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

2018-19 Dancer Profile: Tempe Ostergren

Tempe Ostergren joined Kansas City Ballet in the fall of 2010. She had studied at The School of American Ballet and Pacific Northwest Ballet, both known for their George Balanchine influences. Next she danced with Boston Ballet, known for their classical ballet style. Her experiences with these entities would shape her for her next position with Kansas City Ballet. Uniquely positioned for a growing company, Tempe was ready for the change.

Kansas City Ballet Dancers Tempe Ostergren and Liang Fu in the roles of Titania and Oberon in Bruce Wells’ A Midsummer Night’s Dream. Photography by Brett Pruitt and East Market Studios.

She’s danced many coveted roles including Juliet in Romeo & Juliet, Aurora in The Sleeping Beauty, the title role in Giselle, Titania from A Midsummer Night’s Dream (both William Whitener’s and Devon Carney’s versions), Mina in Michael Pink’s Dracula and one of her favorite, Odette/Odile in Swan Lake. Any one of these roles is an accomplishment and part of a ballerina’s bucket list. But Swan Lake holds a place in her heart. “Dancing this role felt like I was connected to all the generations of previous ballerinas who’d danced this role. It’s a special accomplishment—a bond.” Tempe says.

Working with the legendary Cynthia Gregory was one of her career highlights. “She helped me make the role my own. Her focus was on expressing the emotion of the scene. By getting that right you enrich the experience for everyone,” Tempe says.

Dancer Tempe Ostergren | Photography by Elizabeth Stehling
Dancer Tempe Ostergren | Photography by Elizabeth Stehling

SWAN SONG

Tempe will retire after 20 years as a professional ballerina.

Of Kansas City, Tempe shares her appreciation of the audiences. She considered them accepting, nurturing even. They empowered her to have freedom to perform onstage without fear and judgement. She appreciates the quality of life that KC has offered. “It’s a big city with lots of arts offerings, but without the steep costs and traffic. And the supporters are loyal and easy to talk to.”

She feels lucky to have been in the right place at the right time. She never felt pegged as one type of dancer. And having danced for two decades without a major injury, she beat the odds. Her whole career was spent with her nose to the grindstone. She’s proud that she stayed true to herself and worked diligently on her technique. She is grateful for the faith she had in herself and her rich collection of experiences both in the studio and on stage.

Tempe Ostergren | Photography Elizabeth Stehling
Tempe Ostergren | Photography Elizabeth Stehling

NEXT STEPS

Not one to ever stop progress. Tempe will continue to teach ballet classes at Kansas City Ballet School as her schedule allows. But she’s excited for her next role: mother. Her son is due this summer.

“I’ve heard that as one transitions from dancing, you never know how you will feel. It’s a totally different chapter ahead,” she says. She fully expects to immerse herself in motherhood. But down the road she imagines her interests in gardening, going back to college and teaching or coaching ballet students will come to the forefront.

“With ballet I cannot say goodbye. Never goodbye,” she says with a smile.

 

2018-19 Dancer Profile: Emily Mistretta

Kansas City Ballet Dancer, Emily Mistretta, joined the company in 2016. She is thrilled to debut as the ravishing courtesan, Marguerite, in Val Caniparoli’s Lady of the Camellias Feb. 15-24, 2019 at the Kauffman Center for the Performing Arts.

Dancers: Emily Mistretta & Lamin Pereira dos Santos. Photography: Kenny Johnson.
Dancers: Emily Mistretta & Lamin Pereira dos Santos. Photography: Kenny Johnson.

Q: WHAT WERE YOU FEELING/THINKING WHEN YOU FOUND OUT YOU’D BE DANCING THE ROLE OF MARGUERITE? 

A: I was so excited  when I heard I was being considered for the role of Marguerite. I performed in Val Caniparoli’s Lady of the Camellias when I was still dancing with Boston Ballet and fell in love with the ballet and especially her character. I would watch every night from the wings the end scene of Marguerite in her room alone. It’s so transporting.

