Meet Two of Our ROAD Teaching Artists

Left–R.O.A.D. Teaching Artist Olivia Shaw at Crossroads Academy | Photography by Andrea Wilson. Right–R.O.A.D. Teaching Artist Jenna Wurtzberger at a R.O.A.D. Rally at Hartman Elementary School | Photography by Elizabeth Stehling
Left–R.O.A.D. Teaching Artist Olivia Shaw at Crossroads Academy | Photography by Andrea Wilson. Right–R.O.A.D. Teaching Artist Jenna Wurtzberger at a R.O.A.D. Rally at Hartman Elementary School | Photography by Elizabeth Stehling

Kansas City Ballet’s Reach Out And Dance (R.O.A.D.) Residency Program has been in community schools since the year 2000. But under April Berry, KCB’s Director of Community Engagement and Education, this program has expanded considerably over the last two years.

WHAT IS R.O.A.D AND ITS GOALS?

R.O.A.D. Residency programs use movement/dance to support the academic curriculum taught in many 3rd and 4th grade classrooms throughout the metro. The program currently serves over 20 schools in urban, suburban, and rural school districts in Missouri and Kansas.

Teaching artists from Kansas City Ballet’s Community Engagement and Education department teach weekly movement classes to hundreds of local 3rd and 4th grade students in their schools. Live music is provided in these classes by pianists from KC Ballet. The result is that students learn and retain new information and a different learning paradigm is created to support academic instruction.

The program has many goals. The introduction of various styles of movement and music is one goal; another is to incorporate basic principles found in dance such as: space, time, effort, cooperative learning, and self-discipline into the learning environment. Yet another is to incorporate exercises and games that support Language Arts, Social Studies, Math and Science curriculum.

WHAT IS A TEACHING ARTIST?

A Teaching Artist is different from a dance instructor. KCB Teaching Artists, also called artist educators or community artists, are responsible for teaching students in a wide range of community settings, the fundamentals of dance, and integrating dance concepts and principles related to movement with National and State Education Standards.

Two of our four R.O.A.D. Teaching Artists, Jenna Wurtzberger and Janie Olivia Shaw,  have been working in KCB’s R.O.A.D. Residency program for the past two years. Jenna and Olivia collaborate with KCB’s R.O.A.D. director and with classroom teachers to advance learning for their students. Both use the art of dance to reinforce academic studies within the classroom. They also stress the importance of creativity, critical thinking, improvisation, and communication.

Jenna is a dancer, choreographer, and dance educator. She has an undergraduate degree in dance and psychology from the University of Nevada and a master’s degree in dance from Temple University in Philadelphia.  Olivia has a degree in performance and choreography from Coker College in South Carolina. They have both studied dance and performed.

ON THE JOB

We asked them to talk about why they love their jobs as teaching artists at Kansas City Ballet.

Jenna has taught dance in many different settings; in dance studios, community centers, other dance residency programs in schools, and college dance programs. But she has never encountered a program like R.O.A.D. “The unique structure and approach to dance education are what makes this job at KC Ballet so wonderful. The curriculum is flexible enough to be able to incorporate my teaching philosophy while also valuing what the students have to offer. I get to share a room with expressive, talented, funny and loving students each and every day. I am beyond humbled to be able to share my knowledge and love of dance with this community,” she says.

“There are so many rewarding aspects of this job,” Jenna continues. “Some are small, such as a student with a huge smile walking into the room and telling you that they ‘love to dance!’ or telling you that they have been practicing the R.O.A.D. Chapter Dance in their backyard while their parents are watching. Some are much bigger, such as working with students who are non-verbal and they are communicating with their body just as effectively as their verbal peers or seeing the transformation of a student who is extremely shy and self-conscious to being the center of attention with confidence.”

R.O.A.D. Teaching Artist Olivia Shaw at Crossroads Academy | Photography by Andrea Wilson
R.O.A.D. Teaching Artist Olivia Shaw at Crossroads Academy | Photography by Andrea Wilson

Olivia notes that for her the most rewarding part about being a teaching artist is being able to give back to the community. “I am able to share my experience, training, and passion for dance with a diverse range of students and create relationships with the children I teach. The R.O.A.D. program provides an outlet for these kids through dance and helps them build confidence.”

