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

2018-19 Dancer Profile: Kaleena Burks

Meet Kansas City Ballet Company Dancer, Kaleena Burks. She’s danced with KCB since the 2010-11 season and recently danced the role of Glinda the Good Witch in Septime Webre’s world premiere of The Wizard of Oz at the Kauffman Center Oct. 12-21, 2018.

Q: TELL US WHY YOU BeCAME A DANCEr.

A: My mother put me in ballet classes when I was young, and I fell in love with dance from there.

KC Ballet Dancers Kaleena Burks and Amanda DeVenuta. Photography by Brett Pruitt & East Market Studios.
KC Ballet Dancers Kaleena Burks and Amanda DeVenuta. Photography by Brett Pruitt & East Market Studios.

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

A: When I’m not dancing I very much enjoy relaxing at home and reading a good book.

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

A: Most people probably don’t know that I’m an avid crocheter.

Q: WHAT IS YOUR FAVORITE SNACK?

A: My go to snack while dancing will always be a banana. It’s the perfect food to nourish you and give you energy.

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

A: Someone once told me when I was having a bad day, “Kaleena, everyday can’t be Christmas.” That has really stuck with me throughout my career. As much as we all want to be at our best every single day, sometimes our body fights against us. The key to being a successful ballerina is learning how to make the days special and worthwhile that aren’t Christmas.

PAST PROFILE POSTS

Dancer Profile: Kaleena Burks

Dancer Spotlight: Kaleena Burks

 

Top Photo by Brett Pruitt & East Market Studios

Cameron Thomas Benched

Kansas City Ballet company dancer Cameron Thomas started playing the piano around 6 or 7 years old. Encouraged by his parents, he took lessons until ninth grade and then continued studying music through school orchestra, music theory classes, and even independently.  Playing music has since evolved into a sort of hobby/passion project. In September, Kansas City Ballet Music Director Ramona Pansegrau hired him as a part-time accompanist for Kansas City Ballet School.

We asked Cameron about his experience on the piano bench and he had plenty to say.

Q: WHAT DO YOU ENJOY ABOUT PLAYING MUSIC?

A: It has always been something I do just for me without pressure or obligation.  Ballet is my passion for sure, but it is also a very demanding and often stressful job.  Don’t get me wrong—dance is well worth it, especially at a place like Kansas City Ballet, but it’s also nice to have music as both an escape and a means to make myself and others smile once in a while…  It’s fun!

Q: MUSIC AND DANCE JUST GO TOGETHER. DOES BEING TALENTED AT BOTH MAKE IT DIFFICULT TO FOCUS ON ONE OR THE OTHER?

A: If I were seriously pursuing music, it would be very difficult to balance it with ballet. Any discipline like ballet demands a fairly exclusive commitment at the professional level.  However, I was fortunate enough to build at least a decent understanding of music from a relatively early age, which has allowed me to more passively improve my own skills at the piano over a longer period of time. I have had stretches where I play often and see improvements, but also times when my workload demands I stop playing for a while. Over several years, I felt I had built a small repertoire of music I could use to play for ballet class, and our music director Ramona Pansegrau was kind enough to give me a shot. So far, so good.

Q: PLAYING PIANO FOR BALLET CLASS IS NOT AS EASY AS IT SOUNDS. WHAT HAS BEEN THE BIGGEST CHALLENGE FOR YOU? WHAT HAVE YOU ENJOYED MOST ABOUT PLAYING FOR CLASSES?

A: Playing for ballet class is definitely not easy for a number of reasons beyond just knowing how to play the piano. Coming from a background of ballet, my challenge is probably different than that of most accompanists.  Often, the challenging part for a pianist is identifying what the appropriate time signature, tempo, quality, duration, or phrasing of a piece of music should be so that it actually works with a given combination.  Of course, good accompanists do this easily, but I would imagine it is a steep learning curve for those who are new to the vocabulary and structure of a ballet class.  Conveniently for me, I am very familiar with ballet, so that part has come fairly easily!  My challenge is the opposite.  Finding new music or tailoring music I already know to fit the needs of ballet combinations was harder for me as I have far less repertoire than a professional pianist.  Also I’ll openly admit, I have some limitations with how well I can actually play difficult music.  Luckily I listen and learn from the best every single day in class! Ramona has also been very helpful in providing me resources to help me out.

