CBS called her “the amazing Kendall” and her performance last February on the dance competition show “Live to Dance” certainly fulfilled that expectation. The only solo finalist—then just 11 years old—Phoenix dancer Kendall Glover wowed the judges and the audience, coming home with a second place finish and a lifetime of memories.
Those memories include a school assembly at which dancer/choreographer/recording artist Paula Abdul, a judge for the show, arrived at Kyrene Altadena Middle School in Phoenix to surprise Kendall, then a sixth grader, by announcing that she had advanced to the finals.
My niece, Mandy Davis, is a classmate of Kendall’s, so she was at that assembly. She told me about it at lunch one Saturday after one of her soccer games, excitedly sharing the news that she, too, had gotten a hug from Abdul.
Mandy and I caught up with Kendall in June, as she completed a volunteer stint teaching dance classes at The Salvation Army day camp in Chandler, part of her commitment as a member of the National Charity League.
Kendall was teaching the kids—eight girls, two boys and two additional volunteers—a dance sequence similar to one she performed on “Just Dance Kids” for Nintendo Wii. Dressed in modest black gym shorts and a tie-dyed tank top, she carried herself with the grace of a dancer, the confident swagger of an athlete and the buoyant enthusiasm of a cheerleader. Her 8-year-old sister, Peyton, joined in from the sidelines, where mom Ann was watching and gently offering suggestions like “Want to get everybody up, Kendall?”
Mandy and I interviewed Kendall after the class ended and, as the interview concluded, Kendall gave us a private dance lesson. (You can find it on the RAK Video page on our website). As Kendall had promised, and we quickly discovered, you don’t have to be a good dancer to have fun dancing.
The rest of Kendall’s summer was busy. She participated in a photo shoot for a dance catalog by the designer who created some of her “Live to Dance” outfits and participated in “The LXD (The Legion of Extraordinary Dancers),” a web series about competing dancers, by director Jon Chu. (“I had to dance in a fight scene, on pointe shoes…in a grocery store. It was crazy!” she wrote in an email just before school started.)
Kendall was looking forward to seventh grade. “I am trying out for the Altadena volleyball team this fall,” she wrote. “Of course, I will be taking dance classes at Innerlight Dance and Dance Studio 111 [in Chandler], but I will also be traveling to Los Angeles and other cities to take classes at several dance conventions.”
Both Kendall and Mandy turned 12 in August; their birthdays are just one day apart.
Mandy: What age were you when you started to dance?
Kendall: I was 3 years old when I started doing little combo classes and stuff. Really easy stuff—like, step, step, kick. That’s how I started.
Mandy: What made you want to start?
Kendall: My older sister Lexi [now 14] was in dance before me. I saw her having so much fun in classes with her friends. I thought, “I want to do that; it looks like a lot of fun!”
Karen: Did you start at a local dance school?
Kendall: I started with Kimberly Lewis School of Dance [now Dance Studio 111]. I just started doing little jazz and ballet classes because that’s the main thing for dance.
Mandy: When did you participate in your first dance competition?
Kendall: I was probably 4 years old and I was doing a solo, so that was pretty fun. It was little nerve-wracking because I was so little and stuff and that was my first competition ever—being on stage, being judged. I didn’t want to mess up. But it felt really cool to be on the stage.
Mandy: What do you like about competing versus performing?
Kendall: Performing is always good because if you mess up you’re not being judged at all; you’re not getting first place or second. At competitions you learn from other people because they have their dances and they have their solos and so you get to see what they do and their cool moves.
Mandy: How did you get involved with the “Live to Dance” competition?
Kendall: First we heard that they were having auditions in L.A. and I was already out there so I got to go and do it. I was like, ooh, it’s a dance show for younger people…you don’t have to be 18 years old. I’ve always wanted to be on one of those shows but I was too young. So I was so excited when I heard that I could go and audition.
Mandy: If you could do it again, would you?
Kendall: I would. It was so much fun doing it. Paula [Abdul] was one of the best people I’ve ever met. She was so supportive and she gave me good feedback and stuff so I would definitely do it again.
Karen: What did you learn about yourself doing that big national competition?
Kendall: I learned that I could do anything. I always used to be so nervous. But this conquered my fears so much because you had to keep going on it—and in front of not just the people in the audience, everyone. That really helped me a lot.
Karen: How did you handle that pressure?
Kendall: I just knew that my family was happy for me and they were out there. So I just said it’s just another way to do something I love to do and I’m just dancing. So I just let the pressure go.
Karen: You have two sisters…
Kendall: Lexi is 14. Peyton is almost 8. They’re a lot of fun to be around but they can also be a little pain sometimes (laughs).
Karen: Looks like Peyton likes to dance, too?
Kendall: She doesn’t really want to do ballet and stuff. She doesn’t understand that you have to do ballet to be a dancer. She’s like, “I hate ballet! I don’t like ballet!” But we’re like, “Peyton, that’s what you have to do.”
Karen: How do you feel when you’re dancing? Why do you like it?
Kendall: I like it because you’re not really being judged at all. You can do whatever you want. You can do hip-hop, you can do ballet, you can do all kinds of styles. I just feel when I dance that no one’s watching and that I just love to do it. I just think it’s one of the best things that I would recommend for anyone to do because it doesn’t matter how you dance or how you look, it’s just about what you love to do. RAK
Publisher & Editor Karen Davis Barr is the mother of two grown sons. Mandy Davis, 12, is a seventh grader at Kyrene Altadena Middle School. She plays club soccer and runs cross country.