Profile: April Berry

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Last summer, Kansas City Ballet welcomed a new Community Engagement and Education Manager, April Berry. Ms. Berry comes from an impressive background in dance, as well as dance education.

We sat down with her recently to learn more about her and what makes her tick.

How have you enjoyed KC so far?  I am really enjoying living and working in Kansas City! The people, the food, and the vibrant arts scene are amazing.

What has surprised you the most? I am most surprised by how much downtown Kansas City has evolved over the last several years.

Tell me a little about your career and how you transitioned into community education. Most people are surprised to know that I began my professional dance career as a ballerina. Because I started there and ended my performing career in a modern dance company, the Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater, I have had incredibly diverse experiences as a dancer, dancing very diverse repertoire from classical ballet and modern dance to cutting edge contemporary work. I naturally gravitated towards dance education after retiring from the stage because I had such wonderful dance teachers and mentors who not only “trained” me to dance, but also “educated” me on the history of dance, various dance forms and styles, and made me aware of different choreographers and companies around the world.

What is the role of Community Education for a ballet company? I believe Community Education should illuminate, inspire, and engage a broader public in the art form dance, and specifically to provide opportunities for the general public to learn more about the world of ballet.

What do you enjoy most about doing what you do?  I enjoy most about my work the opportunity to meet people of different ages that are from different walks of life,  and to see everyone from students to senior adults light up when they discover something about dance that they were not previously aware of.

What do you find challenging? Most challenging is finding like-minded individuals who are willing and committed to working in different community settings for consistent periods of time, in order to bring dance to the people.

Who inspired you to dance, to teach? Keith Lee, one of my early ballet teachers, who was a former dancer with American Ballet Theatre, and former Balanchine ballerina Tanaquil LeClerc, another influential ballet teacher I had, both inspired me to dance.

Alvin Ailey and Dr. Katherine Dunham, whom I worked extensively with during my dance career,  inspired me to give back by teaching.

What is the most important thing you want to share with the community? Well I would like children to know that they can generally achieve anything they desire with hard work, dedication, and a willingness to be flexible and open to learning new things and meeting new people.

A broader community message would be to encourage people to make sure and seek out arts organizations and programs that are offered in your community. Attend a dance performance, educational lecture, class, or bring a dance program to your school, library, or workplace for others to experience. Expose school children to educational performances at the theater, informative lecture demonstrations that come into schools, and other programs that are offered at community venues that encourage on-going learning through the arts.

What is your favorite inspirational quote or personal mantra? One of my favorite quotes came from Alvin Ailey: Dance came from the people and should always be brought back to the people.

How do you set goals and measure success for yourself and for your programs? Wow, well I usually look at what is missing and/or needed to strengthen programming and then set my sights on doing something about that. I measure the success of a program by measuring the impact the program has had on those who have been exposed to it, and on how many people express interest in engaging in the program.

What do you hope people take away from your programs? I hope that people take away new information from my programs, and are truly inspired and excited to engage in dance and with the ballet in different ways.

 

Photography: Brett Pruitt & East Market Studios

Guild Event Recap: 2016 Nutcracker Luncheon

Ballet Guild Nutcracker Luncheon Menu. Photographer: Larry F. Levenson

On Dec. 13, 2016 the Kansas City Ballet Guild held their festive annual Nutcracker Luncheon at the Carriage Club to celebrate the holiday season. As is the tradition, Nutcrackers served as festive centerpieces and, along with a variety of ornaments, were available for sale to attendees. This year’s luncheon was coordinated by Susannah Sotos. Ballet Guild membership is open to anyone with a love of dance and a desire to promote and support the Kansas City Ballet.

