Richard and Gay Found a Tax-savings Way to Help Kansas City Ballet

Professors Richard Jensen and Gay Dannelly recently moved to Kansas City after retiring from academia at the University of Notre Dame.

For Richard, he was finally returning to his hometown after decades away. For Gay, who grew up in California and spent much of her adult life in the northern Midwest, Kansas City promised a new adventure with exciting new cultural offerings such as a resident ballet company and a symphony.

Gay taught Richard about the importance of ballet. “I love the music and the grace,” she says. “The way it brings everybody in the audience practically into the process.”

Her enthusiasm was contagious.

Having a background in gymnastics as a kid, Richard could appreciate the ballet and especially the athleticism involved. So, the arts became a natural focus for supporting both in attendance and financially. And the Kansas City Ballet quickly captured their attention.


“We have always had a long-standing commitment to generosity,” Richard says. “We came from not-wealthy backgrounds and inherited nothing. As most people know being academics is not really a way to build wealth, but we were more successful than average. We felt it was appropriate to give back and we essentially have long had the policy of donating 10% of our take home pay.”


“In our case we’re currently giving most of our charitable donations from the IRA because they won’t be taxed,” Richard admits. “Once you’re required to take a distribution, it makes more sense to donate directly from your IRA than to take the distribution, pay taxes, and have less left to donate.”

Before they retired, Richard says they were clueless about donating IRAs to avoid taxes. “We were busy working. And I wasn’t aware that you could make an IRA donation directly, without paying the taxes until a friend told me,” he says.  “The light bulb went on. We’ve been doing it that way since then.”

“If the government said: This is your tax obligation, pay us or give it to some charity,” Richard says, “then I want to make the choice. I just want to support what I want to support. I’m sure I’m not alone. Many people would rather make that decision themselves.”


After spending 45 years as an economist, Richard felt he was capable of doing his own planning. Though he admits it was complicated even for somebody like himself.

“I remember when we first moved into retirement, I spent weeks trying to figure out what we were going to be earning and what tax bracket it was going to put us in and what we needed to do to avoid penalties,” he says. “I have a PhD in Economics and it took me weeks to do this! What does an ordinary person do?”

He suggests reaching out to your Financial or IRA Advisor but notes that donations out of IRAs don’t have to be limited to the required minimum distribution, they can be up to $100k per year, per person.


The couple admits they just liked the people they met, the things the ballet was doing and the atmosphere. It was a perfect fit.

They attended a presentation on “The Business of Ballet” which pointed out that programming a season is a trade-off between what Devon, as the artistic director, would really like to do and what the organization can afford to do. Richard and Gay see their role is to help the ballet with what they can afford to do so they can perform what they want to.

“Artistic rights are part of it. They’re not cheap,” Richard says. “It was clear from Devon that was a constraint for him. You don’t want your artistic director to be any more constrained than necessary. Devon also described that to keep the best dancers you have to perform more than just the classics.”

Richard insists that watching a recording is not the same as seeing it in person and Gay agrees.

“Seeing it in person is a remarkable experience in motion, especially if you haven’t been to ballet before,” Gay says. “I hope the ballet stays strong and continues to bring in the best dancers.”

We would gladly assist you with ways to make a gift that is meaningful to you and has a lasting impact for Kansas City Ballet. Please contact Rebecca Zandarski at 816.216.5597 or

Kansas City Ballet Completes First Year of New ROAD Scholarship Program 

R.O.A.D. Scholars taking class. Photography by Elizabeth Stehling.
R.O.A.D. Scholars taking class. Photography by Elizabeth Stehling.

Since 2000 Kansas City Ballet has provided an educational outreach program called Reach Out And Dance (R.O.A.D.) to elementary students using movement to enhance learning. The program has grown to become the centerpiece of KCB’s Community Engagement and Education.


Each week R.O.A.D. provides movement classes to hundreds of 3rd and 4th grade students in Missouri and Kansas elementary schools introducing children to the fundamentals of dance and integrating 21st century learning skills and curriculum. The program provides under-served and at-risk youth with a different learning paradigm through which they can experience success, develop self-discipline, and strive for personal excellence within and outside the school environment, all of which is demonstrated by post-program survey assessments.


R.O.A.D. Scholars performance at the Bolender Center. Photography by Elizabeth Stehling.
R.O.A.D. Scholars performance at the Bolender Center. Photography by Elizabeth Stehling.

This year brought the introduction of the R.O.A.D. Scholarship Program. Its goal is to enhance cultural awareness, foster creativity, strengthen critical thinking and problem solving skills, expose students to potential careers in dance, and to cultivate an appreciation for the art form.

The first phase of the program began in September 2017. Teaching artists impart different movement styles to students weekly and gauge their interest and ability. In the second phase, select students enter a tuition-free Dance Discovery program at Kansas City Ballet School from January  through April. Transportation to and from KCBS, Ballet Fundamentals class plus Modern and Jazz classes, and necessary dance attire is provided at no cost to the student’s family. The third phase is planned for summer when these same students will be provided tuition-free summer classes at KCBS.

“We are so excited to offer this new comprehensive program that will create a broader reach and make dance even more accessible to students who might not have had the opportunity to participate in this way before,” KCB Community Engagement and Education Manager April Berry said. “Our research shows this program not only helps students with their school curriculum, like geography, math and social studies, but it leaves many with a boost in confidence to help them succeed. Principals and teachers have raved about the effects of this new program and we are thrilled to have  80+ students who have completed their fist year of the program. R.O.A.D. Scholars will attend KCB’s Peter Pan performance this weekend as part of the program.”


