KC Dance Day 2012

Last Saturday we held our 2nd annual KC Dance Day here at Kansas City Ballet’s home—the Bolender Center. It was a huge success; over 1,000 people attended throughout the day watching free performances and taking free classes. More than 500 people of all ages filled studios taking classes from Creative Movement for kids to African Dance and much more.

Here are a few photos from the day, courtesy of Brett Pruitt & East Market Studios.

View other photos from KC Dance Day on The Star’s website.

Thank you to all who enjoyed the day with us. Watch our KC Dance Day video recap of all the great performances and classes!

[youtube=http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=R_J0O76g1m0&feature=g-upl]

Dancer Spotlight: Geoffrey Kropp

Starting today, each Tuesday will have a post featuring one or more of our company dancers. We are excited to have them involved in this process and we hope you enjoy learning more about them! Our first dancer post features Geoffrey Kropp, who has just started his 8th season with Kansas City Ballet.

Q: How did you spend your summer break?

A: The first month and a half I hung out in Kansas City and tried to unwind after the season. Then I went home and visited family. I was involved in a program called the National Choreographers Initiative in southern California. They hire up-and-coming choreographers and a handful of dancers. Nadia [Iozzo] and Molly [Wagner] were also there. For three weeks the choreographers can create whatever they want. At the end, there’s a little showing. They have dancers from all over the country. It’s cool getting to work with different people.

I also went up to Seattle and spent time with my family. The past five years, my brothers and my dad and I have gone on a camping trip. We went to North Cascades National Park, three hours north of Seattle. Small mountains…not big mountains…I don’t do that.

Q: Company dancers are on a contract. Could you explain how that works?

Our season is similar to a sports season, so we have the ‘on season’ and the ‘off season.’ We take class every morning at 9:30 a.m. and we work until 6 p.m. Our contracts run from August through May. We’re off in the summer.

Q: When did you start dancing and how did you get involved?

I started ballet when I was seven. My parents told me that I was always dancing and always wanted to dance. When I was in preschool, I apparently would put pennies in my socks and tap dance around the kitchen. My mom really likes to tell that story. I took tap for a year, and then we moved. They signed me up for ballet and that was it. I fell in love.

Q: When did you realize you wanted to become a professional dancer?

I started going to summer programs when I was 12. So, every summer I’d go to a different ballet school, San Francisco or Boston. That’s when I really got introduced to what full-time dance would be like, and I got to see other companies and I knew that’s what I wanted to do.

Q: What are you most looking forward to in this upcoming season?

We have 10 new dancers, so I’m excited to get to know and dance with 10 new people.

Q: What has been your proudest moment of your dance career?

Probably dancing the role of Albrecht in “Giselle” two seasons ago. Kimberly Cowen was my partner. It’s one of those ballets where you finish and you really feel like you did something. You feel like you traveled to this different place.

Q: What is one thing you do (besides dancing/practicing) to stay in shape?

I do go to the gym. I’ll run on the elliptical and do some weight training. I also try to get down to the Pilates gym.

Q: What advice would you give a young dancer with the aspiration of becoming a professional dancer?

It’s definitely something you have to really work hard at; always. You just have to be present and pay attention in class and try to work on things on your own.

Spotlight on Education: ROAD

Providing accessible and creative outreach programs is a priority at Kansas City Ballet.  Last year, almost 15,000 adults and children participated in one of a dozen different programs.  Reach Out And Dance (ROAD) is a mainstay of our outreach activities. In the 13 years since ROAD began, almost 9,000 children have participated. ROAD brings dance directly into public elementary schools to introduce children to the fundamentals of movement. One academic year of ROAD consists of 24 weeks during which an instructor and a music accompanist have one-hour weekly sessions with fourth grade classes.

“The reason ROAD makes me want to go to school is because it gives me a chance to be a star.” (4th grade student, Kansas City, MO) 

Students of all abilities participate in ROAD; there are no auditions or qualifications for participation. Each year, ROAD programs culminate in a ROAD Rally demonstration performance for parents, students, and the public. These energetic rallies build excitement for next year’s participants while allowing the current ROAD participants to showcase what they’ve learned throughout the year.

…I saw first hand one of our very ‘challenging’ students participate and enjoy himself despite his normal ‘too cool’ mannerism.  His gang affiliation was forgotten when he participated in ROAD.” (School principal, Kansas City, KS)

Merriam Park Elementary School fourth graders celebrate the end of the year with their ROAD Rally.

Kansas Cit Ballet’s ROAD program closely coordinates music and lesson contents with the teachers and school staff in order to support the Missouri, Kansas and National Education Standards. The ROAD staff and the school form a partnership that strives to fulfill common needs and goals. The program involves diverse groups of children in dance who would not normally have the opportunity for involvement. ROAD also supports the school’s curriculum by instilling in children self-discipline, concentration and a desire to achieve qualities that carry over into academic work. Through this active involvement, the dance experience requires students to apply themselves to a task that involves both mental and physical challenges.

This dance experience actively involves students and requires their application to a task that involves both mental and physical challenges. ROAD provides opportunities to develop student creativity through games and exercises that encourage inventive personal imagination. Participation in ROAD requires no special clothing, shoes or equipment. The program enhances memorization skills, since the students are required to remember choreography and expand upon it during subsequent sessions. The children gain valuable experiences in teamwork, as they work as a group to achieve cohesiveness in their weekly classes. They are constantly challenged to both support and critique one another as they work in small groups. At the close of the period, the entire grade level is combined to give a public exhibition of their work.

