I have always loved ballet…from the second I saw my first performance to now, ballet has been a deep passion of mine. It’s intoxicating and addictive…the way that ballet combines music and movement to tell a story. There really is nothing like it!

I started dancing at the age of seven, which many would consider ‘late’. Often people are put in their first dance classes between the ages of two and five. Like I said, I fell in love with the movement and the idea of ballet pretty much immediately. My early ballet class memories involve stretching as a group, very basic barre combinations, expressive movement (often with scarves) for the center and across the floor exercises that included jumping over seasonal objects, imitating my instructor. These memories are a whole lot of cute and my parents and grandparents have a gamut of pictures to remind me of these precious moments (as I’m sure yours do too)!

After a couple years I had graduated to the structured ballet class and had started to finally have some body awareness. With this newfound enlightenment I realized a couple of things: 1) when I stretched in ‘Frog’ my feet or knees didn’t fall out as much as what my dance teachers seemingly wanted and 2) as much as I loved the movement of ballet…remembering combinations was pretty important and if you couldn’t remember them, you were probably going to get called out on it. I accepted these realizations as challenges and unlike some of my peers, took these challenges seriously and strived very hard to better myself in these areas. My teachers took notice and suggested I start taking more rigorous classes along with another student from my home studio about an hour and a half away to see if I wanted to pursue dance more seriously.

I loved the challenge of my new classes as well as the camaraderie that came with dancing with other students who loved ballet like I did. I also had older dancers that I admired and strove to dance like. I was ten years old when one of my teachers invited me to audition along with some of the ‘older girls’ for the Kanas City Ballet School. It should be noted that I am from Hutchinson, Kansas originally which is where I began dancing, followed by taking more rigorous classes in Wichita, Kansas (which is where we are now in this story). I begged my parents to allow me to go and after some discussion about loving myself no matter what the outcome, they agreed to take me to the audition.

This was the first time I had auditioned for, well, honestly anything! I signed in, got weighed and measured (this was a first), filled out some paperwork about where I had been training and was then given my number. I remember observing the other students about to walk into the same audition as me. It was fascinating to see how others prepared for this experience…some calm and collected, others anxiety-ridden and fidgety. Looking back, I think I was extremely curious about the process and as it was the first time I was knowingly walking into a room where I was going to be judged against others, I was definitely sizing up my competition. Finally our group was called in to audition. We were put through the class and finally the time came for the numbers to be called…who was going to stay and who was going to go? The numbers of those who were chosen were called out and guess what? My number wasn’t one of them!

I was disappointed in myself and more than a little sad…but also INSPIRED! This was the moment I went from loving ballet to loving ballet AND being dedicated to ballet. I decided at that moment I was going to work my little butt off until I was accepted into a ballet school. You see, ballet, just like relationships or anything else worth pursuing takes more than love. It takes hard work and an acceptance of the fact that you are going to face things that are difficult…the love is what pushes you through those difficulties.

After this experience, I went home and dedicated myself to taking as many quality dance classes as I could each week from teachers who had a proven track record. My parents fully supported my passion and allowed me to be homeschooled so my academics could fit into my busy training schedule since many of my classes happened to be through an arts college where classes happened earlier in the day. My evenings were filled with technique classes or rehearsals and my nights were filled with homework. This was my life until I was thirteen and I started auditioning again…

And this time the answers were different. My number was called! I ended up attending The National Ballet School of Canada on full scholarship and graduated with honors from there! There is a lot more to my story, but for now, I will leave you with this:

It is important to remember our failures as they are part of our path to get us to where we are meant to be.

Kiley’s Instagram: @kileyjos