Kayla Kressin describes her dance experience at SCB

Last Saturday, SCB held its annual fundraising gala, Cinderella Ball, to support the creation of this spring’s brand new Cinderella production.

In addition to being a fantastic night of dinner, dancing, and letting our hair down, the gala was a resounding success, raising almost $17,000 for Cinderella and our other programs, including the scholarship fund and our adaptive dance for adults with special needs program. The evening’s success helps SCB continue its mission: to provide enrichment, education, outreach, and public entertainment for the community through the art of dance, and to provide performance and artistic opportunities for dedicated young dancers.

The highlight of the gala night was an eloquent, inspiring speech given by SCB company dancer Kayla Kressin, whose words resonated with everyone in the room and illuminated the capacity that dance has to empower and enliven not only young dancers, but indeed everyone.

Kayla kindly allowed us to share her speech so that it could be appreciated by the SCB community.

Kayla Kressin on Dance and Southern California Ballet

I started dancing here at Southern California Ballet when I was 7 years old in grade 2. I am now 17 years old, passed grade 10, and studying to teach grade 2. When I started ballet, I just knew I loved to dance. I wasn’t sure why, but all I knew was that being onstage gives me a sense of euphoria like no other experience. The bright lights from above, the silhouette of the audience in front of me, tension of every single hair slicked back into a bun, silently communicating to other performers with smiles, and the crisp smell of hairspray all contribute to an indescribable magical moment.

When I dance, time freezes. I forget about everything. My soul is just invested in my movement. There is so much to focus on while dancing: are my ribs closed, backs of legs engaged, am I massaging the floor with my feet, et cetera, that dancing truly is a whole new world. Dancing is a way to express feelings that cannot be explained.

As I have become older and more devoted not only with the movement but the study of dance, I think that the best way to describe dancing is a therapy. Dancing allows the mind, soul, and body to integrate as one and produce beautiful movement.

In an article published by the Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy, one describes dance as “a language not because of the grammar and syntax, but since it is an expression of a human person or self with culturally embedded and art-relevant properties that can be perceived and understood as such by others.” There are no written records of dancing; that is something that makes it unique. We know that thousands of years ago, cavemen would dance around the fire, and we know that hundreds of years ago King Louis the 14th of France performed in front of his courts as the Sun King, but we do not know the exact steps which made up these variations, since it doesn’t come with ancient artifacts that historians can dig up and analyze.

Dance is a generational art form. Dancers learned from their mentors, who teach younger dancers, who carry on to teach the next generation, and so on. Dancers learn from listening to other dancers who describe their choreographic vision and mimic their movement. We can see this incredible cycle in our own studio, after Ms. Sylvia Palmer’s student Ms. Martha Leebolt is now passing on her knowledge to our generation. We do not perform so that we can be remembered in history books. We do it for the feeling it gives us and our audience. Dancers perform for the excitement and bliss it gives us.

In Studio B, one of my favorite quotes is “dancers are not great because of their technique, but because of their passion.” Some may call us crazy, well, most call us crazy for “torturing” our feet with boots that give us blisters, make us bleed through our pointe shoes and make our toenails fall off, but for us, love surpasses pain. We dance because we are passionate.

Everyone here at SCB shares a love of dance. We express it in different ways, maybe by dropping your young ballerina off in your “ballet valet” at four o’clock, stepping in as a party parent, volunteering with the strike crew to help us on theater move in day, or even starting a new life across the pond to become artistic directors. How ever we each express this desire to contribute to SCB, we all share some kind of love for the performing art, and that is what makes this community so strong.

I genuinely call Southern California Ballet my second family because for over a decade, they have supported me and my aspirations in the best way imaginable. Here, my sisters and I have shared way too many inside jokes and toe tape, but we have also shared the biggest hugs. We have laughed and cried together; we have shined on stage, and we have broken down backstage in front of each other.

Some of you may know about my illness last year, which caused me to miss Nutcracker 2017 and the majority of ballet classes the first half of last year. Although at the time I was utterly devastated because I did not know who I was without my dancing, looking back I am thankful for the timing of that horrible experience because I was surrounded by my family here. I was able to watch a show from the audience, which I had never been able to do. It made me realize how fortunate I am to have such a strong team. My sisters and mentors here have supported me and my unpredictable health for many months. After being flat on my back for weeks at a time, being too dizzy to walk from my bed to the bathroom on my own, feeling like an elephant was crushing my chest, and not being able to stand straight because i was in too much pain, a part of me questioned whether or not I’d ever be able to dance again. I just didn’t know if my body would be capable. Watching them on stage and in class helped remind me why I love dancing so much, and being a part of the studio. Some days I didn’t give my body enough time to heal and came back too early, but when I would have to sit down in the middle of class, even in the middle of an exercise, Martha and Toby would help me to the back room to lie down, point fans towards me, and tell me not to worry. One of the moms here once brought me Gatorade “for the electrolytes” and offered to drive me home. My friends would patiently teach me choreography I missed, without hesitation. They all helped me to get back into mental and physical shape to perform again. I cannot thank them enough for helping me carry out my passion.

I am so excited to be filled in a room of support right now. None of this is possible without every single one of you. Without you, we wouldn’t have costumes to share, floors to pirouette on, and stories to tell the next generation. I thank you endlessly for your support, and everyone who has been a part of my SCB journey, especially my parents, who have been by my side every step of the way. There are countless people I want to thank individually right now, but that would literally take all night. None of us students here would be the men or women we are today without every audience member. I give you the biggest reverence, which is the dancer’s way of saying thank you, from the bottom of my heart. Now, like we share a love of dance, let’s share this night of fun together.

Thank you, Kayla, for sharing your relationship to dance and the effect it’s had on your life.