Celebrating Krystyna Jurkowski Hilding’s Retirement

The Lawrence Arts Center would like to extend its sincerest thank you to Krystyna Jurkowski Hilding, who has given her time and talent to our School of Dance since 2015.

Cynthia Crews, Artistic Director of Lawrence Ballet Theatre, said that she greatly admired Hilding’s professional career as a dancer with Joffrey Ballet, but she has been equally impressed with Hilding as an amazing teacher and choreographer.

“Miss Krystyna taught dancers strong technique and artistic presentation,” Crews said. “All the dancers who studied with Miss Krystyna became a better dancer and artist. She choreographed many delightful works for Lawrence Ballet Theater, taking time to shape the whole dancer giving freely of her knowledge and heart in every rehearsal. She kindled passion for ballet but also taught dancers the work ethic and mindset needed to succeed. I will truly miss working with her, learning from her, and being inspired by her at the Lawrence Arts Center.”

Like many young dancers, Hilding began her career at a local school of dance. As she bids adieu to the Arts Center, Hilding shared some history and highlights from her career.

She began dancing at the New Jersey School of Ballet when she was 6 years old. Although the program only accepted students that were 7 years or older, Hilding demonstrated such interest and disappointment at being told she was not old enough that she was given a trial and accepted into the program. Her love of dance was inspired by an excerpt from Swan Lake that Hilding had seen on the Ed Sullivan Show. Upon seeing the dance, Hilding immediately told her mother that she wanted to be the “one in the front.” Her mother explained that she had to start in the back and work her way up.

At the New Jersey School of Ballet, Hilding’s first instructors included Carolyn Clark (American Ballet Theatre, Met Opera Ballet), who was the owner and principal teacher at the school; internationally known jazz dancer and teacher Matt Mattox (Caleb in Seven Brides for Seven Brothers, among other films and shows); and former American Ballet Theatre dancers Joseph Carow and George Tomal.

Hilding danced with the Joffrey Ballet for 10 years, performing in works by Jerome Robbins, Twyla Tharp, Frederic Ashton, Robert Joffrey and Gerald Arpino among others. As a student, she received a Ford Foundation Scholarship to study at New York City Ballet’s School of American Ballet. She also performed as a guest artist with Edward Villella’s touring company and as a leading dancer with the New Jersey Ballet. As a performer, she toured internationally, appeared in the acclaimed PBS series Dance in America, and in a TV special featuring Diana Ross. She danced at the Kennedy Center Performance of American Arts for President Jimmy Carter and Vice Premier of China Deng Xiaoping.

After leaving Joffrey, Hilding and her husband, Jerel, moved to Lawrence, where both taught ballet at the University of Kansas. Hilding said her favorite part of teaching at the Arts Center has been enjoying the students’ love for ballet.

If you or your dancer would like to send any congratulations on retirement and well wishes to Krystyna Hilding, please send a note to her email, kswan1554@gmail.com.