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Lexington teen starts city's first African American Ballet Troupe

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Posted at 6:32 AM, Aug 12, 2022
and last updated 2022-08-12 06:54:57-04

LEXINGTON, Ky. (LEX 18) — As a young Black girl who grew up on stage, Kayla Chambers-Reed always wanted to teach ballet to kids just like her.

But the 14-year-old’s dream became reality this year during a conversation with her mom after dance class.

“Seeing classes, and you barely see any Black or brown kids, and I know there’s kids out there who want to do ballet,” the teenager told LEX 18. “They just don’t have the means, or the time, or the transportation to get there to take those classes.”

“And then she dropped a sentence in there: ‘I wish there were some brown babies in there,’” said Sanda Chambers-Reed, Kayla’s mom. “And I thought, ‘This is still on her mind!’”

Sandra knew her daughter was serious because she’d been talking about her plans for years. Kayla began dancing when she was a toddler and was inspired by women like Misty Copeland, the first African American woman to win a principal role with the American Ballet Theatre.

So earlier this year, mom and daughter applied for a grant from Partners for Youth and started Lexington’s first African American Ballet Troupe or AABT.

Kayla’s next step was inviting friends like Kaida Goodwin to join.

“I just wanted to experience and see people of color all dancing in unison,” said Goodwin.

The group spent this summer choreographing dances to perform at events like Soulteenth and inside William Wells Brown Elementary School. They also organized free weekly ballet classes for hundreds of underserved kids across the city, at facilities like Consolidated Baptist Church and Calvary Baptist Church. The Police Activity League joined in to support the group as well.

“It was the best experience of my life,” said Goodwin. “I love those kids. Hopefully, we can go back.”

Fellow dancer Erica Afenya agreed.

“To make ballet fun for them, too, was really nice,” she said.

And for Kayla: “It makes me so happy and just fills me with joy to see how excited they are and they have a chance to dance, too.”

The African American Ballet Troupe is a creative outlet and chance to teach, but it’s also proof ballet’s spotlight is for everyone.

“Anybody can dance, no matter what you look like, no matter where you come from,” said Kayla. “Anybody can do it.”

The troupe is currently looking for new members and has plans for future performances, including their rendition of The Nutcracker.