Jenna admits there can be challenges. Keeping students interested in class and particularly students who think they do not like to dance are examples. “However,” Jenna notes, “these challenges of the job have pushed me to become a more creative and effective educator.”

Olivia feels this position has provided her an opportunity “to do what I love.”

EXCITING MOMENT

Engaging community schools, teachers, students, and their families, and igniting a passion for dance are other benefits of this program. This past December Jenna attended KC Ballet’s The Nutcracker and had an emotional experience. “I saw some of my R.O.A.D. students on stage at the Kauffman Center,” she said. “To see them sharing the stage with other talented dancers from Kansas City Ballet made my heart melt and was something I will never forget.”

2018-19 Trainee Profile: Grace Reed

2018-2019 KC Ballet Trainee and Second Company Member Grace Reed. Photography by Savanna Daniels.

Trainee and member of Kansas City Ballet’s Second CompanyGrace Reed was born in New Mexico but grew up in Texas and Kansas City. She was invited to become a KCB Trainee while attending Kansas City Ballet School. 

Q: TELL US WHY YOU BECAME A DANCEr.

A: Growing up, my brother (who now has a major in Piano Performance) was constantly practicing his piano pieces. You could always find me dancing around behind him as he played. Because my mom saw how inspired I was by my brother’s music, she decided to enroll me in ballet classes. Since then, I am still finding inspiration to dance.

Trainee Grace Reed front left with Kansas City Ballet Dancer Courtney Nitting front right in "The Nutcracker". Photography: Brett Pruitt & East Market Studios.
Trainee Grace Reed front left with Kansas City Ballet Dancer Courtney Nitting front right in “The Nutcracker”. Photography: Brett Pruitt & East Market Studios.

Q: WHAT DO YOU LIKE TO DO WHEN YOU’RE NOT DANCING? 

A: When I am not dancing, I love to spend my time reading, knitting, exploring nature, or watching movies with my family. I love getting to dance, but sometimes you have to do “normal people” things to help you enrich what you get to do in the studio.

Q: WHAT IS SOMETHING MOST PEOPLE WOULDN’T KNOW ABOUT YOU?

A: A current FBI agent once recommended that I look into pursing a career as an agent after viewing my marksmanship at the shooting range.

Q: WHAT DO YOU LOVE MOST ABOUT BALLET?

A: I always find new things to enjoy about ballet, even if I have seen a certain piece a hundred times. Ballet itself is always challenging me to accomplish things I never thought I could.

Q: WHAT WAS THE BEST ADVICE YOU EVER RECEIVED?

A: The best dancing advice I have ever received is from one of my teachers, Claudio Munoz. He once told me to “Dance like you’re wearing a Versace or Oscar de la Renta gown.” Because I love looking at gowns from those designers, it immediately made sense to me how I should carry myself during the certain piece he was coaching me on at the time. Since then, I have reminded myself of those words whenever I have felt unsure of myself while dancing.

 

Top Photo by Savanna Daniels.

Devon Carney Talks Lady of the Camellias

Kansas City Ballet’s Artistic Director Devon Carney shares some thoughts on the company’s upcoming performances of Val Caniparoli’s Lady of the Camellias Feb. 15-24 at the Kauffman Center.

The Choreographer

It’s a privilege for Kansas City Ballet to perform this landmark creation by the world-class choreographer Val Caniparoli—one of his signature works.

Caniparoli is no stranger to Kansas City Ballet. In February 2010, the company presented his Lambarena with its striking music, a mix of Bach and African rhythms. Then in May of 2017, our company performed his dramatic and intense ballet, The Lottery, based on Shirley Jackson’s shocking short story by the same name.

The Ballet

For Lady of the Camellias, his choreography demands a physical technicality and profound artistry from the dancers to express the breadth of emotion in this compelling story. It’s an intense artistic challenge and an opportunity for our dancers to develop true three-dimensional characters. We continue to raise the level of artistic content and thus, the quality of our artists. Building on this momentum keeps moving them forward, as we continually find productions to benefit both you, our audience, and our dancers alike.

In this particular ballet, our journey includes experiencing romantic interludes with Armand, a young countryman, and Marguerite, a famous courtesan as they become entangled in a forbidden affair. These two come from differing backgrounds and socio-economic levels, but they discover true love. At its heart, this is a story of love at its deepest and most sincere. And this strong romantic connection between these two characters makes this such a great story ballet—one that will surely endure for the ages.

