The woman who began Centennial State Ballet
CENTENNIAL STATE BALLET’S FEARLESS FOUNDER
Kristin Kingsley founded Centennial State Ballet in 2012, making it one of the first pre-professional ballet companies in Colorado. Get to know the driven dreamer who started it all.
LOVE OF DANCE FROM THE BEGINNING
Kristin Leah Kingsley was born in 1974 and grew up in Kansas City, MO. Kingsley had a rich family history in music and the arts – her father, David, played french horn in the United States Army Band, and while stationed in Hawaii, met Kristin’s mother, Dolores (Dolly), when they both were singing in the choir at the Episcopal Cathedral of St. Andrew in Honolulu. After graduating from the University of Hawaii, Dolly performed in Show Boat and My Fair Lady at the Diamond Head Theatre (formerly Honolulu Community Theatre).
Kristin’s parents introduced her to music and diverse performing arts at a very young age. “I took piano lessons and thought briefly about learning to play the organ. I was always 2nd chair flute in the band, dabbled in the high school jazz band on keyboard bass, and even tried the french horn until someone told me my neck would get thicker from using those muscles. Truly, taking ballet six days a week took over my extra-curricular life. Ballet was my passion, my place, and just, my thing.”
Kristin began taking ballet lessons at the age of 2. “I was born with my hips turned in and the doctors wanted to break open my hips as an infant so I would walk normally. Well, mom was not impressed with that thought so she had another idea. Since she had also taken ballet as a child, my mom new that ballet opened the hip joints as it emphasizes turn out. So I wore leg braces for a bit and took ballet classes as a form of physical therapy.” This therapy led to her love of dance. “At nearly every point in my dance development, my mom would ask if I wanted to do anything else. Once, I didn’t want to sing in a theater class or audition for a jazz competition group, and there was one time I didn’t want to do musical theater (which is my mom’s love) and I chose ballet classes. ‘How about riding horses?’; ‘What about pointe shoes; those things hurt. Don’t you want to quit?’ mom asked on numerous occasions. My response was, ‘No, everything feels right when I am in my pointe shoes. I love ballet!’.”
“At a Milwaukee Ballet Summer Intensive Program, my mom was sitting in the waiting area watching an audition for the end of the program’s performance with other patrons. As the story goes, some man beside my mom went running down the stairs and pointed to me. He said, ‘I want that one for my piece.’ That man was John Taras, prominent choreographer and ballet master for New York City Ballet from 1959-1984. I think my mom knew from that moment, that it was going to be ballet for the rest of my life.”
As a young performer, her talent for teaching and choreography began to shine through. “When I joined the Kansas City Ballet, I didn’t know anything about teaching a ballet class. I took ballet classes and performed repertoire but it was foreign to turn it around and teach others. I was asked to substitute some classes to one of the youngest groups at KCB. I was given a class plan and was able to work with an accompanist. It was a blast but little did I know that first class set me up for my future. I loved my training from Allegra Kent, Melissa Hayden, Sandra Jennings, Maria Tallchief, and Todd Bolender. I cherish my very formative instructors in Una Kai, Flo Klenklen, Lisa Dillinger, and James Jordan. Their spark and love of ballet shines through me when I teach my students. It is only by their collective legacy that I can pass the ballet tradition to the next generation.”
CREATING TWO COMPANIES FROM THE GROUND UP
In 1998, Kingsley founded the Longmont Dance Theatre, a pre-professional dance studio with a focus on ballet in the Balanchine technique. She acquired the original company, Backstage Danza, from Salli Gutierrez, a longtime Longmont dance instructor. Kingsley was teaching a few ballet classes a week at Backstage Danza and eventually became their office administrator. “When Salli decided to close the studio to pursue other career opportunities, I felt like I had been building a home and really loved training the students. I just didn’t want it to stop. So I offered to purchase the studio and its assets, changed the name to Longmont Dance Theatre, and with 40 families began a full-time position of training ballet dancers in Longmont, CO.”
With a desire to expand performance opportunities for her students, and with a goal to bring classical ballet to a larger community, Kristin founded Centennial State Ballet in 2012 and renamed the original training studio Longmont Dance Theatre Academy.
From the Company’s creation, Kingsley was and primarily remains in charge of almost every task, no matter how mundane. She runs warm-up classes and conducts rehearsals for Youth Company members, and then stays after to clean the studios. She chooses the repertoire, guest artists & choreographers for the Company, as well as choreographing, casting the performances, and organizing the costumes. Occasionally you’ll find her picking up bobby pins in the dressing rooms after a show to keep the venue custodians happy.
For the first 15 years or so records were kept primarily on loose paper and diverse spreadsheets. There is often little time for anything but work, and one often can see Kristin at the front of the studio, her hair in the expected bun, drinking from a sippy cup, her lips pursed as she expounds on the beauty of the art form with her students and youth company members.
Kristin has a clear image of what she wants from her dancers. “My favorite memories are ones of being on stage giving back to the universe what it has offered to me through my training. Now I just love seeing my students thrive and dance so successfully on stage with beauty and grace. All the work and effort I put into my own training was never for me…it has always been to give back to the next generation.”
SHYNESS TURNED TO CONFIDENCE
Kingsley is known to be witty and unwavering, but she also has a timid side. She was very introverted from a young age, and dancing allowed her to come out of her shell.
“I was good at academics but I never really clicked with people my own age. My peers accepted and respected the drive and passion I felt for dance, but I never felt like I had kindred spirits around me. It was easier to turn inward socially and train my body in ballet. Then I could communicate freely once I was on stage.”
Kingsley continued to find confidence as the leader of both Longmont Dance Theatre Academy and Centennial State Ballet. Though sometimes shy in large gatherings, on home turf in the studio she is bold and outspoken. She says what she thinks, usually with grace and empathy.
BREAKING BARRIERS IN NORTHERN COLORADO AND BEYOND
Kingsley has gone beyond being that “Mess in the corner,” as a former summer intensive instructor once remarked, to being a community powerhouse – a phenomenal example of a successful female entrepreneur and founder, whose primary passion and expertise is inspiring a love of dance, ballet, movement, and music in the next generation of artists, scientists, mathematicians, engineers, and community leaders.
Centennial State Ballet is the premier pre-professional youth ballet company in Northern Colorado. It features ballets from the classical repertoire and continues to build new works. In 2015, the Company performed C.S. Lewis’ The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe under license with the C.S. Lewis Foundation, a Colorado premiere.
Kristin has a leader’s vision, drive, and enduring stamina. She retains a sense of lyric fantasy – the dream world in which things happen beautifully and right – that most of us, as adults, abandon. “What a privilege to work with the dancers, Board of Directors, Community of Volunteers, and all our collaborators to continue bringing dance to our community through Centennial State Ballet.