Georgia Fuller began her first season with Kansas City Ballet’s Trainee Program this fall. Learn more about the Cincinnati native below.
Q: HOW DID YOU BECOME A DANCER? AND WHEN DID YOU START DANCING?
A: I started dancing when I was only 2 years old. My mom put me in classes at a small studio because I had so much energy and was constantly dancing around! I later began more intense training when I turned 7.
Q: What do you enjoy most about being a dancer?
A: What I enjoy most about dancing is the feeling you get while your body is moving in time with music. The expression of my emotions onstage takes me to my happy place—you get to be truly yourself. It is only you and the music.
Q: Do you have hobbies or special interests? If so, what are they and what do you enjoy about them?
A: I love reading, writing, and baking! I’m a huge bookworm, and I love writing poetry. I also enjoy baking healthy recipes for my friends and family.
Q: Do you have a personal mantra or affirmation you swear by? If so, what is it?
A: I always tell myself that to live life well, one must always be humble and kind. Before I go onstage, I always repeat the bible verse, “I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me.” It’s my favorite.
In 2015 Kansas City Ballet Artistic Director Devon Carney choreographed a brand new record-breaking, critically acclaimed production of The Nutcracker for Kansas City Ballet and built on a legacy that KC audiences have treasured for 45 years.
Everything’s Up to Date in Kansas City
Carney’s $2.1 million version brought even more in the way of updated special effects and delightful details, thanks to his captivating choreography and the help of his amazing creative team: Alain Vaës (sets), Holly Hynes (costumes), and Trad A Burns (lighting). The production has been so well received that the Kennedy Center in Washington, D.C., extended an invitation to perform it there this year during the week of Thanksgiving.
Carney stated: “We have the honor of being invited to our country’s national theatre for a limited engagement to present our acclaimed production during our 60th Anniversary Season, and I am especially proud to represent all Kansas Citians in our nation’s capital during the Thanksgiving holiday.”
The Nutcracker has touched Kansas City audiences since the first performance in the Southwest High School Auditorium on Wornall Road. It began with Founder Tatiana Dokoudovska and her choreography and vision in 1972.
KCB’s first Clara, Lisa (Merrill) Hickok, played the role for the first four Nutcracker performances. During the first two years, the Company performed the Nutcracker Suite, but by 1974 they began performing the full-length ballet. Hickok described her experience those early years as “exciting and scary.”
Miss Tania had a reputation for her incredible work ethic. She insisted on the best from her dancers. And, she knew all of the ballets by heart.
“One of my fondest memories involves Miss Tania. It was the final performance for me after four years as Clara. The production staff presented roses to Miss Tania on stage after she was brought out at the final bows. She gave them to me and it truly touched my heart. I’ll never forget that moment of her acknowledgement of my dedication…even as a 12-year old,” recalls Hickok. “It has impacted my desire to help this Company for the rest of my days.”
In December 1981 under the direction of Artistic Director Todd Bolender, The Nutcracker premiered to full houses. During his tenure, Bolender revamped the choreography, most notably in the Waltz of the Flowers. He also arranged for new costumes and in 1994, new sets designed by Robert Fletcher.
Former KCB dancer and current Kansas City Ballet School Principal, Kimberly Cowen, had the privilege to work with Bolender. “Todd made you feel like you had to be on top of your game every step you took,” Cowen says.
Cowen remembers Bolender wanted the first act to be all about the children. Not surprising since Bolender made it a point to start the KCB School. In 1996 when Artistic Director William Whitener took the helm, the tradition of focusing on the kids continued.
The Spirit Lives On
The Nutcracker is more than just a holiday tradition. It’s an important training tool for the dancers. “Nutcracker is one of the only times a dancer gets to perform his or her role more than just a few times,” Carney says. “They have the chance to improve…grow. It’s interesting to see how much they can develop their role during the run and perhaps again in subsequent years.”
In 45 years, Nutcracker has continued to draw audiences and student performers alike. Many families attend every year as part of their holiday traditions. In the end, it’s about dreams.
“As the end of the run draws near, the company is usually excited the holiday is here. But the kids are so sad Nutcracker’s over. They’re nervous at the beginning of December but by the end they’re having fun. You really see them change,” says Cowen who, since retiring from the stage in 2012 has worked for Kansas City Ballet School and helps rehearse the children’s casts.
Maybe that is where the magic comes from…
Featuring dozens of colorful characters, Kansas City Ballet’s The Nutcracker is one of the region’s most successful presentations, all led by the extraordinary professional Kansas City Ballet Company, Second Company and 163 students selected from Kansas City Ballet School.
Kansas City Ballet will once again present The Nutcracker this holiday season this December. The enchanting costumes, stunning sets, stellar choreography by Artistic Director Devon Carney, and Tchaikovsky’s memorable score, continue to tell the timeless tale of Clara and her Nutcracker Prince as they journey to the unforgettable Land of the Sweets.
Kansas City Ballet is honored to have been invited to bring our Nutcracker to the Nation’s stage at The John F. Kennedy Center to perform this week (Nov. 22 and 24-26, 2017). The undertaking of such an endeavor is not light work. There were many considerable tasks involved in accepting the opportunity, not the least of which was simply getting everyone and everything there. Never one to back down from a challenge, especially one as special as this, there have been months spent preparing.
It will take four semi-trailer trucks and many hours on the road to get all of the sets and production pieces to D.C. Kansas City Ballet General Manager Kevin Amey also spent hours arranging flights for all the members of the company and artistic and production staff.
Kansas City Ballet Music Director Ramona Pansegrau spent many, many hours re-orchestrating our Nutcracker score for the larger National Symphony Orchestra at The Kennedy Center. Among other additions, they have two harpists instead of one. These scores will only be used during this run.
