Behind the Scenes: “The Lottery”

The Lottery

Val Caniparoli’s riveting ballet based on the shocking short story by Shirley Jackson with the same name has a hidden element of surprise, dancers and audience members alike, learn who has “won” at the same time. Which dancer will perform the final variation?

Fate decides at each performance when the dancers draw lots on stage.

KC Ballet Dancer Emily Mistretta. The Lottery rehearsals. The Lottery is based on the short story by Shirley Jackson. Photography by Elizabeth Stehling.

Below you’ll find a link to a behind-the-scenes video from rehearsals of The Lottery. Learn more about the process, the ballet and that grueling moment when all is revealed. 

Behind the scenes

See it On Stage

Enjoy the final show of Kansas City Ballet’s 2016-2017 season May 12-21 at the Kauffman Center. Dancers currently are rehearsing all three exciting ballets on the program including Jerome Robbins’ Interplay and George Balanchine’s Theme and Variations. It’s a whole evening of dance!

Buy tickets now online or by phone at 816.931.8993.

Sponsor Profile: Elevé Dancewear and Owner Lisa Choules

Elevé Dancewear Owner Lisa Choules

Lisa Choules’ name may sound familiar if you’ve been attending the Ballet for a while. She is a former Kansas City Ballet company member. Choules danced with KCB from 2000 until retiring at the end of the 2008-2009 season. Flash forward to 2017, Choules is a successful entrepreneur and owner of Elevé Dancewear. This Kansas City-based company employs upwards of 25 employees, most of them full-time.

Elevé has made quite a name for itself among dancers and dance communities. The creative and high-quality leotards and dance skirts definitely capture attention in and out of the studio.

ElevÉ’s Support for KCB School

The company has been a supporter of Kansas City Ballet’s School for the past two years—sponsoring deserving students with Elevé scholarships.

What motivated Choules to make this possible?

“I love performing. I nearly quit dancing when I was young, but then I attended my school’s performance. I realized I wanted to be up there on the stage. That desire is what brought me back to dance. That is why I want to help students have more opportunities to perform, especially those who work hard and need financial assistance,” she said. 

In 2015-2016, Elevé became the Official Leotard Provider for Kansas City Ballet School. Why would KCBS choose Elevé as a uniform partner?

“Elevé is a local company with lots of experience and with a love for the art form and especially education. We were able to customize the leotards with the colors they selected,” said Choules. “We have a lot of experience with ballet schools since we make the official uniforms for Ballet West Academy and other dance schools across America.”

How Elevé Began

When asked about her transition from company dancer to business owner, Choules shared a bit about what drives her. She joined Ballet West as a dancer at 18. While there she started making her own ballet skirts. Later she even made her own practice tutu. After her two daughters were born, she began making leotards for herself.

“I had a hard time finding leos that fit my body,” she said. She would get creative by looking for older leotards at thrift shops, breaking them down and making patterns from them. In fact, she was wearing one of her own creations when she auditioned for KCB and even remembers other dancers asking her where she got it. “As a single mother of two, I made custom leotards for my friends as a way to earn some extra side money.”

For a while she even dabbled with costuming. She remembers when the company was performing Paquita, it frustrated her how poorly the rented tutus fit. She had trouble feeling confident about her dancing because she was so concerned about her costume twisting and bouncing funny because it was too big around and falling out on top because it was too short.

The first costuming she did was for KCB dancer Russell Baker’s summer festival and his ballet Cloud Chamber which was choreographed for KCB’s In the Wings and was later preformed as part of the 2001/2002 season. Later, she designed for former KCB Artistic Director William (Bill) Whitener, Quixotic, Owen/Cox, Jessica Lang (for KCB, Ballet San Jose, and her own company), and Nashville Ballet to name a few. “The first piece I did for Whitener was Jaywalk, a jazzy piece with pants. Keelan Whitmore was the lead. Bill thought I had decent taste and I was flattered he trusted me to design the costumes for him.” Choules said.

Another one of Bill’s pieces “I didn’t design, but made the costumes for, was Caprice. The dancers wore nude colored unitards.” Out of frustration, I remade the bodice of the Snow Queen costume from The Nutcracker because it didn’t fit well and was difficult to move in,” Choules remembered. She did design and build the costumes for two more of Bill’s ballets, First Position: A Reminiscence which the company performed during their 50th Anniversary Season and Salute!, a ballet meant to commemorate Christopher Barksdale’s retirement after 20 years in the company.  

