Happy Halloween!

While spooky may not be your first thought when you think of ballet, Kansas City Ballet has had its share of creatures of the night… Take a quick trip down memory lane and have yourself a very happy Halloween!

Wicked Fairies

KCB Dancer Danielle Bausinger as evil fairy Carabosse in "The Sleeping Beauty." Photography: Brett Pruitt & East Market Studios.
KCB Dancer Danielle Bausinger evil fairy Carabosse in “The Sleeping Beauty.” Photography: Brett Pruitt & East Market Studios.

Sad Ghost Girls

KCB Dancer Molly Wagner dances the role of "Giselle"—a girl who dies of a broken heart and becomes a ghost. Photography by Steve Wilson.
KCB Dancer Molly Wagner danced the role of “Giselle”—a girl who dies of a broken heart and becomes a ghost. Photography by Steve Wilson.

Skeletons

KCB Dancer Michael Eaton in Yuri Possokhov's "Firebird" in February 2009. Photography by Steve Wilson.
KCB Dancer Michael Eaton leads a band of scary skeletons in Yuri Possokhov’s “Firebird”. Photography by Steve Wilson.

And, of course, Dracula himself.

KCB Dancers Logan Pachciarz and Michael Davis. Pachciarz danced the role of "Dracula" in the ballet by the same name. Photography by Steve Wilson.
KCB Dancers Logan Pachciarz and Michael Davis share some frightful moments in “Dracula.” Pachciarz danced the role of “Dracula”. Photography by Steve Wilson.

Dancer Profile: Humberto Rivera Blanco

Get to know Company Dancer Humberto Rivera Blanco—now dancing his second season with Kansas City Ballet. 

Q: How did you become a dancer? When did you start dancing?

Dancers Molly Wagner and Humberto Rivera Blanco in "The Lottery." Photography: Brett Pruitt & East Market Studios.
Dancers Molly Wagner and Humberto Rivera Blanco in “The Lottery.” Photography: Brett Pruitt & East Market Studios.

A: I was chosen to become a dancer in my school at the age of 9.

Q: What do you enjoy most about KC?

A: I love how beautiful our facilities are here in KC.

Q: Do you have hobbies or special Interests?

A: I am OBSESSED with soccer. My favorite team is Real Madrid.

Q: What is something most people wouldn’t know about you?

A: Most people wouldn’t know that I didn’t know a single word in English when I started at the Kansas City Ballet last season.

 

Event Recap: Diamond Ball Private Dinner

Dinner was served in "Verona" on the stage. Photography by Larry F. Levenson
Dinner was served in “Verona” on the stage. Photography by Larry F. Levenson

The Muriel Kauffman Theatre stage at the Kauffman Center for the Performing Arts was transformed into Romeo and Juliet’s Verona on Tuesday, October 17, 2017 for The Diamond Ball’s Private Dinner. Generous patrons of the 50th Annual Ballet Gala were awed by the décor and ambiance, courtesy of Larry Wheeler and Craig Sole, and enjoyed an exquisite four-course dinner.

Ball Chairman Melanie and Mike Fenske. Photography by Larry F. Levenson
Ball Chairman Melanie and Mike Fenske. Photography by Larry F. Levenson
Honorary Chair Tom Whittaker, Pam and Devon Carney (Artistic Director), Honorary Chair Loren Whittaker. Photography by Larry F. Levenson
Honorary Chair Tom Whittaker, Pam and Devon Carney (Artistic Director), Honorary Chair Loren Whittaker. Photography by Larry F. Levenson
Guild President Gigi Rose and Pirouette Award Winner Elizabeth Hard Simms. Photography by Larry F. Levenson
Guild President Gigi Rose and Pirouette Award Winner Elizabeth Hard Simms. Photography by Larry F. Levenson
David and Amy Embry, Claire and Joe Brand, Nancy Murdock and Executive Director Jeffrey J. Bentley. Photography by Larry F. Levenson
David and Amy Embry, Claire and Joe Brand, Nancy Murdock and Executive Director Jeffrey J. Bentley. Photography by Larry F. Levenson
Gary and Gigi Rose, Ian Spinks and Juliette Singer Spinks, Bill and Jo Anne Dondlinger, Peggy Beal, Jim and Barbara Eiszner. Photography by Larry F. Levenson
Gary and Gigi Rose, Ian Spinks and Juliette Singer Spinks, Bill and Jo Anne Dondlinger, Peggy Beal, Jim and Barbara Eiszner. Photography by Larry F. Levenson

Dancer Profile: Michael Davis

As he begins his ninth season with Kansas City Ballet, Company Dancer Michael Davis opens up about his life as a dancer.

