Today we’d like to introduce you to Kai Hazelwood.
Thanks for sharing your story with us Kai. So, let’s start at the beginning and we can move on from there.
My career is a bit like an octopus; it has many arms. My friends and family might say I’m a workaholic, but when you’re lucky enough to have your passion be your career, the time other people might fill with hobbies I devote to work because it’s what I love. So, here is a little bit of what my octopus looks like:
As a choreographer, I work with an ever-evolving group of amazing artists to create work with strong narrative ideas that interweave the personal and political. I work with communities to tell stories, through movement, that are often left out of the discourse. My project inVISIBLE is a great example of this. I have been working with fellow members of the bisexual community here and abroad to collect and record people’s personal stories. I then work with a group of bi artists and allies to create a constantly changing performance where the stories I recorded are partnered with movement. It’s a chance for a community that is often overlooked to see themselves represented on stage, come together, and celebrate their stories. I’m excited to have been named an artist in residence for the Cultural Affairs Dept for the City of LA this year to continue developing inVISIBLE.
My choreographic career also includes being a 2017 artist in residence at Art OMI in New York, a presenting choreographer at the Black Choreographer’s Festival in San Francisco, the resident choreographer for Theatre Dybbuk in LA, and a guest choreographer for Martz Contemporary Dance Company in Barcelona Spain.
To continue developing the dance field here and around the world, I, in collaboration with Downtown Dance & Movement (DDM), produce and program a showcase for choreographers called Dance in Progress. It allows choreographers to share work that they have in development and to get feedback from the audience, while also introducing them to new potential fans. Plus, they share the stage with some of the other rising stars in the dance world, giving all the artists a chance to network and foster new relationships. I’m working on the 5th installment of Dance In Progress which includes the work of the first International Artist in Residence I am hosting and collaborating with at DDM. International collaboration is often only available to established artists who have the brand recognition to command large amounts of money. But collaboration is how artists grow, communities thrive and new opportunities are created. I’m happy to be a part of shifting this model and developing the next generation of internationally renowned artists.
I put my producer skills to use designing and growing programs for dance-related businesses around the country as well. I think I just really enjoy creating things, be it dances, classes, programs or whatever else I can get my hands on.
I still work as a dancer, represented by Go 2 Talent Agency. I love taking short contracts with companies or individual choreographers. My strength these days is being a part of the creation of new work and I’m lucky that I get to do that often with some wonderful artists.
My educational work is quite broad. I have an extensive background as a teacher, offering courses at the college level and for younger dancers in ballet, modern, contemporary, improvisation, dance literacy and more. These days I specialize in guest workshops in contemporary, improvisation, choreography and preparing dancers for college. I offer workshops and individual coaching for high school aged dancers planning for the future, be it college or straight into a professional career. I’ve worked with dancers across the world and love helping them map out their future in a career path that so often has no roadmap at all.
On a rare day off I can be found exhausted but happy surrounded by Sabrina, Zanzibar and Merlin, the best cats a lady could hope to know.
We’re always bombarded by how great it is to pursue your passion, etc. – but we’ve spoken with enough people to know that it’s not always easy. Overall, would you say things have been easy for you?
I would say the biggest challenge in my career and personal life was the sudden death of my father. He was my best friend and when he died my life shattered. I dropped out of college and stopped dancing. It took me 5 years to piece myself back together.
I eventually returned to college and dance, but his loss has forever changed me and shifted my values. Those changes meant I had to rediscover myself as an artist. And while being an artist is an ongoing process, you don’t suddenly have it all figured out, I’m positive he’d be proud of the career I’ve carved out and the person he helped me become.
We’d love to hear more about your business.
Dance Maker. Trouble Maker.
I am an artist, activist, and educator based in Los Angeles and working internationally. The foundation of my work is a collaboration; I am interested in creating meaningful collaborative structures that develop the current and future of the dance field in LA and beyond.
What were you like growing up?
I was a busy kid. And a little odd, I played basketball pretty seriously and passed as a boy for several years to play on better teams. I had a buzzed head, wore oversized basketball clothes, and my name is Kai, no one seemed to notice. After practice, I’d put on my pink tights and leotard and head to ballet class. I trained at the San Francisco Ballet School (SFB) for 6 years before going to the San Francisco High School of the Arts and spending my summers at Dance Theatre of Harlem (DTH) in New York. Eventually, basketball fell by the wayside and dance became the center of my life.
Race was also a pretty constant theme in my life. My sister and I were the only 2 black kids in our school for many years and that came with a fair amount of teasing, name-calling, and isolation for me. Add being at a predominately white ballet school, let’s just say it never went too long before I was reminded I was different.
Going to Dance Theatre of Harlem is what made me fall in love with dance. Suddenly I was surrounded by dancers that looked like me, and by teachers that took my potential seriously. Wearing tights and shoes that actually matched my skin tone was also a huge deal. It was the first time I felt like I belonged in dance.
I was already pretty close to my adult height of 5’10” and had been trying to dance smaller for years to fit in with my petite classmates at SFB. I will never forget one of my teachers at DTH pulling me around by the front of my leotard to help me understand how big I could move.
High school was also a turning point. Elvia Marta was running the dance department then and working with her was like having someone reach into my soul and drag out the dancer I never knew I could be. I am absolutely the dancer, teacher, and artist I am today in large part due to her passion and insistence that I never settle for less than my best. I’d never worked harder in my life, but I am grateful for every moment of it.
After high school, I started my dance teaching career while dancing with local companies like Oakland Ballet, continuing my training with brief intensives at Alvin Ailey Dance School in New York and the Kirov Ballet in St Petersburg Russia. Eventually, through magical timing, generosity, and the open-mindedness of the co-chairs of the dance program at UCLA, I moved to Los Angeles to complete my BA in Dance at UCLA. And I suppose that was just the beginning really…
- Website: kaihazelwood.com
- Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/kaihazelwood/
- Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/kai.hazelwood/
Amanda Björn, Nicky Fuchs, Alex Millar, Cindy Jollota