Q: HOW DOES BEING A BALLET DANCER HELP WHEN PLAYING FOR BALLET CLASS?

A: Huge yes, as I said in the last answer.  It’s way easier to figure out what to play for a given combination when you know the dancer’s perspective.  I find I can often anticipate what exercise is coming next, what tempo is appropriate, or how to phrase the music much more easily because I’ve taken so many ballet classes as a dancer.

Q: WHEN YOU HEAR A GORGEOUS PIECE OF MUSIC, WHAT COMES FIRST FOR YOU, IMAGINING DANCING TO IT OR PLAYING IT?

A: That’s such an interesting question.  Definitely playing it, or at least listening to it in an active, constructive way. Though music is probably the single most significant inspiration for movement, I am usually just listening, not creating original movement.  Maybe that’s why I don’t have the choreographic bug.  Interpreting a choreographer’s vision of that music through movement is the really amazing part for me, but it is often the most challenging.  The way choreographers interpret music is often remarkably dissimilar from the way the music itself is written.  Sometimes it is challenging to hear more complicated music one way and have it set to movement in a contradictory way, but that is the case for all dancers.  Having a deep understanding of music really helps that process.

Q: FOR WHICH CLASSES DO YOU PLAY? HOW DO STUDENTS RESPOND WHEN THEY REALIZE YOU ARE A PROFESSIONAL COMPANY DANCER?

A: I play for our community engagement students from the R.O.A.D. (Reach out and Dance) program on Wednesdays and the adult beginner open class on Thursdays.  The R.O.A.D. kids are young (9-10 years old) so honestly they’re not always the most aware of the fact that I’m a professional dancer and what that might mean besides the fact that I dance a lot.  They do love the music though, it does not go unnoticed. The adults really enjoy it; they often ask about how I am doing or what the company is working on. They also know that I am relatively new to accompaniment as they are to ballet, and so it creates a light, fun environment.

Q: HAS ANYTHING SURPRISED YOU ABOUT PLAYING FOR CLASSES?

A: What’s most surprising is how gratifying it has been.  Sadly, and I am guilty of this as well, most professional dancers are so accustomed to live music in the classroom that it has become an expectation.  We are far more inclined to notice when there is either something wrong with the music being played or no live accompaniment at all.  That has not been my experience with my classes thus far.  In the classes I play, live accompaniment is a novelty.  They greet me with smiles and positive feedback, sometimes even between combinations. I am grateful to have the opportunity to play for them.

Q: IS THERE ANYTHING ELSE YOU’D LIKE TO SHARE ABOUT YOUR EXPERIENCES?

A: Live music makes ballet class of all skill levels better. If done well, it changes the entire dynamic of a room and can make the class infinitely more productive and enjoyable.  We are lucky to have it here at Kansas City Ballet and I am so excited to learn how to hopefully bring that to a classroom myself.

 

Top photo by Tom Styrkowicz and 53Tom, LLC.

2018-19 Dancer Profile: Danielle Bausinger

Meet Kansas City Ballet Company Dancer, Danielle Bausinger. She’s danced with KCB since the 2014-15 season and will soon be dancing the lead role of the Wicked Witch of the West in Septime Webre’s world premiere of The Wizard of Oz at the Kauffman Center Oct. 12-21, 2018.

Q: TELL US WHY YOU BeCAME A DANCEr.

A: My mom loved to dance and worked at a local dance studio in New Jersey. So my sister and brothers all went to dance classes and I joined. We moved to California where I continued ballet, tap and jazz and at age 6 I decided I just wanted to focus on ballet to become a ballerina.

