At a Crossroads: Kayla Klabfleisch
How Shaping Sound’s Kayla Kalbfleisch chose college over a career
Shaping Sound dance company member Kayla Kalbfleisch says the dance bug bit her early on. At 8, she started studying at a studio in Las Vegas, Nevada, and as she got older, she begged her mom to take her to conventions like West Coast Dance Explosion and New York City Dance Alliance for extra training. Kalbfleisch attended a performing arts high school for two years before receiving her diploma through a home-schooling program to focus on dance. But she ultimately decided to put her passion on hold, earning a BS in biology from the University of California, San Diego.
Today, however, Los Angeles–based Kalbfleisch is dancing full-time: In addition to performing with Shaping Sound, she has appeared on TV shows including “Glee,” “The X Factor,” and “All the Right Moves.” Dance Magazine caught up with Kalbfleisch before a rehearsal for the 2013 Emmy Awards. —Jenny Dalzell
What made you decide on going to college over moving to L.A.?
College actually seemed like a pretty easy decision. Both of my parents are college grads so it was always in the back of my mind that I’d go, too. Of course, I always knew I wanted to be a dancer, but I wasn’t exactly gung-ho, ready to go to L.A. yet.
How did you choose a school?
I didn’t know what my major would be right away. I enrolled in a San Diego community college so I could try out different majors and take my time. It also gave me more flexibility to work as a dancer while in school; I assisted choreographers and I traveled with conventions on the weekends. San Diego was close enough to L.A.—I didn’t have an agent at the time, but many choreographers that I had worked with knew that I was there, and they’d call me.
I started out as a business major. And while I enjoyed the math, the actual business classes didn’t feel applicable to me. I had to take a science class to fill out my core credits, and I fell in love with biology. It was the first time in college that I felt I could apply what I was learning to the world around me. I love the human body and movement—and now I was learning about it on a molecular level. I decided to look at different colleges in the area that I could transfer to, and UCSD was a very strong science school.
Did you feel behind in the dance scene when you graduated?
Because I spent the least time dancing during my senior year—I lived at the library—it made me miss dance so much more. I also felt fortunate, because the choreographers who I had assisted through college gave me recommendations to agencies. I didn’t have to go to open calls.
Has college helped your career in any unexpected ways?
One of my first big auditions was for a TV pilot called “Grace,” choreographed by Mia Michaels. The producers said that if “Grace” was picked up, they’d base the characters on our lives. They loved that I had a biology degree, and I booked the job. That’s when I reconnected with Teddy Forance and Nick Lazzarini—I knew them from conventions as a teen and Nick and I were the first assistants for JUMP. That’s when they told me that they were talking with Travis Wall about starting a company. Even though Grace never aired, it was really a blessing. Almost everything that I’ve done has come from that first job.
Photo by Rob Daly, Courtesy Kalbfleisch