Q: How did you become a dancer? When did you start dancing?

A: I started dancing at the age of 10 at a small dance studio in Goshen, New York—The Marya Kennett Dance Center. I took tap and jazz initially but after the studio owner mentioned to my mother that I could get a scholarship if I did ballet, I was placed into ballet as well. There was no moment when I ‘became’ a dancer, it was more of an evolution through chance and hard work. Anyone can become a dancer if they have passion for it.

Q: What do you enjoy most about being a dancer?

A: The lifestyle is what I enjoy most about being a professional ballet dancer. The day-to-day struggle is real, but the moments when you realize how special your life is, is where the magic lives.

Dancers Michael Davis & Craig Hall perform in "Reflections: A Culmination" by Ian Poulis. Photography by Brett Pruitt & East Market Studios.
Dancers Michael Davis & Craig Hall perform in “Reflections: A Culmination” by Ian Poulis. Photography by Brett Pruitt & East Market Studios.

Q: Do you have hobbies or special Interests?

A: I have many interests outside of ballet. I love horticulture, interior/exterior design, animals, yoga and new age spiritualism, enjoying time with friends and a lot of time is spent at the gym. I am a person who needs to stay busy constantly, so finding other interests is vital. Living and experiencing as many facets of life is important to me.

Q: Do you have a personal mantra or affirmation that you swear by? if so, what is it?

A: Calm Mind. Open Heart. Peaceful Spirit. It has been my mantra for years and I say it often.

 

Kansas City Ballet Reveals New Website Design

New Header Design for Desktop

In response to the growing trend of using mobile devices to browse the web and shop online, Kansas City Ballet recently revealed a new website design with the newest technology especially for viewing on smartphones and tablets.

The year 2017 marks the first in which mobile viewing exceeded desktop visits on the Ballet’s page. In fact, there have been more than 163,000 mobile visits in the last year, compared to 130,000 on desktop computers.

Mobile sales still only account for about 13% of all online sales, but with the increase of mobile users we expect that number to  increase dramatically in the next few years, making it more and more important that the site be easy to navigate to learn about our productions and easily purchase tickets.

INCREASED FEATURES

The new design allows for increased features on the site like using more videos to bring dance to the forefront of the experience, especially when viewed on a desktop. It also does a better job of providing visitors a closer, more enhanced view of the breadth of work the organization does.

“It’s important to keep up with technological trends and we are excited about how these changes will help our patrons have a more enjoyable online experience,” says David Anderson, director of marketing for Kansas City Ballet. “And, there couldn’t be a better time than now to launch a new site as the Ballet celebrates its 60th Anniversary Season.”

A NEW MENU

Menu drop down view on mobile

The new design also helps highlight all of Kansas City Ballet’s programs, especially with improved menu navigations.

Located on the top right-hand side of the page, the enhanced menu highlights all important aspects of the company from upcoming performances and events, company dancer bios, information about Academy and Studio dance classes, community engagement and education offerings, planning your visit to the Kauffman Center from parking to dining, donation information to support the Ballet’s mission and more.

As you scroll down, the page highlights and special announcements are more prominent, along with a live, real-time feed of recent photos and videos.

Live feed as it appears on the site

KANSAS CITY BALLET’S 60-YEAR HISTORY (1957-2017)

And finally, in honor of Kansas City Ballet’s 60 years of dance, there is also a link to a new historical timeline.

“We hope our fans will agree, there is a lot to like about this new site,” says Anderson.

