Student Profile: Timothy TV Cao

Timothy TV Cao began dancing at age 3. His mother encouraged him and his sister to dance and they took jazz and tap. When Timothy got a little older he began auditioning for TV roles in California and later tried in New York for Broadway roles. He landed a role in the show “Matilda” and danced in the cast until he grew too tall. Around that time, at age 13, he started taking private ballet lessons at the Broadway Dance Center from an American Ballet Theatre (ABT) certified instructor. But once he stopped dancing in “Matilda” it was time to move back to the Midwest.

On the Path to Dance

He learned that David Justin was a teacher at Kansas City Ballet School and also ABT certified. “My mom and I started driving here one to two times a week from Wichita for private lessons from him,” Timothy said. “Eventually it just made sense for us to move here. And now I’m part of the Daytime Program.”

Timothy admits that training is hard but he really enjoys it and has fun with it. “You accept that you’re human, that you make mistakes,” he says. “You have to appreciate that you get to train with such talent. It pushes me even more.” Ballet is demanding and perfection, while the goal, can seem impossible at times. So, Timothy says he likes to pick a couple of things to keep focused on. Right now it’s his hands and his back—standing tall. “You just have to take it one thing at a time,” he says.

Mental preparation

When he performs, whether for a Kansas City Youth Ballet show or for a Youth America Grand Prix competitions, he spends time mentally preparing and trying to calm his nerves with music before he goes on stage. Once he’s out there, he says, “I try to enjoy the moment and do the best I can. I like putting my heart into my work and knowing I’m in character makes me happy. The audience wants me to succeed. It helps me to know that and I give everything I’ve got. I try not to disappoint.”

Timothy enjoys KCBS because the facilities are amazing, the professional company is in the building and they are so inspiring to watch, and the teachers want you to succeed and are so friendly—like family. He’s felt like his instructors David, Dmitry Trubchanov, and Ryan Jolicoeur-Nye have pulled him under their wings and really supported his learning.

His advice for younger students? “Just enjoy it! It takes time and time isn’t always on your side but if you can work hard, doors will open.” He hopes to join a professional company someday.

Photography for dance photos by Brett Pruitt & East Market Studios.

KCB II Profile: Gavin Abercrombie

Gavin Abercrombie is dancing his second year with Kansas City Ballet’s KCB II this year.

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

A: I started dancing at the age of 8, when after seeing my first performance of The Nutcracker, I asked my mom to enroll me in ballet classes.

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

A: I enjoy the athleticism and the ability to communicate through movement.

Kansas City Ballet Second Company dancers Marisa Whiteman and Gavin Abercrombie.

Q: Do you have hobbies or special interests? If so, what are they and what do you enjoy about them?

A: I love hiking. Getting the chance to be outside, especially for prolonged backpacking trips is something I grew up doing and always enjoy.

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

A: I have a twin brother.

Dancer Profile: Kevin Wilson

Company Dancer Kevin Wilson is dancing his second season with Kansas City Ballet. Find out more about Kevin below.

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

A: I started when I was 8. I got offered a spot in an all boys class from an outreach program. I didn’t get serious with it until after my mother passed away and I ended up going to Harid Conservatory in Florida. That is where I really got my act together.

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

A: I don’t care for the colors yellow or purple. I don’t trust cats. I’m polite to them, but I never trust them.

KC Ballet Dancer Kevin Wilson with KCB School Student Poppy Trettel and Company Dancers. Photography: Brett Pruitt & East Market Studios.
KC Ballet Dancer Kevin Wilson with KCB School Student Poppy Trettel and Company Dancers. Photography: Brett Pruitt & East Market Studios.

Q: Do you have a personal mantra that you swear by?

A: Before I dance I usually just repeat “You got this.”

Q: What do you enjoy most about Kansas City Ballet and why?

A: This company is made up of dedicated, honest, hard-working people. I have only been here a year but I can’t imagine myself ever wanting to leave. I love the rep, the coaching and the direction of the company.

 

Event Recap: 2017 Sugar Plum Fairy Children’s Ball

Ambience

The 23rd Annual Sugar Plum Fairy Children’s Ball, hosted by chair Mrs. Shelley Zucht, on December 9th transformed the Muehlebach Tower of the Kansas City Marriott Downtown into a beautiful floral garden. 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.