After retiring in 2009, she received a grant from the Career Transition for Dancers and used it to attend the Fashion Institute of Technology‘s summer session in NYC. Then she started Elevé in the basement of her home. Initially she hired one employee to cut out leotards and help design the look of the website.

Soon after, disaster struck.

Coming back from the Brink

A fire started in her cutting room and she lost a majority of her patterns as well as supplies and even some completed orders. Not to be held back, Choules with the help of other seamstresses, began remaking her patterns based on past leotards and costume designs she’d made for KCB and any unsewn pieces that were not destroyed by the fire.

“It was hard work, but I was determined. There was no plan B. I had to make this work,” she said.

Elevé Dancewear

And boy has she made it work. Elevé is now located in the Crossroads in 5,200 square feet of space with orders shipping all over the globe!

This Arizona native has come a long way and there is no end in sight.

KCBS Competes: 2017 YAGP Finals in NY

Aurora Wessel (10) in Les Sylphide at YAGP Finals in New York 2017.

Kansas City Ballet School recently competed in the Youth American Grand Prix (YAGP) Semi-finals in Indianapolis. More than 10,000 students participated in the Semi-finals competitions across the country and around the world this year and only 1,200-1,400 were invited to the New York Finals held April 7-14. Several KCBS students qualified for the YAGP Finals and last Friday, after many, many competitive performances, master classes and auditions, the awards were announced.

Kansas City Ballet School Awards:

Aurora Wessel (age 10) was named one of the Top 12 Pre-Competitve Soloists out of 143 students in her age-bracket (118 girls and 25 boys).

Grady George received a Houston Ballet Scholarship 

Poppy Trettel received a Royal Winnipeg Scholarship 

Grady and Poppy will attend summer intensive programs at these prestigious schools on scholarship this year.

Poppy Trettel (11) and Grady George (12) in Bluebird Pas De Deux from The Sleeping Beauty. First Place winners in Pas De Deux YAGP Semi-finals 2017 Indianapolis, IN

KCBS Director Grace Holmes recently had this to say about the YAGP program:

“I had never considered competitions as an important aspect of ballet training, in fact I thought it was a distraction from solid training. When I first came to KCB, one of our teachers had been taking a very limited number of students to YAGP – she was single-handedly teaching, coaching, administrating, doing makeup, and making costumes for all of the students who were competing.

When the first group went to YAGP, I could see the positive effects on our students.  The students who participated learned so much from the one-on-one coaching, and the support they received from their fellow students made me realize how much this brought the kids together.

It was driven home when one of the non-competing students asked me if their class could take 10 minutes out of class time to watch the live stream of their peers at the YAGP semi-finals. She even offered me a $10 bill to cover the fee for the live stream. It meant so much to them to ‘be there’ for their friends. This made me rethink the impact of this particular competition for serious-minded students. I also recognized the impact that it would have on us as a school. The visibility and recognition that come with participating at YAGP could get the word out about how our school has evolved.

So this year we went all out and we took 31 students (last year was a trial with 18). Our efforts were well rewarded and I feel we gained national recognition in our participation. Our students were amazing ambassadors for KCBS. I am very proud of the way they comported themselves and I am proud of their achievements.”

Second Company Performs at Kemper Museum

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

Kansas City Ballet’s Second Company performed at the Kemper Museum of Contemporary Art on Thursday, March 23rd. The performance included a new work created in response to Rashid Johnson’s art installation and two hanging works about anxiety, self, and release.

These types of intimate performance collaborations are important for the community, other arts organizations, as well as, the Second Company.

“The performance at the Kemper Museum of Contemporary Art brought together visual and performing art fans and created an experience that can’t be obtained any other way,” says Second Company Manager Anthony Krutzkamp. “It gives us a chance here at Kansas City Ballet to cross pollinate with other arts groups in a substantial way. Everyone wins, including the audience.”

Kansas City Ballet Second Company Manager Anthony Krutzkamp.

“The visual artist’s work is the embodiment of the choreography. It gives the dancers something tangible, not just an idea, to inspire their interpretation of the movement. It adds an extra layer to the show and how the Second Company approaches the piece,” Krutzkamp says.