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

A: I enjoy golfing, going to the movies, and spending time with my husband and dog.

Dancer: Danielle Bausinger. Photography: Kenny Johnson. Story lines and visual elements from the classic motion picture provided by Warner Bros. Theatre Ventures.
Dancer: Danielle Bausinger. Photography: Kenny Johnson.
Story lines and visual elements from the classic motion picture provided by Warner Bros. Theatre Ventures.

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

A: I love all things Disney! I have been to every Disney park except Tokoyo. Disney movies always send good messages and life lessons even in their “fantasy” world.

Q: WHAT IS YOUR FAVORITE SNACK?

A: I always like to have a cup of tea at lunch. It keeps my body warm and it relaxes my muscles.

Q: WHAT IS YOUR GUILTY PLEASURE AND WHY?

A: I love Elevé leotards. I can’t go in the store without coming out with a leo or an idea for a new custom one. They make me feel pretty while I’m dancing and they are very comfortable.

PAST PROFILE POSTS

Dancer Profile: Danielle Bausinger

Top Photo by Brett Pruitt & East Market Studios

2018-19 Dancer Profile: Amanda DeVenuta

Meet Kansas City Ballet Company Dancer, Amanda DeVenuta. She’s danced with KCB since the 2014-15 season and will soon be dancing the lead role of Dorothy in Septime Webre’s world premiere of The Wizard of Oz at the Kauffman Center Oct. 12-21, 2018.

Q: TELL US WHY YOU BeCAME A DANCEr.

Dancer Amanda DeVenuta rehearsing the role of Dorothy for The Wizard of Oz. Photography by Elizabeth Stehling.
Dancer Amanda DeVenuta rehearsing the role of Dorothy for The Wizard of Oz. Photography by Elizabeth Stehling.

A: That’s what I was put here to do. It was just something I knew inside myself. I love it more than I’ll ever be able to describe in words. It’s my breathing.

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

A: I’m always researching different perfumes. I love learning more about the world of scents through Nez a French olfactory perfume magazine. I love to sit in a coffee shop and write poetry and read. I like Romanian poetry because it’s dark and beautiful. I listen to Ólafur Arnalds.

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

A: Either that I love doughnuts or that I write poetry. Both usually seem to shock people.

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

A: Yoga, Pilates, swimming. I recently opened the door to gyrotonics and I love it. It’s medicine for my body.

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

A: Honestly, it’s just to be grateful for what I have, but always be pushing myself to improve. I can want great things for myself while still remaining gracious.

PAST PROFILE POSTS

Dancer Profile: Amanda DeVenuta

 

Top Photo by Brett Pruitt & East Market Studios

2018-19 Dancer Profile: Daniel Rodriguez

Meet Kansas City Ballet Company Dancer, Daniel Rodriguez. Born and raised in New York, Daniel is a proud Fiorello H. LaGuardia High School graduate (the school FAME is based on), and just recently married. He’s also big into Marvel comic books, and generally a self-professed pretty nerdy guy.

Q: TELL US WHY YOU BeCAME A DANCEr.

A: I was introduced to dance by a not-for-profit organization named National Dance Institute (NDI). It was founded by the incredible Jacques D’ Amboise former New York City Ballet super star principal. He created NDI to expose children to the arts for free, and I was in a school that had the program. Before I knew it, through the program, I was exposed to ballet, jazz, tap and more serious dance forms, and here we are. I always loved the technical aspect to it, the rigor of the discipline, and the fun I had with my friends.

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

A: I spent a year training and teaching ballroom dance! As much as I love ballet, I’m also pretty well versed in social dance, I’m great at weddings!

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

A: I love ‘rolling out’ which is technically stretching, so my foam roller is my favorite dance bag item! Rolling out the overused muscles in my legs really help me get through the demands of a ballet season.

Q: WHAT HAVE YOU ENJOYED DOING IN KC?

A: My wife and I went to a Sporting KC game, and I am now forever a fan! Great stadium, great team, and great supporters! I love when a city rallies around a team. It makes sporting events all the more exciting!

