Kialee Deschenes is an 18-year-old dancer from Washington. She dances at Harbor Dance and Performance Center.

“Hip Hop is often overlooked in the dance world, even though it has some of the most rich history. I want to help African American artists gain recognition for their work, and I want the culture to be not just respected, but celebrated.”

Tell us about your dance experience!

At 3 years old, I began training in ballet, and when I turned 7, I began taking hip hop. After just one year, I was asked to be part of the first mini competitive hip hop team at my studio. Since then, I have trained in jazz, lyrical, musical theater, contemporary, ballet, and hip hop. I was accepted into the Harbor Dance Ballet Company after only two years of serious ballet training. Unfortunately, I had to decline the offer in order to prioritize teaching, as well as my physical and mental health. I have danced at the Monsters Dance LA National Finals and Dancer Palooza, both on scholarships. I have also trained under some of Seattle’s most sought-after teachers and at studios around the state. I have performed at the University of Washington for their basketball halftime show and had my choreography performed there as well. Now at the age of 18, I am working to build and develop the hip hop program at my studio bigger than it has ever been. I plan to continue my career with dance and eventually open my very own studio.

How does dance have a positive impact on your life?

Dance has had a positive impact on my life in more ways than I can count. From a young age, I have struggled with anxiety, depression, and ADHD. Dance was my release and my outlet—my safe space. It was my only escape to get out of my head. When I was at some of my lowest points in my life, dance quite literally saved me. When I got into choreography, I found an outlet for my creativity. It was something that allowed me to express what I couldn’t put into words. It has also given me some of the most meaningful relationships I’ve gotten to experience. Teachers, teammates, peers, and my students have all had an incredible impact on me. My teachers and peers have been some of my biggest role models, changing my life in ways I can’t explain. My teammates have become my best friends and my students have given my life purpose. When I began teaching, I realized that this is what I wanted to do with my life. For a long time, I had felt very lost and dance had finally helped me find my way. My students mean the world to me and seeing their faces light up when they perfect a new move is one of my favorite things to see.

How do you want to use dance to have a positive impact on your community?

I want dance to reach as many people as it can. People who may not be able to afford it, children who may not have access to it, or adults who feel they are starting too late. As a hip hop dancer, I also want to spread awareness of the cultural aspect. I feel that hip hop is often overlooked in the dance world, even though it has some of the most rich history. I want to help African American artists gain recognition for their work, and I want the culture to be not just respected, but celebrated. I want people to understand that Hip Hop is more than just a fun form of dance, but an entire culture, history, and way of life.