We had the good fortune of connecting with Kyla Chaney and we’ve shared our conversation below.

Hi Kyla, we’d love to hear about how you approach risk and risk-taking
Being an artist and pursuing a career in dance, I have had to think about risk taking for as long as I decided to follow through with this unconventional career. I’ve not only purposefully placed myself in uncomfortable situations, but sometimes life has left me with no choice but to thrive in them. This to me, is exactly how I think about risk taking. I look directly at something that I highly desire and feel would get me closer to my higher purpose, and fully take what I need to do, head first and go for it. I have a tattoo that’s a small quote, which directly translates “to fear less/live without fear”, which is a constant reminder to myself that, when I do choose to take risks, no matter the outcome, I should I always feel grateful for allowing myself to go for the things I desire. I fully believe that if I want something, there is a reason why that want was placed in my spirit, and in my mind, who would I be to not listen to those instincts? Returning back to the idea that of course, some situations are challenges and learning experiences, I want to embrace every moment that life throws at me. In my career as a dancer, I feel as though I don’t have much of a choice but to constantly take risks. Whether that’s an audition that I am so unsure that I’d get, or taking a class from a teacher that I have never learned from(but always have wanted to), or being in spaces where I don’t know anyone at all, I live in the moments with complete gratitude and take them head on, bringing my complete self to all situations.

Please tell us more about your work. We’d love to hear what sets you apart from others, what you are most proud of or excited about. How did you get to where you are today professionally. Was it easy? If not, how did you overcome the challenges? What are the lessons you’ve learned along the way. What do you want the world to know about you or your brand and story?
There are SO many dancers in LA alone and everyone has their own story and niche, that attempting to think about what sets me apart from hundreds is very difficult. However, I can say that I feel like the biggest thing that sets me apart, is that I have lived/had a long moment in what feels like every pocket of dance that dancers can go. I started off as a full classical ballerina, dancing at a studio in Torrance, CA. We ONLY did ballet, no other styles, and to this day, I have yet to hear about a studio in, at least Southern California, that only emphasizes one genre of dance. That, alone is super unique, on top of the fact that I was one of maybe 4 black ballerinas out of the entire studio. I trained at that studio from age 4-18, literally spending what felt like my entire life there. And because I spent my childhood, adolescence, teens, and late teens there, that studio shaped me and my outlook on dance as a whole. It was not easy… at all. I was one of 4 (at most) at the time, and I faced with racism and prejudice among the adults who were supposed to be my mentors. I was passed up opportunities that I clearly deserved at the time because I didn’t have the conventional “ballet body” that my overweight teacher said I did. When I was very little, possibly 6 or 7 years old, that director told my mother that I’d struggle in ballet because of my muscular build and that I don’t have the feet to be on pointe. She said that I should consider a career in modern dance, with Alvin Ailey, because it would be a better fit, even though she had never seen me in a modern class(that the studio didn’t teach). I faced micro aggressions with my peers because of the way I spoke, which lead me to code switching, they’d touch my hair, which lead me to getting it pressed every month, and many more. So I learned very early on that this would be a very challenging point in my life and chose to keep going, which is why I maintained loyalty to that studio for so long. My work ethic developed there, because of how much harder I had to work than my peers to even be considered, and for that I am grateful for. That is in fact, the only thing, that I am grateful to that studio for. Because as I grew up, in my teen years, and did the summer programs in NY and San Francisco, and sometimes looked in Debbie Allen Dance Academy, seeing other fellow talented black dancers and being appreciated for it, I developed my own opinion and started living in my truth as the unique moving, high bun natural hair having, brown tight and brown pointe shoe wearing, toned, black ballerina. I did not graduate on the best terms with that studio, and since then, have not been back. All of these difficult challenges, made me even more appreciative of the recognition I received when I went to college. I went to the University of California, Irvine for dance and finished with a BFA in Dance Performance and Choreography with a minor in African American studies, which is one of my proudest moments to this day. I stepped into a very very different world in collegiate dance because we studied ballet, modern, and jazz and I was beyond excited to finally do more. I started to consider myself a contemporary dancer and stepped into a new body of movement and what that meant for me, finding my voice and my style in the way I dance. I also started training in Hip Hop at, what was then, Boogiezone Utopia in Torrance as soon as I graduated high school as well. All of this new training has lead me even more into who I am today professionally. I learned so many lessons throughout this journey, itself. I started taking more risks by taking these new classes, I spoke up a lot more in my courses at university and spoke up for myself when needed, in a respectful way, of course. I really stepped into my own skin and embracing who I am, despite in the challenges that I faced before my adult years, and again, lived in complete gratitude of everything that I continued to work for. Now, I confidently teach at a high school, at competition studios, and small studios, and genuinely enjoy feeding these young minds information, in a positive environment that I always wished I had. After graduation, I auditioned for contemporary companies and lived in that pocket for a little, I joined a couple of commercial hip hop training programs, I have connected with and still am connecting to so many choreographers and dancers in this LA industry, and so many more. I am returning back to this idea that I have had so many moments in so many dance pockets and have done so much that I couldn’t be more appreciative of. I want the world to know that my story has so many different colored swirls and has lead me to so many different worlds that I can end up in so many unique pockets of life that I now understand that there is no one way to have a creative career. I may be a dancer, but I am a creative who is always open to new opportunities that I would never pass up if it is going to be bring me genuine happiness. I run around a lot, and experience a lot, and live completely in each moment and learn from them all.