Q: WHAT WAS THE BEST DANCING OR LIFE ADVICE YOU EVER RECEIVED AND WHY?

A: One of my favorite quotes of all time is “We are what we repeatedly do. Excellence, then, is not an act, but a habit,” by Aristotle. That quote has guided me through life and dance. I truly believe in constant, thoughtful work. I will never be the greatest dancer in the world, but I want to be known as someone who worked their butt off to improve. You’ll be amazed where all those good habits will get you, I sure am.

 

Photography by Brett Pruitt & East Market Studios

2018-19 Dancer Profile: Courtney Nitting

Please welcome new Kansas City Ballet, Company Dancer Courtney Nitting.

Q: WHAT DOES JOINING kcb MEAN TO YOU?

A: Joining KC Ballet this year as a new dancer officially makes my dream come true. Though I have had experience as a professional dancer prior, I never could personally call myself a professional. I didn’t feel as though I earned that title, not receiving a main company position. However, this year I have now accomplished what my 3-year-old self has been waiting for. I’m so appreciative for this opportunity and very excited to now say that I am a professional ballerina with my one of my biggest dreams in life accomplished.

Q: TELL US WHY YOU BECAME A DANCER.

A: I became a dancer because…well, the story is a bit out of the ordinary. I was 3 years old and told my mom I wanted to go to a real ballet school. I had never really seen ballet or knew what dance was but something inside me said this is what I was going to do; this is what I wanted to be when I grew up. From that moment on, ballet has always been my main focus and my true passion; the more I learned and got challenged in the art, the more I fell in love with ballet. I just knew it was my calling; it’s my air, my heart, and my soul.

Q: wHAT’S IT LIKE BEING A PROFESSIONAL DANCER?

A: Being a professional dancer with a professional company is a dream. It’s the greatest feeling to call what I love most in life my career. Not many people can say they love their job and that they’ve achieved one of their biggest aspirations in life; I am lucky to say I have. From daily class every morning, to rehearsals that run all hours of the day and finally ending with a performance for the public to enjoy, are experiences I wouldn’t change for the world. It doesn’t feel like work because you are living in every moment. Each of these moments make everyday being a professional dancer a gift.

Q: WHAT QUESTION DO YOU GET ASKED A LOT AS PROFESSIONAL DANCER?

A: The question I get asked most about my job as a dancer is if our toes hurt from being on pointe. The answer to this is quite simple: YES! Dancers feet hurt all the time and most of the time. We get blisters, bruised toe nails, aches and pains like all other athletes. The difference is that while we are in this pain, we have to look like we are walking on clouds; effortless and calm. However, while we might look like beautiful fairies on top, our insides could be screaming with boiling pain. On the contrary, this pain doesn’t stop us from dancing our hearts out because the moment that curtain goes up, all your pain goes away. Its the magic of the stage that sweeps us off our feet; sometimes quite literally.

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

A: One thing most people wouldn’t know about me is that I wear two different sizes in pointe shoes; one for each foot. I have always had one foot bigger than the other for as long as I can remember. I have tried for so many years to wear one size but I would always go back to wearing two. So in order to get one pair of shoes I order two pairs in the differing sizes. Then I take one shoe from each size to make a full pair. I am not the only dancer ever to wear two sizes, but it has created some uneven challenges when I am dancing. I just look at it as another reason to work even harder.

Q: WHAT WAS THE BEST DANCING OR LIFE ADVICE YOU EVER RECEIVED AND WHY?

A: The best dancing and life advice I have ever received comes from my mom. She is my biggest support and always knows the right things to say at the right times. However, there is one thing we have always kept close between us no matter what life has thrown at us. This is to “never give up.” I have had some ups and downs when it comes to dancing and life in general, but keeping that little phrase in the back of my mind always helped to keep moving forward. I treasure those three words and will live by them forever.

 

Photography by Brett Pruitt & East Market Studios