LA Diary: This Dance Major Watched Graduation On The Couch, But She's Staying On Her Toes

Cypress College dance major Kylie Christensen on graduation day outside her home. (Courtesy Kylie Christensen)

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It was tough when Cypress College dance major Kylie Christensen got the news from administrators that her community college would not have an in-person commencement ceremony for the first time in more than half a century.

"I went downstairs and I was crying to my dad, telling him that this isn't fair, and I've worked so hard for this and now I'm not going to get the recognition that I want to and anything like that."

A childhood photo of Cypress College dance major Kylie Christensen with her mother, Susie Christensen. (Courtesy Kylie Christensen)

Her dad, Dean Christensen, has been her main cheerleader in life.

Her mother, Susie, died 10 years ago.

"When I was about 3 years old, my mom was diagnosed with cancer. And then she was able to overcome it. And she was in remission for about eight years. And then after that she got diagnosed again. I was 11 when she passed away. And that was a really tough time for me because I was kind of right at the point where I was getting ready to start kind of growing into myself."

Her dad saw her through the teenage years, going on YouTube to learn about her favorite hair style. He played guitar most of his life and shared his love of bands like Black Sabbath, Led Zeppelin, and the Beatles.

Christensen sang and danced and when she started high school, and earned a spot with the Los Alamitos High School show choir. She joined the group for performances at Lincoln Center and the Grand Ole Opry.


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But all that changed at when she met Maha Afra, the chair of Cypress College's dance department. Christensen said Afra showed her that dance was her true calling.

"She was born in Lebanon.... she gave us the opportunity to learn more cultural styles that I personally had never really been able to experience ...one of those favorites was Middle Eastern, and that was her culture."

Christensen said it's been hard to be away from the dance studios on the Orange County campus, her teachers and fellow students as she was set to graduate.

Cypress College dance major Kylie Christensen (left) with dance professor Maha Afra. (Courtesy Kylie Christensen)

"It really saddens me that I didn't really get to spend the last couple months with all of my classmates. Because being in dance classes, you get really close with people because dance can be very vulnerable sometimes."

The upside, she said, is that she's learned to create videos of herself dancing and for the classes she teaches off-campus.

When it came time to watch the commencement last Friday, her dad and her boyfriend were with her. The long ceremony made her think of the people who'd helped her along the way.

"Going through this it has made me as well as my peers so much stronger and I think it's helped us be a little bit more equipped for our future ahead of us."

Christensen plans to earn her bachelor's and masters' degrees in dance and open her own dance studio.