Kansas City Ballet Artistic Director Devon Carney and Kansas City Ballet School Principals Kimberly Cowen and Racheal Nye auditioned hundreds of children in D.C. and have spent countless hours preparing materials to assist the D.C. stagers during rehearsals until Kimberly and Devon could be there to rehearse them with our company.
Kramer (Pruitt) Kreiling is Kansas City Ballet School’s Administrator at the Bolender Center. Along with being among the frontline staff to greet students and guests at the Bolender Center, she also teaches a number of classes for a wide range of students including creative movement classes on up to adults taking Studio classes. But if Kramer seems familiar, it could be because she’s been around KCBS since she was 9.
A Stong History
Kramer has seen a lot of changes for the school as well. When she started taking classes, KCB was located where the Kauffman Center is now. Then the organization moved across the street to 1601 Broadway, what’s now Quixotic’s Offices.
During her time, she danced in several Kansas City Ballet productions including the role of “Clara” in Todd Bolender’s The Nutcracker, and MidWest Youth Ballet became Kansas City Youth Ballet. Kramer was part of the youth company from its inception in 2007 through 2011 when she graduated from high school and KCBS. After college, where she earned her BFA in Dance in 2014, she began teaching classes at KCBS and eventually worked her way up to an administrator position.
“I never really questioned leaving the dance world,” Kramer says. “I can’t exactly pinpoint a moment, but it was just always the thing that felt ‘right’. Though I now just take classes for personal enjoyment, I still feel fully immersed in the ballet world with my teaching.”
A New Passion
Kramer says: “The first time I stepped into the studio as the teacher, rather than the student, I knew I had discovered my true passion. I absolutely love teaching! I like to say that when I dance it is my selfish act, but when I teach it is my way of giving to others. I am lucky to teach a large variety of classes here at KCBS. Most of my time is spent with young dancers in our Children’s Program and with our Adult Beginners. I have also had the opportunity to teach contemporary, improv, and theraband classes in KCBS’s Summer Intensive and Junior Summer Intensive.”
Kramer enjoys being both a teacher and administrator because she is able to bond with students in the studio, as well as with their families outside of the studio. Making those connections brings her full circle back to her own memories of being a student at KCBS.
Company Dancer Taryn Mejiais a former Kansas City Ballet School student. She danced at New York City Ballet before returning to Kansas City to dance for Kansas City Ballet these last six seasons.
Q: HOW DID YOU BECOME A DANCER? AND WHEN DID YOU START DANCING?
A: I started ballet when I was 3 and I haven’t stopped since—except to have my daughters.
Q: what is something most people wouldn’t know about you?
A: I have my degree in child development and psychology.
Q: as a professional athlete as well as artist, what makes up your diet?
A: During the season I need lots of red meat to help my muscles recover. I also drink lots of kombucha and coconut water.
Q: What are some of your favorite memories from working here at KCB?
A: The best memories are those made dancing with your friends. A wise dancer I look up to once told me, “It’s not the roles you dance, but the friends you dance with that make the most satisfying careers.” I am finding that more true with each year.
In honor of Kansas City Ballet’s Nutcracker debut at the John F. Kennedy Center in Washington, D.C., next week, KC Ballet has Company member Lamin Pereira dos Santos and KCB School Student Maggie Crist on board to takeover the @kc.ballet and @kc.balletschool Instagram accounts respectively. Be sure to follow them on their incredible journey that begins today! Send them some hometown love as they represent KCB in our nation’s capital. They’ll begin KC performances on Dec. 7th at the Kauffman Center.
Top: KCB Dancer Lamin Pereira dos Santos. Bottom: KCB Dancer Michael Davis and KCB School Student Maggie Crist. All photography by Brett Pruitt & East Market Studios.
Introduced in the 2016-17 season, Dance-A-Story is a 45-minute workshop for Pre-K and Early Elementary school kids that brings children’s stories to life through creative movement, music, and a costume show and tell. The workshop works to enhance early childhood education in part by focusing on literacy, vocabulary, and cooperative learning skills.
A Kansas City Ballet Community Education Program Teaching Artist leads the workshop—which may be held at local libraries and Pre-K schools during story hours. This educational program is 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 the company’s story ballets to community venues, this fun, interactive program provides another avenue to enhance literacy.”
Two Workshops This Season
This year the boys and girls participating will learn about The Nutcracker (available in November/December) and new Peter Pan ballet coming this spring (available in April/May 2018).
For many young children, it may be their first experience with ballet and has potential to spark an interest that is experienced with family members and teachers.
Now in her second season with Kansas City Ballet’s second company, KCB II Dancer Marisa Whiteman, shares a little about herself and what she’s enjoyed about KC these last four years (the first two as a member of our Trainee Company).
Q: what is something most people wouldn’t know about you?
A: I have a twin sister named Mikhaila. We started ballet classes at age 4. I have had the opportunity to dance with her in Russia. I’ve also had the opportunity to learn to fly on the trapeze when I was younger.
Q: Do you have a personal mantra or affirmation that you swear by?
A: The mantra I live by is to be the best “Me” I can be. I believe everyone is unique in their own way and we should all embrace ourselves.
Q: Do you have hobbies or special Interests?
A: Some of my favorite hobbies are baking and traveling. I love trying out new recipes and when I have a free time I love to explore new places. Visiting new countries is interesting because of all the cultural differences and history. Occasionally, I still like to do a bit of drawing as well.
Q: What do you enjoy most about KC?
A: I found Kansas City to be a hidden gem in the center of the U.S. It has so much of what a big city offers with a small town feel. It has a great arts community, sports, restaurants and the friendliest people.