Event Photos

School Director Grace Holmes with Event Chair Shelley Zucht
School Director Grace Holmes with Event Chair Shelley Zucht
Artistic Director Devon Carney, Christa Dubill (emcee), and Executive Director Jeffrey J. Bentley
Artistic Director Devon Carney, Christa Dubill (emcee), and Executive Director Jeffrey J. Bentley
Robbi Walberg, Mark Walberg, Diane Searcy, Steven Fass, Laurie Fass, (front boys) Lawson Fass, Hudson Fass
Robbi Walberg, Mark Walberg, Diane Searcy, Steven Fass, Laurie Fass, (front boys) Lawson Fass, Hudson Fass
Catherine Middleton with daughter Sophie
Catherine Middleton with daughter Sophie
L-R. Back to front: Alison Patterson and her daughter Elwyn, Pam Welker and her daughter Sophie, Loren Whittaker and her niece Mia Whittaker.
L-R. Back to front: Alison Patterson and her daughter Elwyn, Pam Welker and her daughter Sophie, Loren Whittaker and her niece Mia Whittaker.

Photography by Brian Goodman

Trainee Profile: Samantha Huebner

KCB Trainee Samantha Huebner. Photography by Savanna Daniels.
KCB Trainee Samantha Huebner. Photography by Savanna Daniels.

Samantha Huebner is in her second year as a student trainee with Kansas City Ballet.

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

A: My parents put me in dance classes when I was 3 years old. They said when I came off stage after my first recital that I said, “I want to do this forever!”

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

A: Absolutely everything! I love the endless strive for perfection, and the satisfying feeling when I accomplish something—whether that be a performance, or gaining an inch of flexibility.

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

A: I’m a total nerd. I love math and science. My favorite movies, TV shows and books are Sci-Fi themed and futuristic. I love Star Trek and Star Wars, Tron, etc. Also, SpongeBob is the best show ever.

Q: If you have an unexpected hour free, what would be your ideal way to spend it and why?

A: If I have an hour free while I’m at work, I’ll spend it stretching and snacking. If I’m at home with an hour free, I’ll plop down on the couch and watch my current favorite Netflix show.

Dancer Profile: Cameron Thomas

Company Dancer Cameron Thomas is an apprentice with Kansas City Ballet this year after two years as a member of KCB II. Find out more about what makes Cameron tick.

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

A: I became a dancer after being forced into a ballet class around age 10 or 11 as part of my gymnastics class. Later that year I was part of a local production of The Nutcracker and switched to dancing full time. After that I was off!

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

A: I love sharing dance with others. That could be through live performance or through conversation. I think dance is very powerful, and I love demonstrating that.

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New Moves 2017. Cameron Thomas is pictured on the left. Photography by Brett Pruitt & East Market Studios.

Q: Do you have hobbies or special interests? If so, what are they and what do you enjoy about them?

A: I love music. I play piano and trombone. I enjoy playing music because it enhances my dancing but also exists outside of it. It’s a hobby I can retreat to.

Q: What do you enjoy most about Kc? Why?

A: I love the food—I’m not used to this many sources of good barbecue.

 

Student Profile: Olivia Denson

KCB School Student Olivia Denson. Photography by Brett Pruitt & East Market Studios.Olivia Denson started dance classes at age 2 ½. She learned ballet, jazz, tap and gymnastics but she really loved the ballet. At age 7 it was clear she was smitten, so her parents decided to send her to Kansas City Ballet School’s Johnson County campus. “Coming here was amazing! It was a BIG change,” says Olivia. “Shortly after I switched schools, my old school shut down. So I was really, really glad to be here.”

When asked why she is drawn to ballet, Olivia admits, “I love the discipline. Ballet has so many rules and I love rules. And it just felt natural and the other [dance styles] didn’t feel natural. I love structure and repetition—it’s meditative in a way.”

KCB School Student Olivia Denson. Photography by Brett Pruitt & East Market Studios.What she loves about KCBS

When asked what she likes most about KCBS, she has trouble picking just one thing: “One of the main things I love is the building. Huge studios and natural light. We are so lucky! I have different teachers each day of the week so I get many different perspectives during the week. I love the teachers at KCBS so much. And I love that we have the opportunity to dance in professional shows.”

Olivia has been part of several KCB Company productions including Cinderella, The Sleeping Beauty, and seven years of The Nutcracker. “I was so excited when I was asked to dance in the ‘Garland Waltz’ in The Sleeping Beauty last season,” Olivia says. “I actually got a role that was mostly given to Trainees. It was a great experience—a big deal. I enjoyed getting to know the Trainees and ask their advice.”

As part of her preparation, Olivia also has been part of Kansas City Youth Ballet, directed by Kimberly Cowen. She likes the company feeling that being part of KCYB brings. Along with the corps work and the fact that they also get to dance contemporary works, working directly with choreographers, especially the company members like Molly Wagner and Charles Martin, makes KCYB a very worthy experience.