Sunday Siragusa, Wendy Melland, Felicia Bondi, and Pauline Henne. Photographer: Larry F. Levenson
Sunday Siragusa, Wendy Melland, Felicia Bondi, and Pauline Henne. Photographer: Larry F. Levenson
Judy King. Photographer: Larry F. Levenson
Judy King. Photographer: Larry F. Levenson
Gail Van Way, Vicki Baxter, and Michelle Fasel. Photographer: Larry F. Levenson
Gail Van Way, Vicki Baxter, and Michelle Fasel. Photographer: Larry F. Levenson
John Walker, Angela Walker, and Mark Sappington. Photographer: Larry F. Levenson
John Walker, Angela Walker, and Ballet Guild President Mark Sappington. Photographer: Larry F. Levenson
Jennifer Wampler and Siobhan McLaughlin Lesley. Photographer: Larry F. Levenson
Jennifer Wampler and Siobhan McLaughlin Lesley. Photographer: Larry F. Levenson
Julia Steinberg, Craig Sole, Sunday Siragusa, Judy King, and Joyce Middendorf. Photographer: Larry F. Levenson
Julia Steinberg, Craig Sole, Sunday Siragusa, Judy King, and Joyce Middendorf. Photographer: Larry F. Levenson
Tess Merriman, Margaux Merriman, Lauren Merriman, and Mattie Merriman. Photographer: Larry F. Levenson
Tess Merriman, Margaux Merriman, Lauren Merriman, and Mattie Merriman. Photographer: Larry F. Levenson

Donor Spotlight: Annedore’s Fine Chocolates

Chocolate Nutcracker from Annedores Fine Chocolates

Recently voted “Kansas City’s Best Chocolate Shop” by Pitch magazine; Annedore’s Fine Chocolates has been a treat to Kansas Citians for 25 years!

It was nine years ago, when Sheri Weedman bought Annedore’s Fine Chocolates. Then, in 2014, she moved her flagship chocolate shop to the corner of 50th and State Line Road in Westwood Hills. The chocolates are made on-site using the finest ingredients. Annedore’s is known for its decadent European style truffles, chocolate “Plaza Lights” light bulbs, unique chocolate gifts for weddings and special events, and customized corporate gifts.

Annedore’s has proven to be a wonderful partner to Kansas City Ballet. Sheri has worked with the Ballet to create custom chocolates to highlight certain events like the annual Sugar Plum Fairy Children’s Ball and more. Several years ago she ordered a custom mold with the Kansas City Ballet logo to create delicious gifts for subscribers who renew their season tickets. And, especially in December, who could forget the delightful chocolate nutcrackers that provide precious thanks to donors? Sheri also donates many of these specially-designed chocolates. This year she added complimentary chocolate ballet slippers as a gift for visitor’s to the ballet’s booth at the Plaza Art Fair.

“I love watching our guests eyes light up when they see how Annedore’s chocolates capture the essence of our events,” says Kansas City Ballet Events Manager Rene Horne. “This year’s theme for the Sugar Plum Fairy Children’s Ball was snow, so a delicate white chocolate snowflake adorned each place setting. And in the fall we had gorgeous chocolate leaves for our season kick-off party for A Midsummer Night’s Dream. Sheri just gets it! She’s amazingly creative and so incredibly generous.”

One thing is certain, Kansas City Ballet values Sheri and her significant generosity through the years.

Souvenir Photos at “The Nutcracker”

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Attend any performance of Kansas City Ballet’s The Nutcracker and you will find a photo station on the west side of Brandmeyer Hall in full swing. This tradition dates back more than a decade when the photos were Polaroids and the photographers were parents of kids in the cast.

Nowadays the professional photographers have elaborate sets with lighting rigs and credit card machines, but the goal is the same: capture treasured holiday memories.

Proceeds from these photos benefit Kansas City Ballet School and its mission to provide excellent dance training to students of all ages.

Photos begin one hour prior to the performance with pre-performance photos taken with cast members dancing the role of “Angels”. At intermission, family photos (without a dancer) can be arranged. And immediately after the show, “Clara” is available for just a few minutes for lucky lads and lasses to get their picture taken. Photos are printed on site, so attendees can take them home right away.