Event Recap: Diamond Ball

2017 Diamond Ball photo by Larry F. Levenson
2017 Diamond Ball photo by Larry F. Levenson

On Saturday, October 7, the much anticipated Diamond Ball, presented by the Kansas City Ballet Guild, kicked off Kansas City Ballet’s 60th anniversary season at the beautiful InterContinental Kansas City At The Plaza. Guests enjoyed a lively cocktail party with delicious cuisine, breathtaking decor by Larry Wheeler Design and Craig Sole Design, crowd-pleasing entertainment by Kokomo, and two Kansas City Ballet mini-performances.

THE CHAIRmen

Honorary Ball Chairmen Tom & Loren Whittaker with Ball Chairmen Michael & Melanie Fenske. Photography by Larry F. Levenson
Honorary Ball Chairmen Tom & Loren Whittaker with Ball Chairmen Michael & Melanie Fenske. Photography by Larry F. Levenson

Melanie and Mike Fenske, senior vice president of the Global Facilities Group at Burns & McDonnell, chaired the event, which drew 450 formally-attired guests and grossed more than $476,000 for Kansas City Ballet. Loren Whittaker, a lecturer at The Kansas City Art Institute, and Tom Whittaker, chief legal officer at J.E. Dunn Construction and past president of Kansas City Ballet’s Board, served as the Honorary Chairmen.

2017 PIROUETTE award WINNER

2017 Pirouette Award is Elizabeth Hard Simms with her husband Michael Simms and KCB Dancer Molly Wagner. Photography by Larry F. Levenson.
2017 Pirouette Award winner, Elizabeth Hard Simms, with her husband Michael Simms and KCB Dancer Molly Wagner. Photography by Larry F. Levenson.

Before guests danced the night away, Guild President Gigi Rose honored Elizabeth Hard Simms (the first Ballet Ball Co-Chairman in 1968) with the 2017 Pirouette Award for her commitment to the performing arts.

PHOTOS OF THE EVENING

KCB Dancers Amanda DeVenuta and James Kirby Rogers performing an excerpt from Devon Carney’s "Romeo & Juliet." Photography by Larry F. Levenson
KCB Dancers Amanda DeVenuta and James Kirby Rogers performing an excerpt from Devon Carney’s “Romeo & Juliet.” Photography by Larry F. Levenson
KCB Guild President Gigi Rose with Bonne Illig. Photography by Larry F. Levenson
KCB Guild President Gigi Rose with Bonne Illig. Photography by Larry F. Levenson
Bryan & Jennifer Wampler, James Jordan, Jack & Barbara Spilker, and Bruce & Vicki Baxter. Photography by Larry F. Levenson
Bryan & Jennifer Wampler, James Jordan, Jack & Barbara Spilker, and Bruce & Vicki Baxter. Photography by Larry F. Levenson
KC Ballet Board President Kathy Stepp with husband Howard Rothwell. Photography by Larry F. Levenson
KC Ballet Board President Kathy Stepp with husband Howard Rothwell. Photography by Larry F. Levenson
Melinda Petet, Susan Sands, Katherine and Jim Schorgl and Greg & Barbara Storm. Photography by Larry F. Levenson
Melinda Petet, Susan Sands, Katherine & Jim Schorgl, and Greg & Barbara Storm. Photography by Larry F. Levenson

Dancer Profile: Molly Wagner

As she begins her sixth season with Kansas City Ballet, Company Dancer Molly Wagner shares her obsession with inspiration and other things she enjoys.

Q: HOW DID YOU BECOME A DANCER? AND WHEN DID YOU START DANCING?

A: I took ballet, jazz and tap growing up while competing in gymnastics, but then in high school I couldn’t imagine doing anything but ballet. I threw all my energy and dreams into it.

Q: Do you have hobbies or special Interests?

A: When I have time off, I love to take my 2-year-old dog to the Shawnee Mission Park to swim for hours. Seeing his boundless joy makes me happy!

Q: What are people most surprised to learn about your job as a dancer?

A: While, yes, our toes hurt when we come back from a break, our feet are NOT constantly bloody as movies love to portray.

Dancers: Molly Wagner & Liang Fu. Photography: Brett Pruitt & East Market Studios.
Dancers: Molly Wagner & Liang Fu. Photography: Brett Pruitt & East Market Studios.

Q: Do you have a personal mantra or affirmation that you swear by? if so, what is it?

