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

2018-19 Dancer Profile: Whitney Huell

Now in her fifth season with Kansas City Ballet, Company Dancer Whitney Huell, opens up about her interests.

Q: TELL US WHY YOU BeCAME A DANCEr.

A: I started dancing after seeing my older sister perform in a recital. When I took my first ballet class I was hooked. I loved learning to do new and challenging movements and working to improve them every class. The constant work to improve steps intrigued me.

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

A: Being a professional dancer is a blessing because we get to pursue our passion of dance in the form of a job. Doing what you love for a living is a wonderful feeling. There are definitely ups and downs within one’s career but this profession is an exciting one.

KC Ballet Dancer Whitney Huell

Q: WHAT IS YOUR GUILTY PLEASURE?

A: Food! I love dining out. I am very frugal but it is very hard for me to turn down a restaurant invitation.

Q: WHAT IS YOUR FAVORITE SNACK?

A: My favorite snacks during a rehearsal day are fruit strips. They are tasty, sweet and give you a bit of a sugar boost. I like the strawberry and peach flavors from Whole Foods.

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

A: Don’t compare yourself to others. Being the best dancer you can be is the goal. I think this is important and has helped me grow as an artist.

 

Other blog posts about Whitney Huell:

Dancer Profile: Whitney Huell

Dancer Spotlight: Whitney Huell

 

 

Dancer Profile: Danielle Bausinger

Danielle Bausinger joined Kansas City Ballet at the start of the 2014-2015 season.

Q: WHEN DID YOU START DANCING?

A: My mom loved ballet but never danced professionally. So she helped at a local dance studio. My sister went into lessons and then I followed her lead once I turned 3.

Q: WHAT DO YOU ENJOY MOST ABOUT BEING A DANCER?

A: There is no feeling in the world like performing! Putting your emotions through your movement and to music is something magical in this world that can’t be replicated.

KCB Dancer Danielle Bausinger as evil fairy Carabosse in "The Sleeping Beauty." Photography: Brett Pruitt & East Market Studios.
KCB Dancer Danielle Bausinger evil fairy Carabosse in “The Sleeping Beauty.” Photography: Brett Pruitt & East Market Studios.

Q: DO YOU HAVE HOBBIES OR SPECIAL INTERESTS?

A: I love to go to movies and I enjoy going to the driving range every now and then.

Q: DO YOU HAVE A PERSONAL MANTRA?

A: Work hard, even when it’s hard work.

Q: IF YOU FIND YOU HAVE AN UNEXPECTED HOUR FREE, WHAT WOULD BE YOUR IDEAL WAY TO SPEND IT AND WHY?

A: I rest and recoup. I do better when my body has had some down time. If I keep going and running errands and such, I don’t have the stamina in my legs to push when I get too tired.

Dance Festival: Why Dancers are Excited

Kansas City Ballet’s 60th Anniversary Dance Festival kicks off Friday, April 6 and runs through April 15. Find out why our dancers are excited for these upcoming programs.

 

Angelina Sansone | Company Dancer Since 2005

“I am happy to be sharing my 13th and final season with Kansas City Ballet’s 60th anniversary.

As many dancers would agree, Working on Jiří Kylián movement has always been something I’ve wanted to do before I retire.  I’ve been inspired by Andrea Schermoly’s work for some time as well, but this entire program is jam packed with moments I’m excited for. I love mixed rep programs. It allows us to be in the studio working on so many different things, with multiple stagers and choreographers. We are constantly changing gears and pushing ourselves mentally and physically.

Over my career the KC audiences have watched me change and learn, trying on many styles and adapting to different characters. They’ve seen me with everything stripped away, vulnerable, joyful, scared, strong, passionate… a dancer and a human. I honestly just can’t wait to get out there on that stage, give my all, dance unabashedly, and go on that ride with my fellow dancers, the musicians, and the audiences. Happy 60th!!!!” Bio

 

Whitney Huell | Company Dancer Since 2014

The Man in Black is the ballet I’m most looking forward to performing. I’ve never done a ballet in boots before! It’s also rare to remain onstage for an entire ballet.  I’m thrilled to experience the connection between four dancers onstage creating movement to six cover songs by Johnny Cash. The rehearsal process has been eye opening for me and I’ve learned how to move my body in many new and fulfilling ways.” Bio

 

James Kirby Rogers | Company Dancer Since 2016

“Truthfully this 60th Anniversary Dance Festival has been a dream come true for me. I have wanted to dance Petite Mort since I was 14 years old. I remember watching the iconic video for the first time and being in rapture. The simplicity of the piece, the cohesiveness of the props, music and choreography blew me away. Each element intermingled to form something that even through a small computer screen was mesmerizing. Now I have the chance to make it my own which is an incredible gift. If that wasn’t enough I remember when I was a student in Houston Ballet Academy watching a video of Stanton Welch’s Play and thinking how it looked like pure fun. I am honored to get to perform the pas de deux in Play and dance to music that I personally love and listen to regularly.” Bio

 

Marisa Whiteman | KCB II, Kansas City Ballet Second Company

“I have been very excited about rehearsing Play because it brings me back to growing up in New York City, surrounded by the hustle and bustle of city life with everyone going about their daily routines. The work is set to music by Moby, and the music helps take you on a journey of feelings and emotions throughout the ballet. You are going to love it!” Bio

 

Georgia Fuller | First Year | Trainee, Kansas City Ballet Second Company

“What I am most excited about for the Anniversary Dance Festival is the diverse repertoire being presented. The varied and eclectic dance styles in the program really show off the many strengths of Kansas City Ballet’s company dancers. I especially love the contrast between the very intimate and contemporary Petite Mort verses the very classical and elegant Balanchine’s Diamonds. I look forward to seeing these beautiful pieces take the stage and leave the audience awestruck!”