If you’re planning to attend a performance, please don’t miss this opportunity!

Sugar Plum Fairy Children’s Ball 2016

2016 Sugar Plum Fairy Children's Ball attendee Grace Dubill

2016 Sugar Plum Fairy Children’s Ball attendee Grace Dubill

The 22nd Annual Sugar Plum Fairy Children’s Ball, sponsored by Merrill Lynch and hosted by chair Mrs. Shelley Zucht, on December 3rd transformed the Muehlebach Tower of the Kansas City Marriott Downtown into a magical snow forest. Guests enjoyed the Kansas City Youth Ballet performance, as well as holiday carols sung by Ginger Frost High School Honors Artists from the Lyric Opera. It was indeed all about the twinkle and sparkle of the holidays as guests were treated with incredible magicians, jugglers, beautiful face painting, photos with the Sugar Plum Fairy and shopping at the Nutcracker market. At the end of the feast, everyone was whisked away to the matinee performance of The Nutcracker presented by Kansas City Ballet and sponsored by Bank of America. It was a wonderful way to celebrate the start of the holiday season.

2016 Sugar Plum Fairy Children's Ball Chair Shelley Zucht and husband Cord Zucht
2016 Sugar Plum Fairy Children’s Ball Chair Shelley Zucht and husband Cord Zucht
Megan Bubb Cribb and daughter, Rosie, with Artistic Director Devon Carney and Pamela Carney
Megan Bubb Cribb and daughter, Ellie, with Artistic Director Devon Carney and Pamela Carney
2016 Sugar Plum Fairy Children's Ball Attendees: Romy Boyile, Harper and Hadley Hunt, Gemma Boyile
2016 Sugar Plum Fairy Children’s Ball Attendees: Romy Boyile, Harper and Hadley Hunt, Gemma Boyile
Enjoying pre-lunch refreshment: Johanna Smith, Esme Taghizadeh, Isabella Taghizadeh, Sophia Taghizadeh, with Sarah Smith (left), and Lylia and Sascha Taghizadeh
Enjoying pre-lunch refreshment: Johanna Smith, Esme Taghizadeh, Isabella Taghizadeh, Sophia Taghizadeh, with Sarah Smith (left), and Lylia and Sascha Taghizadeh
Clara Buckner getting her face painted by Sister Act Face Painting at the 2016 Sugar Plum Fairy Children's Ball
Clara Buckner getting her face painted by Sister Act Face Painting at the 2016 Sugar Plum Fairy Children’s Ball
Tablescape from the 2016 Sugar Plum Fairy Children's Ball
Tablescape from the 2016 Sugar Plum Fairy Children’s Ball

Photography by Rob Smith

Artistic Profile: Ballet Master Kristi Capps

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A native of Charlotte, North Carolina, Kansas City Ballet’s Ballet Master Kristi Capps’ ballet training includes the School of American Ballet, Harid Conservatory and the University of North Carolina School of the Arts. While at UNCSA, she was chosen to study and perform with the Hungarian State Ballet School in Budapest, Hungary. Upon her graduation, Kristi was a member of the Atlanta Ballet for three seasons and then joined Cincinnati Ballet. In 2013, Kristi Capps accepted a new career path with Kansas City Ballet’s artistic staff as ballet master.

Tell us a little about your career and how you transitioned from dancer to teacher to ballet master.
I formally was a Principal dancer with Cincinnati Ballet where I danced for 15 seasons. Devon Carney was the ballet master and then the associate artistic director with the company while I was there, so I was fortunate to work closely with him. I had retired and was living in Denver, teaching ballet and going to school towards a degree in evolutionary biology. Devon asked me if I would like to come to KC to be the ballet master in residence for the company’s production of Dracula. Then we spoke about the possibility of me joining the following season as one of the ballet masters.