Linda Martin, KCB’s Director of Community Programs says, “The goal for KCB’s outreach programs is to awaken the students’ awareness of their potential and to help them discover the arts in our community and beyond.”

To learn more about ROAD and  other KCB education programs, please contact Linda Martin at 816.931.2232 x1315 or lmartin@kcballet.org.

Happy One-Year Anniversary!

It’s been one year since we moved into our brand new home – the Todd Bolender Center for Dance & Creativity! Our company dancers have just returned and we’re gearing up for our second season in the magnificent Kauffman Center for the Performing Arts. As you can imagine, it’s an exciting time around here!

Over the past year, we’ve had thousands of our friends and neighbors from near and far visit our Bolender Center. Not surprisingly, other dancers and especially architecture students from universities around the area have been enthralled, but we’ve received gobs of compliments from our visitors regardless of their backgrounds. In fact, BNIM, the architecture firm that imagined this creative historic renovation of the Bolender Center and worked with JE Dunn to bring it to life, has won numerous awards for the impressive work. These awards and accolades are truly a testament to the dedication and hard work of so many in making this destination for dance a reality.

Below is the list of awards BNIM has accumulated over the past year:

2012 Capstone Award, Architectural Design, Kansas City Business Journal

2011 Excellence Award for Adaptive Reuse, Historic Kansas City Foundation

2011 Project of the Year, International Concrete Repair Institute – Great Plains Chapter

2011 Historic Restoration, International Concrete Repair Institute – Great Plain Chapter

2011 Preservation Award, AIA Kansas City

KC Dance Day

On Saturday, August 25, Kansas City Ballet will be hosting the 2nd annual KC Dance Day at the Bolender Center. Lasting from 9:30 a.m. to 6:30 p.m., there will be FREE dance classes for kids and adults, along with FREE performances by different local Kansas City groups. These will also include world dance performances ranging from Irish to Serbian dance.

Food trucks will be outside the building for part of the day as well, providing a great snack or meal break in between those dance classes! The day will end with a FREE Open Rehearsal by artists of Kansas City Ballet, followed by a reception where you’ll be able to meet the dancers. The event is FREE, so come on down next Saturday and join us for KC Dance Day!

For a full schedule of events, check out our website.

[youtube=http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=lLDNDOaGEYg]

Teacher Profile: Skyler Taylor

Skyler Taylor is the school registrar here at Kansas City Ballet. Not only does she have an important role in the running of our school, but she teaches multiple classes at both the downtown and Johnson County campuses. One of Skyler’s favorite classes to teach is Creative Movement, which is designed for kids ages 3-5 years old.

Q: How long have you been dancing?

A: I have been dancing for as long as I can remember. My mother inspired me at a very young age to appreciate the gift of dance. I had a lot of personality as a child, and I loved to take class and perform in front of an audience on stage. 

Q: I understand you grew up around the dance studio your mother owned. Could you tell us a little bit about your dance background?

A: I spent most of my childhood dancing at my mother’s studio.  I took as many classes as I could, which allowed me to learn tap, jazz, ballet, and pointe.  I started performing in the community and traveling to take more classes in nearby cities. At the age of 14, I chose to move to Kansas City to increase the intensity of my training at American Dance Center and then at Kansas City Ballet School.  I have wonderful memories from being a Student Apprentice with Kansas City Ballet, receiving my B.F.A in Dance from UMKC, training at the Alvin Ailey School and the Joffrey School in New York, touring with Albany Berkshire Ballet Company in Albany, NY, and dancing with Sarasota Ballet Company in Sarasota, FL.  It has been a great journey!

Q: How long have you been teaching Creative Movement?

A: I have been teaching Creative Movement since I was 15 years old, and it is one of my favorite classes to teach. It allows me to be creative and playful. I love to incorporate nursery rhymes and imagery into my classes. Creative Movement is a child’s first experience with dance, so I want it to be positive and enjoyable. 3-5 year-olds always find a way to make me smile.

Q: Did you take Creative Movement as a child?

A: I sure did! I started dancing and performing at a very young age and I plan on doing it for as long as I can. It has shaped me into the individual that I am today.

Q: What does Creative Movement teach the students? Balance? Discipline?

A: Creative Movement introduces children to music, movement, rhythm, and rhyme.  It develops coordination, confidence, and creativity.

Q: In your opinion why should parents enroll their child in Creative Movement?

A: For many young dancers, this is there first time in a classroom with other students and teachers. It is a great way for children to develop listening skills, learn to follow direction, and interact with other children. It is a big step for 3-year-olds to venture into a classroom on their own, but it gives them great confidence in the end.

Q: What is you favorite moment throughout your time teaching Creative Movement?

A: I have several favorite moments from teaching Creative Movement. Some are humorous and some are heartwarming. I love it when little ones come in timid and shy, and leave smiling and wanting to stay. Every time my little ones perform in front of an audience I am so proud of their accomplishments. It reminds me of how much I love my job!

Fringe Fest

The past few weeks, Kansas City Ballet’s Bolender Center was buzzing with activity in the evenings. The Bolender Center was one of 20 venues that played host to the 8th annual KC Fringe Festival. The festival’s purpose is to showcase emerging artists from around the area.

There were 17,000 people who attended 459 shows around Kansas City. A total of 168 artists were showcased. KCB’s Bolender Center was host to seven different groups as well as the number one attended show from this year’s festival; Burlesque and Beggars.

Check out photos from performances at the Bolender Center below!