Upcoming Performances

Interested in seeing more from our Second Company? Check out their upcoming shows:


Final Weekend of “The Sleeping Beauty”

Dancers Tempe Ostergren and Lamin Pereira dos Santos. Photography: Brett Pruitt & East Market Studios.

Kansas City Ballet’s presentation of The Sleeping Beauty will close this Sunday, April 9. This incredible classic has captivated audiences.

What Audiences are saying

“We loved the performance from the amazing Rose Adagio to the incredible footwork of the male dancers and Prince Desire to the rich somewhat historic costumes and scenery, not to mention the symphony. Always love an excuse to be in the inspiring Kauffman Center. Finally, it was so heartwarming to see a full house for a Sunday Matinee for a classical ballet. This was undoubtedly one of my favorite classical ballets the company has performed.”


Dancer Danielle Bausinger. Photography: Brett Pruitt & East Market Studios.

“Bravo—Outstanding performance yesterday afternoon! My 13-year-old ballerina that has recently started en pointe was on the edge of her seat the entire time. The Kauffman is beautiful, the dancers are wonderful—special day all around. Kansas City is doing everything right with the Kauffman and Ballet.”

Dancers Tempe Ostergren and Lamin Pereira dos Santos. Photography: Brett Pruitt & East Market Studios.

“I loved it. Such a beautiful performance—dancers, costumes, music. I plan to become a subscriber next year.”

Dancers Taryn Mejia and Dillon Malinski. Photography: Brett Pruitt & East Market Studios.

The Sleeping Beauty Dance-A-Story

On March 21st more than 30 children attended The Sleeping Beauty Dance-A-Story program at the Westport Library.

Dance-A-Story is a 45-minute workshop appropriate for Pre-K and early elementary school students, bringing stories to life through creative movement, music, and a costume show and tell. Kansas City Ballet’s Community Engagement and Education Program Teaching Artist Amelia Virtue led the workshop.

These educational events are a fun way to introduce even the littlest members of the community to ballet.

“Our Dance-A-Stories provide opportunities for very young children in and around the metro area to experience classic stories and fairy tales in a truly unique way,” says Community Engagement and Education Manager April Berry. “By bringing the magic of movement, music, and costumes/props from story ballets to community venues, this fun, interactive program provides another avenue to enhance literacy.”

Event Summary

Children enjoyed listening to The Sleeping Beauty ballet story and seeing costumes and examples of character’s props. [see top photo]

Then Ms. Virtue turned on some music and led the children to try pantomime to tell the story with succinct movements. Below she demonstrated when Princess Aurora fell asleep.

The boys and girls were even given a chance to try on the crowns worn by Princess Aurora and Prince Désiré.

For many of these children, this was their first experience with the art of ballet. But hopefully not their last!

Photography by Andrea Wilson.

Event Recap: 60th Anniversary Season Announcement

On Saturday, March 12th, Kansas City Ballet announced the 60th Anniversary Diamond Jubilee Season to a select group of donors, sponsors, board members, dancers and staff at Pennway Place. Master of Ceremonies and current Host of “Antiques Road Show” Mark Walberg welcomed the crowd, Kansas City Ballet Executive Director Jeffrey J. Bentley spoke about the state of the organization and the joy at celebrating the highly-anticipated 60th Season, and Kansas City Ballet Artistic Director Devon Carney had the honor of announcing the ballets to be performed during this exciting season. Learn more about the 2017-2018 Season.

Thank you to SponsorS

Polsinelli and The Private Client Reserve of U.S. Bank generously sponsored the festivities.

Thank you also to Studio Dan Meiners, PB&J restaurants, Amigoni Winery, Crane Brewery, Martin City Brewery and Rock and Run Brewery for adding enjoyment to the evening.

Photography by J. Robert Schraeder Photography. Photo captions from top to bottom:

  1. Kansas City Ballet 2017-2018 60th Anniversary brochures
  2. Left to Right: Devon Carney, Mark Walberg, Jeffrey Bentley, and KCB School Director Grace Holmes
  3. The crowd during the reveal
  4. Thank you to event sponsors: Polsineli and The Private Client Reserve of U.S. Bank. Special thanks to Studio Dan Meiners and PB&J Restaurants.
  5. Board Member Anna Allen, Artistic Director Devon Carney, Pamela Carney, and KCB Dancers Molly Wagner and Angelina Sansone.
  6. Howard and Anne Elsberry, KCB Dancer Tempe Ostergren, Beth Ingrahm, and Andrew Elsberry.