What did/do you enjoy about each role you’ve had (dancer/teacher/ballet master)?
As a dancer I always loved figuring out the puzzle—meaning why a particular step or combination of steps were or were not working. I also extremely loved performing and becoming a different role or person. Music always drove me, and I enjoyed playing with the music and tempos as a dancer.

As a teacher and ballet master again, it’s figuring out the puzzle and helping to assist a dancer in finding what works for them best. It’s also so fun watching a dancer take on a role and allowing it to become theirs.

What do you find challenging?
Honestly there’s quite a few challenges with being a ballet master. One is that I am literally with the dancers every day of their season and some days it can be the exact same dancers every hour of that day. Dancers are so incredibly hard working and passionate about what they do and in any single moment, everyone is important. Where it can become challenging is when you have a room full of very important people it becomes hard to keep everyone happy and inspired in the way they need. I’m learning that it is such a balance. Some dancers learn slower than others, some count, some don’t count, some are super specific, some less, some are sore from the hour before, some had the hour before off. In any rehearsal hour, everyone is in a different place in their day physically, so to keep the rehearsal productive you need to read the room and every dancer in it.

Who inspired you to dance, to teach?
The Nutcracker inspired me to dance! In particular Gelsey Kirkland and Mikhail Baryshinikov. As far as teaching, I never aspired to be one actually. It kind of just happened early in my career as a dancer and I enjoyed it. I also always felt that I had so many wonderful teachers and coaches along way like Melissa Hayden, Patricia McBride, and Violette Verdy that how could I not share what I learned from them with others?

What did you find exciting about the opportunity to come to KCB?
Of course working with Devon again was the biggest draw. He’s always been a mentor to me and still is. I was also super impressed with the talent of the dancers and how incredibly supportive and organized the company was.

What has surprised you most about the city/company since you arrived in 2013?
The biggest surprise is probably the support from the community that the ballet has received and is continuing to receive more and more. It has been wonderful being a part of successful productions such as Dracula, The Three Musketeers, Swan Lake, and now, most recently, A Midsummer Night’s Dream. Hearing the audiences and seeing our full houses at the theater for performances is so inspiring and exciting.

What drives you?
I’ve always been a driven person but the first thing I think of now is my son. I think most dancers naturally are driven. You just have to be. But, now I’m probably driven to show him (my son) that hard work is important, to inspire him to be anything he wants to be, and to try to help make the world he is growing up in a better place.

Do you have a favorite inspirational quote or personal mantra? If so, what is it and why?
One of my favorite quotes is: “What would you attempt to do if you knew you could not fail?”

My personal Mantra is: “Lokah Samastah Sukino Bhavantu”. It’s Sanskit for: “May all beings be happy and free and may the thoughts, words, and actions of my own life contribute in some way to that happiness and to that freedom for all.”

I have both in my office at KCB.

What have been some of your favorite projects to work on since you got here?
Being a part of the creative processes of our new Nutcracker and Swan Lake have been great. Devon is so creative with patterns and musicality that it is fun to watch what he comes up with. Also working with the dancers on Helen Pickett’s Petal last spring was wonderful. Seeing them blossom and grow (no pun intended) as dancers and people throughout the process was inspiring.

What excites you most about this season?
Everything really! I’m excited for our second year of Devon’s new Nutcracker. I can’t wait to see our beautiful women conquer The Sleeping Beauty but probably most of all would be watching the company perform Theme and Variations. It’s probably one of my all-time favorite ballets.

To read more about Kristi, check out her bio.

Photography: Brett Pruitt & East Market Studios

Top 5 Ways “The Nutcracker” Helps Celebrate the Holidays

Sometimes it doesn’t feel like the holidays until simple traditions have begun. Below, find six ways watching The Nutcracker can help you celebrate the season.

#1: Unleash your holiday spirit. Let it soar!

Guest Character Artist Ryan Jolicoeur-Nye and Natalia DaSilva as Clara. Photography by Brett Pruitt & East Market Studios.
Guest Character Artist Ryan Jolicoeur-Nye and Natalia DaSilva as Clara. Photography by Brett Pruitt & East Market Studios.