Q: WHAT ARE YOU MOST LOOKING FORWARD TO WITH REGARDS TO LADY OF THE CAMELLIAS?

A: I’m most looking forward to the acting aspect of the ballet. I have always loved the side of ballet that tells a story and lets you really become somebody or something else. It’s exciting getting into her character and persona, trying to find the different layers of her and attempting to portray that to the audience.

Dancers Emily Mistretta and Lamin Pereira dos Santos. Photography by Elizabeth Stehling.
Dancers Emily Mistretta and Lamin Pereira dos Santos. Photography by Elizabeth Stehling.

Q: HAVE YOU EVER DANCED IN ANY OF vAL cANIPAROLI’S BALLETS?

A: I danced in Val Caniparoli’s The Lottery during my first season with KCB. I played the role of Mrs. Summers who struggles to go against the grain of the rest of society. It was a somewhat dark ballet to dance. I really enjoyed that intensity.

Q: WHAT DO YOU ENJOY MOST ABOUT REHEARSALS?

A: I enjoy the work itself. Getting into the gritty details and figuring out what works best for me. It’s a discussion and a discovery that kind of unfolds. I kind of have to go through the muck and figure it out, but when I do it feels so rewarding.

 

Top Photo by Brett Pruitt & East Market Studios

2018-19 Dancer Profile: Lamin Pereira dos Santos

Kansas City Ballet Dancer, Lamin Pereira dos Santos, joined the company in 2014. Since then, he’s performed a number of principal roles in ballets from Albrecht in Giselle to Prince Desire in The Sleeping Beauty. This will be his second time performing in a ballet by choreographer Val Caniparoli. In 2017, he performed in Caniparoli’s The Lottery, based Shirley Jackson’s short story by the same name. He is thrilled to debut as Armand in this production of Lady of the Camellias Feb. 15-24, 2019 at the Kauffman Center for the Performing Arts.

Q: WHAT ARE YOU MOST LOOKING FORWARD TO WITH REGARDS TO LADY OF THE CAMELLIAS?

A: I am definitely looking forward to performing this beautiful ballet with the most amazing piece of music composed by Chopin. Really, it’s a dream come true and I could not ask for better.

After being a super in ABT’s Lady of The Camellias back in 2010 and being fortunate enough to watch the company rehearsals performed by super stars Julie Kent, Marcelo Gomes, Roberto Bolle and Diana Vishneva in the principal roles of Marguerite and Armand I completely fell in love with the ballet and its story. But overall the acting and drama play a big part in it. And that’s why I love it so much.

During those rehearsals I witnessed so much emotion, love, drama and sadness. It helped me see ballet in a different way. At the end of rehearsals fellow dancers were in tears because the were touched by what they saw and felt. Right away I wanted to do the same and touch people’s heart and inspire them.

Dancers Emily Mistretta and Lamin Pereira dos Santos. Photography by Elizabeth Stehling.
Dancers Emily Mistretta and Lamin Pereira dos Santos. Photography by Elizabeth Stehling.

Q: HOW WILL THIS ROLE STRETCH YOU AND HELP YOU GROW AS A DANCER? 

A: This role will help me grow in many different ways. This time the challenge is a bit different and it goes beyond pirouettes and double tours. We all have technique, we all can do those things. But can you do that and act at the same time? I am so looking forward to performing a role different from the ones in classical ballet.

Q: HOW DO YOU GET INTO CHARACTER FOR THESE PRINCIPAL ROLES?

A: I get into character for these principals roles by listening to what the stager is passing on to me throughout the rehearsal process. I also do my own research by watching videos of dancers that I look up to and by recording my rehearsals whenever is possible so I can look for mistakes and for details that can add to telling the story perfectly. Finding the right resource is crucial to expending my knowledge.

Q: WHAT GOES THROUGH YOUR HEAD WHEN YOU ARE PARTNERING?

A: To be honest, I think about what is happening exactly at that moment in the drama. It helps to not think about what’s going to come up next in the ballet such as the next scene or next act. It will all happen naturally.

