All About Ballet: Chandra Kuykendall's Retirement
After 30 years with the organization, Principal Chandra Kuykendall didn't get her final bow after our season ended unexpectedly due to the pandemic. While we can't give our retiring dancers the final bow they deserve right now, we are recognizing their extraordinary careers. Chandra began her journey with Colorado Ballet at our Academy and then joined the company in 1997. Her first performance was on tour in Aspen, performing Romeo and Juliet. She spent the next year with Liepzig Ballet in Germany, a highlight of her career, where she danced in many ballets choreographed by the brilliant Uwe Scholtz. She returned to Colorado Ballet after that year to join the company and was later promoted to Principal in 2007. Some of her favorite roles and ballets were Odette/Odile in Swan Lake, Giselle in Giselle, the Mother in Le Sacre du Printemps, Petite Mort and the Trio from Traveling Alone.
We checked in with Chandra to see what she's up to and how she's been feeling:
What does the future hold for you?
I will be teaching at and running Denver Academy of Ballet. I have been very anxious to have more time to share my knowledge and love for ballet with my students. My teachers were so influential in my career, and I can’t wait to have a larger impact on my students’ training. I’m also very excited to spend more time with my husband and two sons. They have been so understanding of my dedication to my career for so long and now it is time for me to focus more on them :)
Chandra Kuykendall in Swan Lake, shot early in her career
Chandra Kuykendall by Francisco Estevez
What has it been like not to get your final bow?
After spending most of my life at Colorado Ballet (9 years in the school and 22 years in the company) it has been heartbreaking to not have a final bow. I really wish I had that final performance to have the closure I’m missing, however, I have been trying to focus on how grateful I am for my career and not how it ended. Some days that is hard because my career meant so much to me and it is hard to let that go without really having a proper end to it. I now remember my second to last performance - at the time I didn’t know how close the end was. After the pas from Feast of the Gods, I burst into tears the minute we got off stage and Chris just hugged me for the longest time. I must have known in my heart that this was one of the last times I would be onstage with Colorado Ballet.
How do you stay positive about your situation?
Since I have retired, I keep thinking of special moments throughout my career. Some are big moments, and some are very small. In the studio, backstage at the theater, performing... A lot of these happy memories I have not thought about in years and thinking about them makes me feel so blessed to have had such a long, wonderful career. I have kept in touch with so many colleagues over the years and this time at home has given us all opportunity to reconnect.
Chandra Kuykendall in The Nutcracker by Terry Shapiro
What would you like to say to the dancers or patrons of Colorado Ballet?
Thank you to my colleagues, both past and present, for your inspiration and friendship over the years. Thank you to the patrons and fans for your support and for making me feel so special. Without you what we do would not be possible. I hope the patrons of Colorado Ballet and other arts organizations continue to support the arts, despite the current situation, so that more artists like myself can have the career that they always dreamed of having.
Thinking back over my career it feels like a dream. I did so much more than I ever thought possible and exceeded everything I thought my career could be. Even though I feel like my heart would love to dance forever I feel fulfilled. I recently received a message from a friend that said "Martha Graham’s quote about a dancer dying two deaths is very often mentioned, but I like to think of it instead as having two lives…”. I love this because even though I’m saying goodbye to some of the best times of my life there are more bests to come in my future.
Chandra Kuykendall in Giselle by Terry Shapiro
Chandra Kuykendall and Domenico Luciano in Giselle