A: Before I go on stage, Angie Sansone and I tell each other: “You’re the most beautiful ballerina in all the lands.” It’s our goofy way of entering the stage with confidence. But as far as day-to-day mantras go, “You are enough.” Sometimes this career can make you insecure and frustrated, but at some point you have to just believe in yourself.

Q: what is something most people wouldn’t know about you?

A: I’m obsessed with TED Talks and watch one every morning before work to inspire me.

Mass™ Medical Storage Sponsors Romeo & Juliet

 

Aubrey and Penelope Guezaraga
Aubrey and Penelope Guezaraga

MASS™ Medical Storage Owner Aubrey Guezuraga is not your typical corporate sponsor. In fact, before his daughter Penelope was born it’s pretty safe to say he would never have predicted his company would be donating to Kansas City Ballet.

Penelope was born unilaterally deaf on her left side and wears a hearing aid. The doctors at Children’s Mercy told the Guezuragas she would have a hard life. They said she would have a lack of coordination; an inability to pay attention to more than one thing at a time; and that down the road, dyslexia and reading, learning, and behavioral issues would likely follow. That’s a tough prognosis for any parent to hear. They also made suggestions. They recommended she get involved in activities that would provide full-brain stimulation like music, art, and dance.

AN UNLIKELY BEGINNING

Penelope Guezaraga in 2014
Penelope Guezaraga in 2014

So at age 3, Penelope was enrolled in creative movement classes at Kansas City Ballet School. And although at a young age dance may not have come naturally, she continued to take classes year after year.

“Being good at ballet wasn’t the point for us,” Guezuraga says. “We just wanted to give her a chance to challenge her brain and help her development. But a funny thing happened as time went by… she loved it. We found everyone was so supportive and eventually something clicked. She began to have leadership opportunities in class and her confidence really grew.”

This progress spilled over into other aspects of Penelope’s life as well.

When she was in first grade she was testing in the bottom for reading skills. So, the Guezuragas got her a tutor. And using the same process of focus, determination, and persistence she’d been using for dance, Penelope improved.

SURPRISING BENEFITS

Penelope Guezaraga with her KU Engineering Fair Medal
Penelope Guezaraga with her KU Engineering Fair Medal

Penelope has continued to exceed expectations. She placed 5th in KU’s engineering fair for 8th graders when she was only in the fifth grade. Adding to her dancing, last year she participated in The Nutcracker, The Sleeping Beauty and in the regional and national Youth American Grand Prix ballet competitions… and her lowest grade was a 98%.

Penelope is currently 11, in 6th grade, and the president of her class. She’s in Level 5 at KCBS and is still participating in Youth American Grand Prix. She’s a leader and a well-rounded person.

“The Ballet gave her a straight forward method of addressing problems and improving herself in part because there, she has always been treated as a capable person. She is humble and hard working. I thank the Ballet for giving her the tools and life lessons to help her to be the best she can be in all aspects of her life,” Guezaraga says.

BEHIND THE GIFT

Knowing how much Penelope has been helped, Guezaraga is grateful to the organization and also to all of the donors that see the value in supporting the mission of Kansas City Ballet and School. For that reason, he hopes his sponsorship shows his appreciation of both Kansas City Ballet and its supporters. But he also hopes he inspires other growing businesses to start on this path as well: Growing a community to support the arts to drive excellence and new thought and to drive inclusiveness.

“It’s a gift to me to be a part of helping bring Romeo & Juliet to Kansas City. And it’s only fitting since it is also the favorite score of my daughter and I,” Guezaraga says.

 


 

To become a Kansas City Ballet Corporate Sponsor, please contact Patty Bowen at 816.216.5584. Click here to learn more about 2017-2018 corporate sponsorship opportunities.

Dancer Profile: Kelsey Hellebuyck

Company Dancer Kelsey Hellebuyck reveals a little about her love of the arts and her clothing obsession as she begins her second season with Kansas City Ballet.

Q: What do you enjoy most about being a dancer?

A: I TREASURE being able to do what I am passionate about for a living! An added bonus being, I can share this beautiful and still VERY ALIVE artform with people who haven’t yet been exposed. Not only through performances, But even just about town! I often meet people who say they’ve NEVER met a Ballerina, nor have they ever been to the ballet! After sharing some of my experiences and all that goes into this profession, how it is SO MUCH MORE then just standing on you tippy-toes, They’re EXCITED to come and see a show, to have a personal connection with someone on the stage, see our athleticism and feel moved by the music and the movement.