First Day of Spring!

Ode to Spring

Fare thee well lilacs, as your petals renew.

Spring flowers are preparing to dance for you.

As beetles and bugs begin their seasonal flings,

It’s time to salute all the rites of spring.

Happy first day of spring!


Photo Credits from Top to Bottom: Helen Pickett’s Petal KCB Dancers Dillon Malinski, Lilliana Hagerman, and Ryan Joliecoeur-Nye. Photographer Brett Pruitt. Alvin Ailey’s Flowers KCB Dancer Jody Anderson. Photographer Don Middleton. Margot Sappington’s ZuZu Lounge. KCB Dancer Deanna Doyle. Photographer Steve Wilson. Adam Hougland’s Rite of Spring. KCB Dancer Angelina Sansone. Photographer Brett Pruitt.

“The Sleeping Beauty” Rehearsal Photos

The photos below are from a recent Kansas City Ballet rehearsal for The Sleeping Beauty at the Bolender Center. This is a first for the company to perform the entire production. It’s another sign of just how far the Ballet has come in its 59 years. With a larger company and a second company comprised of KCB II members and Trainees, there are now more than enough dancers upon which to set these larger works.

The Sleeping Beauty

The Sleeping Beauty opens Friday, March 31 and runs through Sunday, April 9 at the Kauffman Center—eight public performances in all!

KCB Dancers Kaleena Burks and Lamin Pereira dos Santos in Sleeping Beauty rehearsals. Photography: Elizabeth Stehling.
KCB Dancers Kaleena Burks (front) and Amaya Rodriguez in the role of Aurora in Sleeping Beauty rehearsals. Photography: Elizabeth Stehling.
KCB Dancer Elysa Hotchkiss and Company Dancers in Sleeping Beauty rehearsals. Photography: Elizabeth Stehling.
KCB Dancer Kelsey Hellebuyck in Sleeping Beauty rehearsals. Photography: Elizabeth Stehling.

KCBS Student Profile: Chrisanne Ayers

In her fourth year of dancing at KCBS, Chrisanne Ayers was given the opportunity to help pioneer the Academy’s Daytime Program for serious ballet students who were looking for more intensive training than afternoon programs can offer. “I wanted to join the daytime program primarily because I knew the training was going to be more intense and I wanted to have the extra hours in the studio to train,” Chrisanne said. “The thought of being at the studio all day just like the professionals was also so amazing and exciting.”

Kansas City Ballet School’s Daytime Program for levels 4-8 flips the script on traditional dance training. With this new program, students spend most of their days Monday through Friday (approx. 20-25 hours) taking dance classes designed to help them grow as a dancer, develop stamina, and feed their passion. These students tend to their academics through online or homeschool programs in the evenings and on weekends.


As part of this inaugural group, Chrisanne already has identified some benefits. “I feel like I have been able to improve faster than if I was only dancing for a couple hours in the evening. The daytime program has definitely helped improve my stamina and it has taught me how to manage my time more efficiently. Another benefit of the day program is that it really helps you to refine your vision for the future, whether or not you want to pursue ballet professionally,” she said. “For me, it helped to confirm that this is what I love and want to do, but I am sure for some others dancing all day might help them realize that, while they love it, they don’t want to do it professionally.”


Naturally there are also challenges with trying something new. “One of the biggest was probably figuring out how and when to fit school into this already very busy schedule,” Chrisanne said. “I simply took it day by day and figured out a routine that worked for me and stuck with it. There have been challenges with everyone getting along as well. When you’re with the same group of people all day almost every day of the week a certain amount of conflict is inevitable. However, we are all extremely close and no matter the what we have always been able to work it out.”

In the end, the highest form of praise for the new program comes in the form of endorsement from the students themselves. “I would recommend this program to anyone who is passionate about ballet and serious about pursuing it as a career,” Chrisanne said. “It is a lot of hours. It’s hard and exhausting, but if ballet is your love, it is the best thing in the world.”


Her training is paying off in a big way. Last weekend, Chrisanne competed along with 30 other KCBS students at a Youth American Grand Prix (YAGP) regional semi-finals competition in Indianapolis. She placed in the Top 12 Contemporary Dancers out of more than 100 senior competitors.

Congratulations, Chrisanne!

Chrisanne Ayers


Photography by Brett Pruitt & East Market Studios.