Lots of Support

Tuition can be expensive, and for a budding dancer spending your summers in intense training is important. “For my first two Summer Intensives we did a silent auction with our family and friends,” Olivia says. “Family and friends donated items and services—like our dentist donated an electric toothbrush or a teeth whitening package. It seemed like everyone wanted to help however they could. We raised around $2,000 each year to help pay for my SI program. These same folks buy tickets to watch me perform as part of KCYB as well. I’m lucky to have so much support.”

KCB School Student Olivia Denson. Photography by Brett Pruitt & East Market Studios.A Dream of Dancing

Her dream started years ago at a Kansas City Ballet performance. “I love watching the professional company shows. And once I saw Miss Kim [Kimberly Cowen] dance, I knew that’s what I wanted to do. I once asked her to sign my ticket to one of her last performances.”

She knows she wants to become a professional dancer someday. She says, “That’s the coolest job! I would love to stay here as part of KCB. I love KC and we just have such great facilities here. I’ve been to other places and I just feel like we are so lucky here.”

 

 

All photography by Brett Pruitt & East Market Studios.

2017 Nutcracker from DC to KC!

In front of Kennedy Center. Photography by John Burke.
In front of Kennedy Center. Photography by John Burke.

The Nutcracker Performs in D.C.

 Kansas City Ballet performed The Nutcracker at the Kennedy Center in Washington D.C. Nov. 22-26, 2017. See images from Kansas City Ballet’s trip.

Review by The Washington Post‘s Sarah Kaufman.

KC Ballet Dancers Tempe Ostergren and Michael Davis with Company Dancers. Photography: Brett Pruitt & East Market Studios
KC Ballet Dancers Tempe Ostergren and Michael Davis with Company Dancers. Photography: Brett Pruitt & East Market Studios

The Nutcracker Opens in KC

Kansas City Ballet opened The Nutcracker at the Kauffman Center for the Performing Arts in Kansas City last night. It will run through Christmas Eve (Dec. 24). Tickets are still available here.

Check out Abigail Trabue’s review in PerformInk Kansas City.

Letter from Devon: The Nutcracker 2017

Dear Dance Enthusiasts,

We are so grateful to you, our audiences, who’ve come to share your holiday with us and to appreciate the joy of The Nutcracker. This is my favorite time of year. A time for reflection and renewal. A time to take stock of blessings and to refine that which I hold most dear.

It was a labor of love to choreograph and oversee the creation of this production with the help of an incredible design team: Alain Vaës who developed such stunning sets, Holly Hynes who designed magnificent costumes, and Trad A Burns who put together an incredible lighting scheme.

I truly appreciate the opportunity to once again direct all of these amazing dancers. Each year is a chance to revisit these roles and continue to tweak them to play to strengths and to keep the roles fresh.

And, our wonderful Kansas City Ballet School students are our next generation of rising stars growing to take on better and better roles each year. It makes me so proud that we cast the entire children’s cast from our own school—not all companies can do that. It’s a true demonstration of the caliber of our students and teachers.

Kansas City, you have a world-class production here to enjoy every year for generations to come. The whole show is a testament to that and it is what drew the attention of the Kennedy Center.

This year we were especially proud to have been invited to perform our Nutcracker in our nation’s theater, the John F. Kennedy Center, in Washington, D.C. over Thanksgiving week. It was an amazing experience for all of us to represent KC in D.C. in such an incredible way.

I’ve always said this show is for kids from 2 to 92—and that’s my goal—to experience the holidays with a childlike heart and sense of wonder. My hope is you walk out of the theatre feeling lighter on your feet and bursting with of holiday spirit as well.

Happiest Holidays!

Devon Carney

Dancer Profile: Joshua Bodden

Company Dancer Joshua Bodden is dancing his fourth season with Kansas City Ballet. He’s originally from Miami but has danced with Miami City Ballet, Dance Theatre of Harlem and Cincinnati Ballet. Find out more about Josh below.

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

A: I took a field trip in elementary school to see Miami City Ballet’s The Nutcracker and started dancing soon after at age 10.

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

A: The day-to-day process of rehearsal, learning and building relationships with co-workers, and performing and being in the moment.

Dancers Taryn Mejia and Joshua Bodden. Photography by Kenny Johnson.
Dancers Taryn Mejia and Joshua Bodden. Photography by Kenny Johnson.

Q: Do you have a personal mantra that you swear by?

A: Just laugh.

Q: If you find you have an unexpected hour free, what would be your ideal way to spend it and why?

A: During the season I usually take a nap. It’s like a reset button for me.