylee Kitchens, a soloist for the Pacific Northwest Ballet, is dancing her way through the Nutcracker! It’s probably every little girl’s dream to be a ballet dancer, and Kylee is one of the few (and lucky) dancers who gets to dance professionally for one of the country’s most acclaimed dance companies.
You might say she was born to dance. She knew, since the age of four, that being a ballet dancer was her destiny.
Her room was filled with pictures of ballerinas she would cut out of dance magazines. And all she wanted to do in her spare time was watch ballet videos.
When she was 13, she was so certain that she wanted to make her ballet dreams a reality, that she practiced ballet six days a week, and drove 1.5 hours each way every day to get to practice. Talk about commitment!
Kylee says that in order to pursue such a career, commitment is absolutely essential. So, too, is passion.
It was her passion for dance that moved her to apply for a scholarship at the Pacific Northwest Ballet as a professional division student. And it was her commitment to this passion that gave her the courage to move to Seattle at the age of 17, and train for two years, while living on her own and going to school — all with no guarantee that after school was over, she would be accepted into the company.
To Kylee, though, not going after her dreams would have been inconceivable.
“I always loved performing, and sharing this art form with others,” Kylee says. “Ballet is something that needs to be seen. If I couldn’t share what I do with anyone, I don’t think I could do this. To convey emotion through movement, saying something with your body, is something so beautiful to watch. It’s the human body making art. It’s such a beautiful thing.”
Though ballet is certainly beautiful, it does not come without challenges.
“My big toenails have fallen off multiple times,” says Kylee. “I have calluses, and I go through 90 shoes a season. But that’s where the passion comes in.”
Additionally, it’s incredibly competitive when it comes to being selected to join a dance company. Once selected into a company, dancers must work very hard to stay in shape, and are kept busy with their performance schedules. Kylee used to hold 13 different roles in the Nutcracker ballet! Now she holds seven.
She sees a physical therapist every week, gets massages and does cross training in addition to her rigorous practice and performance schedule.
Girl Scouts and Ballet…
Kylee was a Brownie in Arizona, and loved her experience.
“Almost all my best friends were in my troop,” she says. “It was a good bonding experience. We went on hikes, went to camp and sold cookies. We learned survival skills, we sang and we drank hot cocoa. We even went to Disneyland together! Being a Girl Scout was my first memory of developing strong relationships with other girls.”
Kylee is still best friends with some of the girls from her Girl Scout troop more than a decade ago!
Kylee’s advice for girls who might like to become professional dancers:
“You have to be strong willed, and keep your passion in mind.
Don’t compare yourself to other girls. You have to be your own person, and believe in your ability. You have to have a drive, work hard and never give up if it’s something you want to do.
If you want to become a ballet dancer, the youngest age to start thinking about that would be ten.
Find a good school to train at. School is essential to your foundation for everything to come.
Summer programs at dance companies are a good idea.
If you go to a professional dance school, like the Pacific Northwest Ballet, you might get hired into a company.
Be your own person. Have strength. Be passionate at whatever you do in life. That passion will always drive you forward.”
If you go to see the Nutcracker this holiday season, be sure to look for Kylee!