A Star Retires.
Before his run as a highly celebrated member of the Alberta Ballet, Kelley McKinlay graced the runway at Bridal Fantasy. He was only four years old in his first performance with us, both dancing and modelling. The team at Bridal Fantasy has also had a long-time love affair with Kelley and his family. His parents, Rick and Pat McKinlay, and family have been working behind the scenes for 25 years, from modelling, dancing, choreography, photoshoots, and more.
McKinlay started his career with the Alberta Ballet at 17 years old and was immediately cast in principle roles and continued to be a leading performer for the past 20 years. After taking time away from ballet during the COVID-19 pandemic, Kelley realized that due to the demands of his career, he wasn’t able to spend the amount of time with his family that he wanted. The talent will take his final bow in the company’s production of Cinderella. While he may be retiring this year, the legacy of this highly popular performer will not soon be forgotten.
Reilley McKinlay, Kelly’s wife, is an equally accomplished dancer. Starting in 2008, she rose quickly through the ranks to become a First Soloist. Reilley made her exit from the stage this year after the world premiere of Phi, Jean Grand-Maître’s ballet inspired by the music of David Bowie. Bridal Fantasy founder and editor-in-chief, Gay Derk, was fortunate enough to attend the March 31st performance and raved about the spectacular grace of the couple who performed alongside one another in the show. Reilley will be continuing her journey with Alberta Ballet as Artistic Coordinator.
Jean Grand-Maître’s took five years to assemble the Bowie-inspired ballet, calling it a reference to the mathematical “golden section” which embodies the perfect ratio found through all aspects of life, a reminder of the human need to have contact with the vibrant community aesthetics we seek out in nature.
In addition to their work on stage, Bridal Fantasy has been following the two’s love story for years. In their Real Weddings Interview from 2011, Reilly shared how the couple went from coworkers to lovers:
“Kelley and I first met when I moved to Calgary and started dancing with Alberta Ballet in 2008. He was the hottie in the company that was well established in the city and I was the newbie who didn’t even notice him on the first day. After being partnered together in the Waltz of the Flowers in ‘The Nutcracker’, we became friends. Soon after that we realized we enjoyed much more about each other than just dancing together. Through the next coming months the classic sharing of music and oh, come listen to this song happened. Finally on a snowy company bus trip up for the Edmonton shows of Nutcracker he came and sat in the seat next to me and we listened to ‘this new song’ he found, Ingrid Michaelson’s ‘You & I’. After that trip we went on our first ‘date’, which was downtown to buy him a pair of jeans. Then we stopped in the food court (I don’t think we have eaten in a food court since…) and shared a cinnamon bun.”
The two also shared their engagement story with Bridal Fantasy:
“We were together for five and a half years when one unassuming Sunday in August we went to take our dog out for an afternoon walk, and it turned out it wasn’t just the usual weekend walk. As I was changing into shorts and a T-shirt, I noticed that Kelley was in pants, T-shirt, and a jacket. I asked out loud if I should change, as his outfit make me worry I would be cold. He assured me I would be fine. I should have picked up that something was up, but I was oblivious. As we were nearing the dog park, I was on the phone with my friend in Australia when Kelley and our dog Mildred ran on ahead with the Frisbee. I didn’t think anything of it until I saw him reach down and put something on Mildred’s collar. At that moment everything fell into place… like why he was wearing a coat, and why he insisted that instead of me bringing a bag he would just carry everything in his pockets. I think at that point I knew what was happening. I quickly hung up and simply set my phone down in the grass (lol) as Mildred came running towards me. When she got close enough, I saw that he had attached a handmade sign to her collar that said ‘Will you marry him?’ Behind her he got down on one knee… Six and a half years later we are still sharing seats on the company bus rides and now we are married!”
Since this interview, the couple have had two children, Jules and Remy, and have shared many spectacular on-stage moments. Beautiful dancers and beautiful people, we are wishing all the best to Kelley and Reilley as they pursue new ventures.
We would also like to extend a heartfelt thank you to Jean Grand-Maitre, Artistic Director of Alberta Ballet. He was instrumental in facilitating the use of costumes from the Elton John inspired ballet, Love Lies Bleeding, in Bridal Fantasy’s 2011 magazine cover. Grand-Maitre is retiring this year as well but will stay on as Artist-in-Residence for the 2022/23 season.
Photos by Curtis Comeau