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Department Of Dance

A BYU Dancer’s Fall from Grace and Her Triumphant Climb Back to the Top

BYU Dance alum Kaley Jensen was on cloud nine with the many accomplishments and successes coming her way, until one day it all came to a crashing halt

It has been six years since Kaley Jensen, then Kaley Johnson, closed the chapter on her BYU experience. Graduating with a BFA in dance, Jensen went on to have an incredible career—although not without its unexpected trials and hardships. After dedicating all four years of her undergrad education to BYU’s Theatre Ballet company, Jensen followed up by cementing her status as a dancer by performing with San Francisco Conservatory of Dance, Ballet North Texas, Bruce Wood Dance, and Ballet Dallas.

A Bump in the Road It was June of 2016. Jensen was a newlywed of only three weeks, was attending University of Arizona for her Masters and had been accepted into the San Francisco Conservatory of Dance set to start the next month. The BYU grad was thriving. She could not have anticipated how her life would take a mighty turn. Jensen was driving with her husband from New Mexico to California on their way to a friend's wedding. Jensen fell asleep as her husband drove. It was on a dark unlit highway that the couple was hit head on by a drunk driver who didn’t have their headlights on. Her husband suffered minor injuries while Jensen’s injury resulted in a broken back. In hindsight, Jensen says, “There were a lot of miracles, it just could have been so much worse.”

On the Mend Jensen was in a brace 24/7 and could only bend at the waist. She required the help of her mother-in-law to do basic household tasks, like getting dressed. When she started doing pilates based physical therapy, she was finally able to push herself and see results. “I remember my physical therapist saying ‘You have to approach dance like you're eight years old again, learning the basics,’” quoted Jensen. By February of 2017, less than a year later, miraculously Jensen was able to perform again. “My teachers said, ‘Kaley, you’re strong. We're gonna put you in.’ So I was able to perform this beautiful piece that meant so much to me and that was really special.” Although Jensen was able to dance and perform again, throughout her recovery she questioned if pursuing an education in dance and choreography was really what she was meant to do. “I could have just stopped, but in me I realized I couldn't. I had to do whatever it was going to take to get back. I was like, ‘This is who I am and I'm going to do it,’” she said. Jensen said she certainly had ‘why me?’ moments, but it was in those months of downtime, recovery and reflection that lit a fire of appreciation within her. “It was a hard summer. I should have been at this internship in California, dancing, but instead I was just sitting in an apartment,” she said. “I really just tried to focus on the 'What am I to learn from this?’ because what happened, happened.” Jensen said she knew if she just pushed through, she would be able to make it back. Mindset to Movement Making a full recovery, Jensen was able to go back to dancing, but she wanted to do more than that. She wanted a way to give back. During the pandemic-fuelled quarantine summer of 2020, Jensen got an idea.

“I love dancing, I love teaching, I love coaching. And when quarantine hit and I wasn't able to go drive and teach and everything became virtual, I saw this opportunity to build an app. I thought, that way I can reach more people and be able to still coach,” she said. Building a virtual coaching program allowed Jensen the freedom to keep doing what she loves while creating something of her own. The first virtual program launched spring 2020 and since she has rolled out more classes with about 10-12 participants per class. Jensen likes to keep her classes small so that she can have individual relationships with all her students. After receiving her bachelors, MFA and pilates certification, Jensen felt she had valuable information to share and wanted a way to share her knowledge without requiring a formal education. Creating an online program allows her to teach about the body, movement and dance while providing the opportunity to connect with dancers and movers from all across the nation and even abroad. Jensen’s “Mind to Movement” programs teach body movement, pilates, dance and even nutrition, thanks to the help of a nutritionist Jensen has partnered with. Jensen lights up when talking about her program and her life post accident. She strives to bring her love, drive and passion for dance, her dancers and her program everyday to the “office.”