Dancers Emily Mistretta & Lamin Pereira dos Santos. Photography: Kenny Johnson.
Dancers Emily Mistretta & Lamin Pereira dos Santos. Photography: Kenny Johnson.

Q: WHAT HAVE YOU DONE OUTSIDE OF THE STUDIO TO PREPARE FOR THIS ROLE?

A: As part of my physical training for this role, I am at the gym at 6:00 a.m. for a workout designed to improve my strength and stamina. When the show opens, I’ll perform a ten-minute pas de deux with lots of lifts, so I have added more to my routine in the gym to prepare. A lot of times people don’t realize what it takes to be a male ballet dancer and make everything look graceful, effortless and lift ballerinas over our heads.

Q: WHAT NEEDS TO HAPPEN FOR YOU TO BE SATISFIED WITH YOUR PERFORMANCE?

A: It is hard to be completely satisfied because every performance will be different. It’s never going to be perfect every time! But going on stage with confidence, commitment and passion will make me satisfied. You just have to embrace the role 100% for sure and let your experience and artistry take over the stage and the moment. Everything will fall into the right place.

 

Top Photo by Brett Pruitt & East Market Studios

2018-19 Dancer Profile: Amaya Rodriguez

Kansas City Ballet Dancer, Amaya Rodriguez, joined the company in 2015. She is originally from Cuba and danced with National Ballet of Cuba under Alicia Alonso. She’s made Kansas City her home.

Q: TELL US WHY YOU BECAME A DANCEr.

A: I began to study ballet after the first time I saw Swan Lake. I was struck by so much beauty. From that moment, I knew dancing would be my future.

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

A: I like to do different things like reading a book, studying to learn new things, listening to music and cooking. This way I can relax after a long and exhausting day of work as a dancer.

KC Ballet Dancer Amaya Rodriguez with Company Dancers. Photography: Brett Pruitt & East Market Studios.
KC Ballet Dancer Amaya Rodriguez with Company Dancers. Photography: Brett Pruitt & East Market Studios.

Q: WHAT IS YOUR GUILTY PLEASURE?

A: I like to sing when I’m at home and pretend I’m very famous singer. I can believe it 100%.

Q: WHAT DO YOU LOVE MOST ABOUT BALLET?

A: I love the passion that has developed in me since I was a child. I love the pleasure I feel when I hear the applause of the audience when I finish a performance and especially that I am able to give my all daily despite the fatigue that my body may feel. When I hear the music and think about the choreography, it makes me forget everything and surrender to the magic of my career … dance.

Q: WHAT WAS THE BEST LIFE ADVICE YOU EVER RECEIVED?

A: As long as you know what you want, you can achieve anything. Effort and discipline will be your best allies.

 

Top Photo by Brett Pruitt & East Market Studios

2018-2019 Dancer Profile: Javier Morales

Javier Morales joined Kansas City Ballet in 2017. He’s originally from Pinar del Río, Cuba. 

Q: TELL US WHY YOU BECAME A DANCEr.

A: For pure fun until I realized I was good at dancing.

Q: WHAT IS IT LIKE TO BE A PROFESSIONAL DANCER? 

A: Now looking back and after having traveled to 18 countries and having danced in more than 200 theaters around the world including many that were prestigious, I can say it is a great experience to participate in a community that brings everyone closer to the most noble and probably ancient art of humanity. The Dance.

Kansas City Ballet Dancers Austin Meiteen and Javier Morales. Photography: Brett Pruitt & East Market Studios.
Kansas City Ballet Dancers Austin Meiteen and Javier Morales. Photography: Brett Pruitt & East Market Studios.

Q: WHAT QUESTION DO YOU GET ASKED MOST ABOUT YOUR JOB AS A DANCER?

A: What they ask the most is whether the work in the ballet is hard. What some do not know is that not only is it hard, but dancers have the highest standards in terms of training, almost at the level, and in some cases more, than many high-risk sports.

