Remembering Deena Budd

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“Gala Performance”, choreographed by Anthony Tudor and performed in 1993. Kansas City Ballet Dancers: Deena Budd & Robert Skaft

Kansas City Ballet mourns the passing of former company dancer, Deena (Budd) Haws. Deena danced with Kansas City Ballet for 13 years (1983-1996). She passed away on June 14, 2019 in North Carolina.

Deena’s beautiful smile and infectious laugh endeared her to so many. Her dedication to ballet was apparent. Former Kansas City Ballet Artistic Director Todd Bolender often cast Deena in jumping or comedic roles. She had a lot of energy and a great sense of humor. She was so strong and her fast footwork, soaring jumps, and incredibly fast turns, kept audiences fully engaged.

Deena also was known for her practical jokes both inside and outside of the studio.

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George Balanchine’s “A La Francaix” from 1991. Kansas City Ballet Dancers: Deena Budd & Sean Duus. Photo by Don Middleton.

HUMOR AND KINDNESS — A WINNING COMBINATION

“She was a prankster,” fellow company dancer Sean Duus recalled. “I remember one bus tour she hid an alarm clock in someone’s bag set to go off at 2:30 a.m. Once it did, it took forever to find it. In retaliation, the next night while she was performing the other dancers all got her suitcase and sewed all the arms and legs of her regular clothes shut. She took it all in stride.”

“Everyone loved Deena. She was so warm and friendly,” Sean went on to say. “On my first day with the company, I walked into the studio to take class. Every time I tried to take a place at the barre someone would tell me it belonged to someone else. It was very territorial. But when I looked at Deena, she smiled and told me to take the place next to her. I will never forget that, her kindness.”

INCREDIBLE SKILL

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Paula Weber’s “Carmina Burana” from 1996. Kansas City Ballet Dancer: Deena Budd.

Former company dancer Kim Cowen remembers, “I grew up watching her dance. She was incredibly strong but looked so effortless. She was super, super light on her feet with amazing jumps. It was like she had springs in her feet, but I never heard her land. She was like a cat that way. She also had really graceful port de bras. Everything just looked effortless. And she was always smiling. Her feet were so strong and she had so much control of every step.”

Chief Operating Officer Kevin Amey, who was the company tour manager in those days, remembers Deena, “She could turn like a top. Deena danced in Alvin Ailey’s The River. She danced the section called “Vortex” and it seemed like she could spin forever.”

BEYOND DANCING

Her best friend for over 30 years and former company dancer Susan (Lewis) Sands said, “Of course we danced together, but we were also roommates for four years until we each got married two weeks apart from one another in the summer of 1990.”

Deena married Fred Haws of Raytown, Mo. After she retired, she taught full time at Kansas City Ballet and she would travel to Colorado in the summers when the Summer Intensive program was held at Crested Butte in the late 90s. In 1998, she and Fred moved to Atlanta where Deena taught at Atlanta Ballet School before eventually moving to North Carolina.

She left a lasting mark on Kansas City audiences, staff and fellow dancers.

If you’d like to leave a memory or comment, please do so here. They will be shared with her family.

OBITUARY

For more about Deena, please read her obituary.

MORE PHOTOS

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Todd Bolender with Deena Budd during a Nutcracker rehearsal in St. Louis (1996). Photo by Kevin Manning, St. Louis Post-Dispatch.
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Balanchine’s “Serenade” from 1993. Kansas City Ballet Dancers: Deena Budd & Edward Augustyn
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Todd Bolender’s “An American in Paris” from 1987. Kansas City Ballet Dancers: Deena Budd & Brian Staihr
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“Celebration” by Zachary Solov in 1992. Kansas City Ballet Dancers: David Scamardo & Deena Budd

Board Profile: Kathy Stepp

Founder of Stepp & Rothwell, Kathy Stepp, leads Kansas City Ballet’s Board as president. Her term covered both the 2017-2018 60th Anniversary Season, as well as, this 2018-2019 Season when Septime Webre’s The Wizard of Oz had its world premiere. We want to thank Kathy for her leadership and hard work. We also want to learn more about how her role as president has made an impact.

HOW DID YOU GET INTRODUCED TO KANSAS CITY BALLET?

A client invited us to join them at a ballet performance. This was back before the Kauffman Center, and it happened to be springtime. I knew nothing about the ballet, except for a dim understanding of The Nutcracker. The performance we attended was far from my “Nutcracker” perception—it was a mixed rep. I remember that during the intermission Jeff Bentley came out on stage to invite the audience members to sign up for next year’s season tickets out in the lobby. I so loved what I saw that day that I marched right up to the desk in the lobby and bought season tickets for the next year!

WHAT HAS BEEN YOUR BEST EXPERIENCE WITH KANSAS CITY BALLET?

There have been so many great experiences with KCB—from performances to patron trips to the Kennedy Center to balls—that it is very hard to say. But if I have to choose something, I’d say it’s been the opportunity to meet so many great and dedicated people. The board members are wonderful; the staff is wonderful; the patrons are wonderful; and the dancers are simply amazing!

Kathy Stepp at Celebrate 60 event at Kauffman Center during the 2017-18 Season. | Photography by Larry F. Levenson

WHAT HAS BEEN YOUR BIGGEST ACCOMPLISHMENT DURING YOUR TIME AS BOARD PRESIDENT?

I can’t take credit alone for anything, but I am proud that during my tenure we visited with Austin Ballet to learn about ways to energize our audience development efforts, which led to our current collaboration with data miners and marketers, and that we got the Endowment campaign off the ground. We also had a fabulous 60th anniversary party, and we worked to integrate the Guild and the BARRE groups more closely into our structure.

WHAT DO YOU LOVE TO SHARE WITH OTHERS ABOUT KANSAS CITY BALLET?

I love to share my personal experience of learning what athletes the dancers are and how impressive the productions are, in all respects. The Ballet brings happiness to people’s lives! Not only is the dancing beautiful, but it’s such a collaboration of dance and music and lights and costumes…  It’s simply amazing!

WHY IS IT IMPORTANT TO INTRODUCE NEW PEOPLE TO THE BALLET? HOW DO YOU DO THIS?

I think that many people have a misunderstanding of ballet, as I did. I so want everyone to experience it once—they will be blown away! My husband and I have four season tickets, so we bring other people with us to performances.

WHAT HAVE YOU LEARNED AS PRESIDENT THAT YOU MIGHT NOT HAVE OTHERWISE?

The most important lesson I learned is that the people involved—from the dancers to the administrative staff and everyone in between—are passionate about what they do, to an extent I haven’t seen in any other walk of life. Also, because I focus on finances in my day job, it was eye-opening to see the financial workings of an art company. The performances simply cannot be self-sustaining, because there are a limited number of seats, and it is important to keep the prices at an accessible level. Therefore, an awful lot of people have to support the arts.

HOW HAS YOUR PHILANTHROPY AND VOLUNTEERISM TO THE BALLET BENEFITED YOU PERSONALLY AND PROFESSIONALLY?

My husband and I get a lot more than we give!  We’ve met wonderful people and best friends, as well as dancers from around the world!