Nashville Ballet principal dancer Kayla Rowser retired this month after 13 years in the company. In her time there, she wowed audiences in roles ranging from from the sugar plum fairy to the title character in “Lucy Negro Redux.”
While Rowser says she will miss being onstage, under the bright lights, the day-to-day experience with her fellow dancers is what she is going to miss the most. When asked if she planned to cut her hair since a daily bun would no longer be required, she let us in on a secret: She always had short hair. The ballerina chignon that audiences were seeing was actually pinned in.
As a Black ballerina, Rowser was used to challenging the audience’s expectation of what a dancer usually looks like. In the title role of “Lucy Negro Redux,” she enjoyed playing a role where she could show up as herself and fit the part — a moment that she said was incredibly empowering.
In addition to racial diversity, she hopes that body diversity will become part of the day-to-day experience of a ballet company in the future. Specifically, as a celebration of beauty, “not just for marketing reasons, but really putting them in the forefront. If that is where their talents lie and can carry them.”
Rowser says her future isn’t away from ballet completely, but rather “offstage.” And that her goals haven’t actually changed.
“Those goals for me,” she says, “the themes are still to excel and to put good into the world.”