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

A: I write and read since I am conscious with the hope of one day publishing my stories. I am fascinated to investigate the evolution of human consciousness in all its aspects and it is amazing to observe how nothing has changed for a long time.

Q: WHAT WAS THE BEST LIFE ADVICE YOU EVER RECEIVED?

A: There is no magic trick. Go for it and work hard. Learn how to learn. Give up your ego and arrogance that will only lead you to a world of loneliness. Be humble without you coming to pretend

 

Top Photo by Brett Pruitt & East Market Studios.

2018-19 Dancer Profile: Lilliana Hagerman

Lilliana Hagerman was born in Pordenone, Italy, and started dancing at the age of 6. She joined Kansas City Ballet in 2014 as a member of KCB II and climbed the ranks from there. She will dance the role of the “Sugar Plum Fairy” along with her husband Lamin Pereira dos Santos as “Her Cavalier” Dec. 9th at 5 p.m. and Dec. 16th at 1 p.m.

Kansas City Ballet Dancers Lilliana Hagerman and Lamin Pereira dos Santos rehearse the Sugar Plum Fairy and her Cavalier for The Nutcracker. Photo by Elizabeth Stehling.
Kansas City Ballet Dancers Lilliana Hagerman and Lamin Pereira dos Santos rehearse the Sugar Plum Fairy and her Cavalier for The Nutcracker. Photo by Elizabeth Stehling.

Q: TELL US WHY YOU BECAME A DANCEr.

A: When I was young and before I even knew what ballet or dance was, I used to “dance” around the house all the time my parents told me. So, when we moved to the States my parents enrolled me in ballet class. The rest is history.

Q: HOW DO YOU STAY FIT OUTSIDE OF THE STUDIO? 

A: I love swimming. It’s the only other kind of work out besides dancing that I find fun.

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

A: I was born in Italy because both of my parents were in the military and I lived there for four years.

Q: WHAT IS IT LIKE TO BE A PROFESSIONAL DANCER WITH A BALLET COMPANY?

A: It’s surreal. Not many people can say their dream came true, but I can and that is something I am thankful for everyday.

Q: WHAT WAS THE BEST LIFE ADVICE YOU EVER RECEIVED?

A: To always stay humble. If you get to the top by stepping on other people, it’s because you couldn’t do it with your own talent. So, it’s not worth it.

PAST PROFILES

Dancer Profile: Lilliana Hagerman

Top Photo by Brett Pruitt & East Market Studios

2018-19 Dancer Profile: Nicholas Keeperman

In his first season with Kansas City Ballet, meet Company Apprentice, Nicholas Keeperman. This Illinois native is getting to know KC.

Q: TELL US WHY YOU BeCAME A DANCEr.

A: I got started by watching my sister dancing in the studio when I was little. I was attracted to how hard it was and enchanted by the feeling of performing.

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

A: I like to relax and read books and unwind from the day as best I can. I feel it is important to get a clear head space before everyday at work.

KC Ballet Dancers in the recent "The Wizard of Oz". Nicholas Keeperman on the far left. Photography by Brett Pruitt & East Market Studios.
KC Ballet Dancers in the recent “The Wizard of Oz”. Nicholas Keeperman on the far left. Photography by Brett Pruitt & East Market Studios.

Q: WHAT WOULD MOST PEOPLE NOT KNOW ABOUT YOU?

A: I’m very good at puzzles and I have three older siblings and have lived away from home since I was 13.

Q: WHAT IS YOUR FAVORITE STRETCH?

A: I love rolling out my muscles before class. It’s important for me to stay loose for my dancing.

Q: WHAT IS THE BEST DANCING ADVICE YOU RECEIVED AND WHY?

A: To keep my head up and never doubt myself. It’s important to believe in yourself because you’re the only person that can decide your future.

 

Top Photo by Brett Pruitt & East Market Studios

2018-19 Dancer Profile: Angelin Carrant

Originally from Paris, meet Company Apprentice, Angelin Carrant. Angelin danced with KCB II last season but this is his first season as a member of Kansas City Ballet.