Despite everything they experience, Marguerite has faith in Armand and hope for their life.
Love is indeed the greatest power one can experience in life.

Ultimately though, the forces working against them lead to heartbreak and loss. Of course, the
final scene rips your heart apart with such romance and compassion and yearning for what might have been.

Through it all, I’m reminded of this famous quote from George Sand: There is only one happiness in this life, to love and be loved.

I couldn’t agree more.

 

Top photograph by Brett Pruitt & East Market Studios

Event Recap: An Evening with Ramona Pansegrau

Photography by Larry F. Levenson
Photography by Larry F. Levenson

Kansas City Ballet Bolender Society attended Lady of the Camellias or How I Fell in Love with Chopin at Age 4 with Music Director Ramona Pansegrau on January 24 hosted at the Carriage Club by Mike and Melanie Fenske.

The evening included special performances by mezzo-soprano Sarah Curtis and Second Company dancers with a cocktail and dessert reception.

SPECIAL ANNOUNCEMENT

Attendees enjoyed the musical portion of the evening and then heard Artistic Director Devon Carney’s exclusive announcement of Kansas City Ballet’s 2019-2020 season, which features Adam Hougland’s WORLD PREMIERE Carmina Burana, Devon Carney’s Swan Lake, Lila York’s Celts, George Balanchine’s Serenade, and Edwaard Liang’s Wunderland.

For tickets or more information click here.

EVENT Photos

Kansas City Ballet's Second Company performed. Photography by Larry F. Levenson
Kansas City Ballet’s Second Company performed. Photography by Larry F. Levenson.
Angela Walker, Barbara Storm, and Ramona Pansegrau. Photography by Larry F. Levenson.
Angela Walker, Barbara Storm, and Ramona Pansegrau. Photography by Larry F. Levenson.
Joan Locke, George Langworthy, Ramona Pansegrau. Photography by Larry F. Levenson.
Joan Locke, George Langworthy, Ramona Pansegrau. Photography by Larry F. Levenson.
Doug and Karen Downing, Mathew and Jane Webster, Devon Carney, and KCBII Dancers. Photography by Larry F. Levenson
Doug and Karen Downing, Mathew and Jane Webster, Devon Carney, and KCBII Dancers. Photography by Larry F. Levenson
Diana and Rick Poccia and Ramona Pansegrau. Photography by Larry F. Levenson.
Diana and Rick Poccia and Ramona Pansegrau. Photography by Larry F. Levenson.
Steve and Cathy Doyal, Artistic Director Devon Carney and Pam Royal Carney. Photography by Larry F. Levenson.
Steve and Cathy Doyal, Artistic Director Devon Carney and Pam Royal Carney. Photography by Larry F. Levenson.
Executive Director Jeffrey J. Bentley and Bill and Ginny Shackelford. Photography by Larry F. Levenson.
Executive Director Jeffrey J. Bentley and Bill and Ginny Shackelford. Photography by Larry F. Levenson.

 

2018-19 Dancer Profile: Taryn Mejia

Kansas City native, Taryn Mejia, began taking lessons at Kansas City Ballet School at age 3. She studied ballet at KCBS and The School of American Ballet before joining New York City Ballet. She joined Kansas City Ballet in 2012

Q: WHY DID YOU BECOME A DANCER?

A: I was always dancing around my house as a kid.

JCCC’s New Dance Partners September 2017 – Kansas City Ballet performing “The Uneven” choreographed by Matthew Neenan. Photo, Copyright 2017 Mike Strong, kcdance.com with full usage permissions for the companies and dancers

Q: WHAT IS YOUR FAVORITE DANCE BAG ITEM AND WHY?

A: My foam roller. So many little aches and pains are from tight muscles that can be easily rolled out.

Q: WHAT IS SOMETHING MOST PEOPLE WOULDN’T KNOW ABOUT YOU?

A: I took six years off dancing to go to college and have children.

Q: WHAT DO YOU LIKE TO DO WHEN YOU ARE NOT DANCING?

A: I like to go on outings with my children. We love Science City, Deanna Rose Farmstead, Powell Gardens, the Kansas City Zoo, The Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art, and Kaleidoscope to name a few. There is so much to do in this city and it’s a way to connect with my kids and the community.

 

Top Photo by Brett Pruitt & East Market Studios