Dance Shoppe Owner Susan Bibbs. Photography by Andrea Wilson.
Dance Shoppe Owner Susan Bibbs. Photography by Andrea Wilson.

For more than 32 years, Dance Shoppe, Inc. has served as the number one supplier of dance wear in Kansas City, Mo. Opened in 1985, they have always stayed true to their commitment to high quality dance apparel and, because of this, they have had the distinct honor of serving dancers throughout their careers.

This season Susan Bibbs, Owner of Dance Shoppe, donated all of the dance wear for KCB’s new R.O.A.D. Scholarship Program.

Maybe it’s because she grew up in a small town in Western Kansas where community is second nature, where people help one another however they can.  Or, maybe it’s from all the support that Bibbs and her business have received throughout the last three decades. Now she feels it’s her time to ‘Pay It Forward’.  She is thankful she is in a position where she can give back and make a difference.

R.O.A.D. Scholarship students in ballet attire courtesy of Dance Shoppe. Photography by Elizabeth Stehling.
R.O.A.D. Scholarship students in ballet attire courtesy of Dance Shoppe. Photography by Elizabeth Stehling.

“The right outfit is everything…  Like a baseball player needs a glove, so does a dancer need the proper dance attire. Not just for ease and freedom in movement that dance wear provides but for the total picture, it’s the completion, a mind-set,” Bibbs said. “After all these years, it still amazes me to see the excitement on the faces of kids when they get their first pair of dance shoes.”

Bibbs was excited to offer assistance to the program. “I feel our part is simple compared to what all is entailed in the organization of this project.  The coordination of the students, the schools, the transportation, etc. is mind boggling,” she said.

April Berry couldn’t be happier to be part of this partnership: “A generous gift of this nature is invaluable to our ROAD scholarship program. Providing these deserving and talented children with these outfits not only serves them physically but helps improve self-esteem by showing they belong and that their community cares about them.”

Memorials Honor Victoria Bush

Ken and Victoria Bush

Victoria Isabel Bush loved to dance.

Victoria began taking classes at age 7. It was a passion that spread to every part of her life, that brought her together with her husband, that she shared with her daughter and family and friends, and that she continued to do into her mid-60s.

“My mother was elegant, yet down to earth. She loved dance, especially ballet and ballroom dance. She and my father were fabulous dancers—people on the dance floor would just part for them,” said daughter Deborah Schanker.

Vicki and Ken Bush loved to dance—ballroom, flamenco, Argentine Tango, Salsa, Cha-Cha, you name it. In fact, they danced for hours on the night they met. And, throughout the majority of their 58-year marriage they danced together for 20-25 hours per week. From the moment they first took the floor on a blind date set up by Ken’s mother, “it just felt right,” Ken Bush said. In a whirlwind romance that could have only been scripted by the hands of fate, Ken and Vicki found themselves in love and partners for life.

Victoria Bush taking Flamenco lessons from Antonio Vargas.

Two children (David and Deborah), and four grandchildren later, they had shared their love of dance through example, surrounded by dance artwork—some painted by Vicki herself—and their devotion to ballroom dancing including Argentine Tango. Victoria (as she was called in recent years) also spent a weekend taking flamenco lessons from Antonio Vargas, world renowned flamenco dancer, in addition to regular lessons from Tamara Carson.

Vicki loved supporting the Ballet by attending performances at the theatre and other locations around town including parks around the city and even in Westport in the 70s and 80s. In fact, she and Ken had been subscribers since Kansas City Ballet started performances at the Lyric Theatre.

Victoria Bush working at Swanson’s on the Country Club Plaza.

Vicki definitely was easy to spot in a crowd. She looked like a model and was always dressed very fashionably. Having worked as the house model for Swanson’s and at the makeup counter at Saks, both on the Plaza, Victoria could have easily stepped off the pages of Vogue. Her beauty ran deep. The love that she had for her husband, family and friends was just as easy to spot. It shone through her.

When the time came for Vicki’s family to say goodbye, it was incredibly difficult.

Leaving a Legacy

In the midst of their grief, her family wanted to honor her in the best way they knew how. They considered their options. Then Deborah had an idea to direct gifts to Kansas City Ballet to honor her mother’s love of dance and the ballet. Her father immediately agreed.

Ken and Victoria Bush with their son David and daughter Deborah and their families.

“It’s such a nice legacy to leave for somebody who has that kind of love for dance,” said Deborah. “And just by letting people know this is possible, it can help.”

The Victoria Bush Memorial Fund was created and friends and loved ones were able to direct monetary gifts to Kansas City Ballet in honor of Vicki and her passion for dance.

Victoria Bush and daughter Deborah Schanker.

“Do you think mom would have ever thought to direct us to do something like this in her honor?” Deborah asked Ken. “Maybe she did,” Ken said while smiling.

If you would like to make a gift in honor of Victoria Bush, you may do so online or via mail (Kansas City Ballet, 500 W Pershing Rd., KCMO 64108). Please make sure to leave a note in the notes field or on your correspondence that says: Victoria Bush Memorial. The Bush family will be notified of your gift.

Setting Up a Memorial Fund

If you would like to learn more about setting up a Memorial Fund or Endowment Fund at Kansas City Ballet, please contact Kansas City Ballet Chief Development Officer Jennifer Wampler at 816.216.5585.


Read more about how Ken and Vicki met here.