#2: Dreaming of a White Christmas? Let is snow. Let it snow. Let it snow.

KCB Dancers. Photography by Brett Pruitt & East Market Studios.
KCB Dancers. Photography by Brett Pruitt & East Market Studios.

#3: Savor a little Spanish Hot Chocolate to warm you up.

Kaleena Burks, Elysa Hotchkiss, Gustavo Ribeiro, Lamin Pereira dos Santos. Photography by Brett Pruitt & East Market Studios.
Kaleena Burks, Elysa Hotchkiss, Gustavo Ribeiro, Lamin Pereira dos Santos. Photography by Brett Pruitt & East Market Studios.

#4: Feast your eyes on this festive “pick me up”.

KCB Dancers Angelina Sansone, Thom Panto, and Cameron Thomas. Photography by Brett Pruitt & East Market Studios.
KCB Dancers Angelina Sansone, Thom Panto, and Cameron Thomas. Photography by Brett Pruitt & East Market Studios.

#5: And finally,  embark on Holiday travel without the lines!

KCB Company and School Dancers. Photography by Brett Pruitt & East Market Studios.
KCB Company and School Dancers. Photography by Brett Pruitt & East Market Studios.

Click for more info about The Nutcracker, the cast, the design team, or read the synopsis.

The Nutcracker is presented by Bank of America.

Event Recap: Second Company Performs at Leedy Voulkos Art Center

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On Wednesday, Nov. 16, Kansas City Ballet’s Second Company performed for more than 100 guests as part of an event to cultivate new donors at the Leedy Voulkus Art Center. Artist Debbie Barrett-Jones had incredible textile works displayed on the walls of the gallery and enjoyed seeing the performers dance almost as part of her largest paneled creation.

“Being able to work with Debbie was inspirational,” said Second Company Manager Anthony Krutzkamp. “The second company met her emotional work head on and embraced it. I believe they found a deeper appreciation for performance quality that night. I’m truly happy they were given this chance.”

To learn more about the Second Company, click here. To learn more about making a donation to Kansas City Ballet, please click here.

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Kansas City Ballet Artistic Director Devon Carney with Artist Debbie Barrett-Jones

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Second Company Manger Anthony Krutzkamp

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Kansas City Ballet Executive Director Jeffrey J. Bentley and 2016 Ballet Bash Honorary Chairman Nancy Lee Kemper

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Nikolas Gaifullin, Scout Inghilterra and Members of the Second Company perform

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Second Company Dancer Scout Inghilterra

Photography: Larry F. Levenson

 

One More Day! The Nutcracker Opens Tomorrow!

Kansas City Ballet’s The Nutcracker opens tomorrow, Dec. 3 at the Kauffman Center for the Performing Arts. It’s time to make this your favorite holiday tradition. Shows run through Christmas Eve.

KCB Dancers in The Nutcracker (2016). Photography: Brett Pruitt & East Market Studios.
KC Ballet Dancers in The Nutcracker (2016). Photography: Brett Pruitt & East Market Studios.

KCB Dancers: Angelina Sansone and Thom Panto dancing the roles of Snow King and Queen in The Nutcracker (2016). Photography: Brett Pruitt & East Market Studios.

KC Ballet Dancers: Angelina Sansone and Thom Panto dancing the roles of Snow King and Queen in The Nutcracker (2016). Photography: Brett Pruitt & East Market Studios.

KCB Dancers: Amaya Rodriguez and Liang Fu dancing the roles of Sugar Plum Fairy and Cavalier in The Nutcracker (2016). Photography: Brett Pruitt & East Market Studios.
KC Ballet Dancers: Amaya Rodriguez and Liang Fu dancing the roles of Sugar Plum Fairy and Cavalier in The Nutcracker (2016). Photography: Brett Pruitt & East Market Studios.