Q: TELL US WHY YOU BECAME A DANCEr.

A: My mother actually made me take my first few ballet classes. I started to really enjoy it when I took classes with more male dancers. From then on I knew I wanted to be a ballet dancer.

From 2017-18 as KCB II members, dancers Divya Rea and Angelin Carrant. Photography by Brett Pruitt & East Market Studios.
From 2017-18 as KCB II members, dancers Divya Rea and Angelin Carrant. Photography by Brett Pruitt & East Market Studios.

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

A: I like to relax and listen to music. Music is a little therapeutic for me, or I’ll play video games.

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

A: That I’m French and Taiwanese.

Q: WHAT IS IT LIKE TO BE A PROFESSIONAL DANCER WITH A BALLET COMPANY?

A: It’s pretty incredible. This is my first year as an actual ballet dancer in a company and I’m thrilled to be able to call myself a professional dancer.

Q: WHAT WAS THE BEST LIFE ADVICE YOU EVER RECEIVED?

A: Some of the best advice I’ve gotten is to simply breath and relax a little. I’m very uptight and stiff when I dance.

PAST PROFILE

KCB II Profile: Angelin Carrant

 

Top Photo by Brett Pruitt & East Market Studios

2018-19 Dancer Profile: Christopher Costantini

Originally from Milan, Italy, and now in his fifth season with Kansas City Ballet, meet Company Dancer, Christopher Costantini.

Q: TELL US WHY YOU BECAME A DANCEr.

A: My mom, having always been a huge fan of the ballet, introduced me to dance when I was very young. Growing up in Milan, I would regularly go to performances at La Scala, one of the premier opera houses in Europe. One of my first memories of ballet was watching a performance of Cinderella with Alessandra Ferri in the title role.

It took quite a bit of prodding on my mom’s part for me to finally agree to take a ballet class. I instantly fell in love with it: the discipline and the physical progress you can see when improving your technique. Most of all, I enjoyed being able to assume a character on stage. The opportunity to express my ebullient personality on stage is magical. I quickly realized that ballet was a calling and I did everything to make my aspirations of a professional career a reality.

KC Ballet Dancers Amaya Rodriguez and Christopher Costantini. Photography by Elizabeth Stehling.
KC Ballet Dancers Amaya Rodriguez and Christopher Costantini. Photography by Elizabeth Stehling.

Q: WHAT QUESTION DO YOU GET ASKED MOST ABOUT YOUR JOB AS A DANCER? 

A: Most people ask how often we rehearse for performance. They are almost universally shocked to find out that the we have a full 9:15 a.m.-6:00 p.m. work schedule. More impressive to them is that we are pushing our bodies to their physical limits for 40+ hours per week.

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

A: I have a passionate love for reading. It’s hard to find time to do so during the season (I usually spend my commute and free time keeping up with my favorite podcasts), but I indulge over the summer months. I usually spend the summer with five or six good books. Over the past summer I read a fantastic four-part biography series on Lyndon Johnson by Robert Caro that I highly recommend.

Q: WHAT IS IT LIKE TO BE A PROFESSIONAL DANCER WITH A BALLET COMPANY?

A: It’s absolutely fantastic. You’re sharing a storied art form with the public and hopefully instilling an appreciation for ballet and creativity more generally. It’s particularly special for me when we perform student matinees. The theatre is filled with excited school children and their energy is infectious. They are the most genuine in their reactions to our performance and it’s poignant that the future of our art form is being cultivated in that audience.

Q: WHAT WAS THE BEST LIFE ADVICE YOU EVER RECEIVED?

A: “Just say yes.” I think my parents instilled that in me. If an opportunity presents itself, don’t hem and haw too much. Say yes and make it work. Over the long run, that will build up the depth of experience you have and serve you well.

PAST PROFILE

KCB Dancer Profile: Christopher Costantini

Top Photo by Brett Pruitt & East Market Studios