By Sarah Richardson
Kayla Hutchens has known that dancing was her passion nearly her entire life. Born and raised in the Mountain State, she started dance classes when she was attending Eastern Greenbrier Middle School as a child. Little did she know that choice would snowball into a full-blown career that would eventually take her across the country.
“My whole life I’ve loved dancing and singing around the house,” said Hutchens. “I started dancing in sixth grade and I had a choir teacher named Shelly Neal, she’s the choir teacher at the middle school, and we would do little dances in her class. One day she came up to me and told me I should join her dance studio. I went home and said, ‘Mom, I want to be a dancer and join the dance studio.’ My mom let me join and the rest is history, I’ve been dancing ever since then.”
She credits Mrs. Neal for getting her started, saying, “It’s always been a super special part of me, and I’m super glad that I had Shelly to direct me into dancing.”
After participating in numerous dance competitions and performances over the years, including big-stage shows at DisneyLand, Disney World, and Hawaii, Hutchens continued to develop numerous dance styles and work diligently to perfect her craft. She learned a variety of dance styles including contemporary, jazz, and funk, but ultimately found her true passion to be in hip hop.
After graduating from Greenbrier East High School in 2016, she quickly made the jump to Los Angeles, California, where she attended several classes at the AMDA (American Music Dramatic Academy) and had more opportunities for professional dance work.
“I love Lewisburg, its super special how close everybody is there,” she said. “But coming from there to L.A., especially Hollywood, it was a culture shock. There is so much going on out here and it’s so fast-paced.”
She credits having lots of support from people back home for keeping her going through the transition.
“They say out here if you can handle L.A. for a year then you can make it. This place will eat you up and spit you out if you let it. What has helped me is the support from back home, and keeping a good head on my shoulders and good people around me. That’s definitely what has grounded me and kept be sane out here. It can make you crazy out here sometimes for sure.”
This October will mark six years that Kayla has been living out west, and over the years she has participated in several large projects, including Coachella.
“I never signed with an agency; I kinda just wanted to do everything on my own. One of my teachers at AMDA, Fresh Redding, is very well known out here for dancing and choreographing, and he actually booked me my first job in 2019. It was my first big job, I had done other small things, but this was Coachella with Kanye West for his Sunday Service,” she explained.
“It was the first religious performance to be done at Coachella, so it was cool to be part of that, and it was on Easter Sunday. That was my first big dance gig. Not only was it my first time there, but it was really cool because one of the choreographers that helped create Kanye’s set was Fatima Robinson, and she is an icon in the dance community. It was a full circle moment for me because I really love Aaliyah, the late R&B singer, and Fatima actually choreographed all of her videos. It was crazy to be able to work with her. When I first found out I was going to be working with Fatima I was like, ‘No way!’ She also choreographed Michael Jackson’s Remember the Time when she was 18 or 19. She’s legendary.”
However, after spending hours learning choreography for the show, there was a last minute change in plans.
“Kanye sometimes doesn’t know what he wants exactly, so we learned all of this choreography, but the day of the show he decided that he didn’t want any of it, he just wanted us to have fun,” she said. “It was so pure and inspiring to just be there and be able to ‘do you.’ It sounds corny, but he wanted us to just feel the music and the people around us, and it was just a beautiful thing.”
Later on Hutchens began modeling in addition to dancing, and has been in several music videos including the video for “Light It Up” by Chris Brown, Marshmello, and Tyga, and “Me or Sum” by Nardo Wick, Future, and Lil Baby.
The “Light It Up” video dropped two years ago and has amassed over 35 million views, and “Me or Sum” has racked up over 15 million views in just two months and is currently the 20th top music video on YouTube.
She just filmed a music video last week with the artist Blxst, and another video earlier this year that is still under wraps until closer to the release date.
“Most of the videos I’m doing now are more modeling,” she explained, “Dancing has sort of slowed down in music videos. Back in the 90s and 2000s they used to have dance breaks and all that type of stuff in music videos, but now that’s changing. I do hope it comes back to where dance is popular in videos.”
Looking back on the last several years, she said it’s been a great learning experience and a change to grow both professionally and personally.
“Overall, I’ve loved L.A. It’s made me grow in ways that I wouldn’t grow anywhere else because it’s so fast-paced, it keeps you on your toes at all times, and you never know what’s going to happen out here. It’s also cool because you can just be walking down the street and see your favorite star.”
Some advice Hutchens would recommend for up-and-coming dancers is to “Keep people around you that keep you grounded. It’s good to keep people around you that are proud of you, but want to know what else you can do. And as a dancer, you have to love what you do to do it. It’s not the easiest, you’re going to hear a lot of no’s, but all it takes is that one yes to change your life. You just have to go out of your comfort zone and throw yourself in the deep end, but it’s also a beautiful thing because you grow a lot along with that.”
Hutchens said she is grateful for the support she gets from everyone in West Virginia that has followed her journey since the very beginning.
“I do just want to thank everyone for their support, and thank them for sharing my stuff and wanting to be a part of my journey,” she said. “Some people just come around after you make it big, but it’s the journey that is the special part and beautiful part because it’s such a huge process. I want to thank everyone for sticking with me, it’s really appreciated.”