 

It’s not too late to get tickets or learn more about the Diamonds (April 6-8) or The Man in Black (April 13-15).

 

Photography by Tom Styrkowicz of 53 Studio.

 

Dancer Profile: Kaleena Burks

Kaleena Burks has been a Kansas City Ballet dancer since the 2010-2011 season.

Q: WHEN DID YOU START DANCING?

A: I started ballet when I was 3 years old. My mother enrolled me in dance because she also danced as a child.

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

A: I’m obsessed with all things vintage. I love going to the West Bottoms to antique shop!

Dancer Kaleena Burks in rehearsal of Diamonds for the Anniversary Dance Festival. Photography by Elizabeth Stehling.
Dancer Kaleena Burks in rehearsal of Diamonds for the Anniversary Dance Festival. Photography by Elizabeth Stehling.

Q: WHAT ARE MOST PEOPLE SURPRISED TO LEARN ABOUT YOUR JOB AS A DANCER?

A: That we literally dance all day! We have an atypical 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. (in our case 6 p.m.) job, but we are up and moving for all of those hours.

Q: DO YOU HAVE A PERSONAL MANTRA?

A: I always tell myself when I’m having a rough day or feeling exhausted that I will be out of my funk—a sort of “This too shall pass” mentality.

Q: IF YOU FIND YOU HAVE AN UNEXPECTED HOUR FREE, WHAT WOULD BE YOUR IDEAL WAY TO SPEND IT AND WHY?

A: When I do have the rare hour off, you can usually find me in a studio sewing pointe shoes. I like to watch my colleagues dance, and I always need more sewn shoes.

Dancer Profile: Sasha Chernjavsky

Originally from Rochester, NY, Sasha Chernjavsky joined the Kansas City Ballet as an apprentice this season.

Q: how did you become a dancer?

A: I was inspired by watching a friend dance.

Q: DO YOU HAVE ANY HOBBIES?

A: Drawing.

Q: WHAT HAS SURPRISED YOU MOST ABOUT KC?

A: It’s a very quaint city and there seems to be a lot to do.

Q: What is something most people wouldn’t know about you?

A: I played piano for about 10 years.

Dancer Profile: Javier Morales

Originally from Cuba, Company Dancer Javier Morales joined Kansas City Ballet this season.

Q: how did you become a dancer? WHEN DID YOU START DANCING?

A: My mom was a French teacher at the ballet school. I went with her and was watching the ballet classes. I liked it from the beginning. I started taking ballet classes in 1992 or 1993.

Q: what do you enjoy most about being a dancer?

A: I enjoy dancing as if there was nothing more than the dance itself.

Q: do you have hobbies or special interests?

A: I am interested in the history of the world and the human conscience, massages and physical therapy.

Q: What is something most people wouldn’t know about you?

A: I write stories.

Dancer Profile: Amanda DeVenuta

Company Dancer Amanda DeVenuta joined Kansas City Ballet at the beginning of the 2014-2015 season.

Q: WHEN DID YOU START DANCING?

A: Once I was able to walk as a baby, I walked on my toes all the time. I wanted to do ballet from the start, and at 8 years old I knew this was what I needed to be doing.

Q: DO YOU HAVE HOBBIES OR SPECIAL INTERESTS?

A: I do. I have a ton! I think it’s important to be inspired by even the smallest of things, such as a jasmine bloom! I love writing poetry and I’m also really intrigued by the world of fragrance. I want to create my own perfume someday.

Q: AS A PROFESSIONAL ATHLETE AS WELL AS ARTIST, WHAT MAKES UP YOUR NUTRITION AND FITNESS ROUTINE?

A: I’m pretty balanced with what I eat. I try and eat healthy main meals, but I definitely don’t deprive myself of doughnuts every once in a while! As far as extra fitness, yoga has strengthened my core while allowing me to focus on my breath getting to all of my muscles, especially fatigued ones. I also occasionally like to go to the gym or go on bike rides. Pilates is also a favorite.

New Moves Rehearsals. Dancer Amanda DeVenuta and Gustavo Ribeiro with Kansas City Ballet Dancers and Choreographer Mariana Oliveira. Photography by Elizabeth Stehling
New Moves 2018 Rehearsals. Dancer Amanda DeVenuta and Gustavo Ribeiro with Kansas City Ballet Dancers and Choreographer Mariana Oliveira. Photography by Elizabeth Stehling

Q: WHAT ARE MOST PEOPLE SURPRISED TO LEARN ABOUT YOUR JOB AS A DANCER?

A: They are surprised to learn that it never stops. Even when on a big layoff, for me, I never can take too much time off. I’m always trying to get stronger.

Q: DO YOU HAVE A PERSONAL MANTRA?

A: “Find the beauty in everything.” It is inspiring to be able to look at simple things/pleasures in life and appreciate them. Life is beautiful and when I get caught up in its chaos, it helps to remember the little things and to not overlook them.

Q: WHAT DO YOU ENJOY MOST ABOUT KC?

A: Its appreciation for the arts! I love how many people support the ballet, opera and symphony here in KC! I also love that there’s always something exotic to try. Whether it’s a creative new restaurant, or an intimate house concert, museums or coffee shops. It truly is a hidden gem.