Let’s say your best friend was visiting the area and you wanted to show them the best time ever. Where would you take them? Give us a little itinerary – say it was a week long trip, where would you eat, drink, visit, hang out, etc.
Ayye! If they were visiting the area, they’d probably airbnb in one of the more touristy parts of LA, so I’d recommend Burbank because it’s very cute over there. However, I’d want them to get a glimpse of everything, so I’d pick them up and show them a fun time of places that I know for a fact are worth it. Being from the South Bay Area, I know these parts like the back of my hand. I’d start off by definitely eating because we really do have some of the best food! I have to really be in the mood for breakfast but I’m definitely a coffee drinker. So if they are staying in that area in Burbank I’d take them to the Ugly Mug Coffee shop or Cara Vana Coffee in North Hollywood. But, if I’m going to be honest, I’d pick them up and drive them to my area and we’d go to Offset Coffee in Torrance or Corridor Flow if they wanted coffee and a little snack. Corridor Flow’s sugar cinnamon bagels and their corn flake cookies are soooooo fire! Of course, along with their iced lavender lattes. The employees there are super nice and the building overall is very cute because there are plants everywhere. I’d also take them to Hilltop Coffee on Slauson and South LA Cafe, they both have very good food options as well. And if it’s a week long trip, we’d definitely hit all of those places up. I don’t really eat lunch, but would grab a small bite at Torrance Bakery because their sandwiches are pretty good. From there, we’d probably go to Del Amo Mall which has always been a staple since I am so close to the mall. The stores are fairly standard but the mall has become so large that walking around that plaza would be pretty unique. I go to the Barnes and Noble over there across from the Nordstrom so I’d take them in there as well. For dinner, we’d go to one of my favorite Mexican food places since I was a kid in Gardena, called the Burnt Tortilla and of course grab an Albondigas soup with tortillas. Again, sooooooo fire! I am a very basic eater, if I don’t eat home, so that place is really top tier to me. Kai’s table in Downtown is a really good place as well, along with their drinks, so we’d go there. Other than that, we’d probably go to Carson area because I like hanging out over there, and grab ice cream at Ken’s Ice Cream shop, hang around that mall area, and maybe walk around IKEA because why not? I also run into a lot of old friends and family so it would be inevitable that we would start a good conversation with some people while there. I also love going to Manhattan Beach and that downtown region of Manhattan so we of course would chill over there and generally have a good time!

Who else deserves some credit and recognition?
This might sound super played out, but I have no choice but to credit my mother for everything and more that she has done for me. If I could name anyone in the world that has been there for me, supporting me fully in all of my wild adventures and choices, been upfront and honest when I needed some improvement, steered me in the right direction when I almost fell off track, and just plainly listened when I needed an ear, it would honestly and solely be her. She’s the one person who knows my story because she’s lived and felt some of it with me and understands to the fullest capacity of what has lead me to be me, as a person and a dancer. I think about it and get emotional because there really is no one like her. Words can’t express the amount of gratitude I have.

Instagram: @Kyla.lanee

Image Credits
green stripe pants photos by Alissa Roseborough

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