Behind Closed Doors: Kansas City Ballet’s Archive Thrives

When the Todd Bolender Center for Dance & Creativity opened in August 2011, it included a temperature-controlled archival room complete with retractable shelving. The work behind this space began eight years ago in 2008 when the Kansas City Ballet Guild launched the project, contracted a professional archivist and began a collecting effort. Consulting Archivist Lois Kauffman has been flying in from New York two to three times a year to direct the project with the help of Guild volunteers.

Now the Tatiana Dokoudovska Library and Archives has amassed a trove of historic photos, videos, artifacts, costumes, and documents. This important collection tells the story of the birth and growth of the Kansas City Ballet.  It documents the Ballet’s achievements and its key role in bringing ballet to this region.  Many people have contributed — dancers, dance devotees, patrons, and staff — and the collection grows steadily.

The collection is made up of four main parts. A collection of artifacts belonging to the founder of the company, Tatiana Doukoudovska (or Miss Tania as she’s more lovingly referred to) that was donated by former student, company member and friend Michele Hamlet-Weith; former Artistic Director Todd Bolender’s collection that was donated by friend and Ballet patron Sarah Rowland; former Artistic Director William Whitener’s collection was donated by Mr. Whitener himself; and company memorabilia spanning nearly 60 years.

To make a donation of historical items or a monetary gift, contact archives@kcballet.org.

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The archives are contained in a long, narrow room with retractable shelving.

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(Left to Right) Contractual Archivist Lois Kauffman is pictured here with Guild Co-Chairs for the Archives Lisa Schubert Hickok and Jean Murphy.

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When Lois is in town, a make-shift cataloging space is created just outside the archives themselves in the costume storage department.

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Lois shows how photographs are cataloged.

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Jean Murphy is a former dancer and former wardrobe mistress in addition to currently co-chairing the archives committee for the Guild. She holds up part of The Vamp’s costume from Todd Bolender’s Souvenirs which now resides in the archives.

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In addition to her title of Co-chair of the Archives Committee, Lisa Schubert Hickok is the current Guild President, a former company dancer and a former marketing director for the company. Here she holds up Kansas City Ballet’s original sign.

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