Q: Do you have hobbies or special Interests?

A: Quite a few! But to name a couple off the top: I’m a bit of a “FASHIONPHILE”, a “Walking Wardrobe” if you will. I get a high curating new things to add to my collection. I also adore antiquing! finding things with history, imagining what they’ve seen, the stories they could tell. Sometimes there is nothing better then a Sunday spent painting or sketching, I find it very relaxing and a nice way to clear your head and prepare for the week ahead.

Q: What do you enjoy most about Kc?

A: Besides our company, our amazing studios and the absolutely STUNNING Kauffman Center, where we are so blessed to perform, I LOVE just how much KC appreciates The ARTS in ALL FORMS! The Ballet, Opera and Symphony, the performance venues, the museums and art galleries they are some of the BEST in the world! Also Kansas City has some incredible restaurants and fantastic shopping! I was amazed moving here at ALL this city had to offer!  There are even great wineries just beyond the city proper in Kansas! A few of us dancers have gone on some tastings over there and let me just say, This California girl was quite impressed!

Q: what is something most people wouldn’t know about you?

A: I live in a 2-bedroom apartment, the second bedroom being solely a closet. I’ts just me, my little dog Coco and a whole lot of clothes and shoes……A WHOLE LOT! Take a peek in my closet and my everyday ballerina life on Instagram: @IvanaDance or Twitter: @KelseyIvana! [Incidentally, Kelsey will be doing an Instagram takeover of the Ballet’s account @kc.ballet Oct. 10-15, 2017.]

Devon Carney Talks Romeo & Juliet

Dear Dance Enthusiasts,

It’s an incredible story that Shakespeare wrote so many years ago, a timeless tale about the powers of love and fate. Two young lovers from rival families are destined for a tragic end which will finally conclude their parents strife… uniting their houses through grief.

Devon Carney as Romeo at Boston Ballet
Devon Carney as Romeo at Boston Ballet

Performing these roles is an experience dancers never forget—I certainly haven’t, especially dancing the title roles—the mutual journey of these two: Romeo and Juliet. There is so much opportunity to create three-dimensional characters. The beginning of the ballet highlights the vibrancy of youth, the naiveté. But then the growth of these two individuals in less than a week is just astounding. The incredible scope of innocence to tragedy and the emotional weight and aging they experience… it’s critical to be able to communicate all of this as dancers and artists.

MusicAl magic

You’ll also be spellbound by the music as well. Written in 1935 by Prokofiev, it’s a brilliant score that’s not even 100 years old yet. At 82, it’s still spry. Especially of note is the clarity of Romeo, Juliet and the Capulets’ themes.

And Juliet’s theme gets me every time. I keep discovering new things about Prokofiev’s score. That’s what I love about this art form… you’re always learning. You’re experiencing this gorgeous piece of music that keeps returning to the themes that grow more and more tragic. For example, when we first meet Juliet we hear a simple lighthearted flute and by the time she wakes in the crypt her theme has grown complex and heartbreaking.

Juliet’s Theme

 

Sets and Costumes

This ballet is a visual stunner as well. I just love these sets from Boston Ballet. They are the same sets and costumes that were produced in 1984 when I danced with them as Romeo. I know them like the back of my hand. In fact, lots of companies use these sets and costumes, including Kansas City Ballet when we last performed another version in 2012.

Now everything has come full circle as I present my world premiere choreographic interpretation on these same gorgeous sets. I’ve thought about my version for a long time and now was the right moment to make it—the beginning of my 5th season leading Kansas City Ballet into its 60th Anniversary. It’s an honor to be part of this significant moment in the company’s history. And I hope you’ll join us for more great dance this season including a new Anniversary Dance Festival in April with two different programs on back-to-back weekends, and a world premiere of The Wonderful Wizard of Oz in May, plus crowd pleasers The  Nutcracker in December and New Moves in February.

Yours,

Devon Carney

Kansas City Ballet Artistic Director

 

Top photo by Brett Pruitt & East Market Studios.