Second Company Manager Profile: Christopher Ruud

In late July, a new addition joined Kansas City Ballet. Christopher Ruud became the Second Company Manager and Ballet Master.

You could say Christopher was born to be a dancer…it’s in his blood.

Dance Roots

His parents were both ballet dancers that met and got their start in Utah at the Utah Civic Ballet. They were later invited to dance with William Christensen’s Ballet West. His father Tomm Ruud and his mother Mary Bird (later Wood) became principal and soloist dancers there. In 1975, Tomm was invited to San Francisco Ballet by Michael Smuin. And in 1986 he became a principal dancer with SFB while Mary taught ballet classes. Tomm also became a choreographer while at SFB with his best known ballet being Mobile.

Christopher grew up watching his father perform in front of audiences from the wings of the stage. He began ballet at age 8 but quit during high school to play other sports.

When his father died in 1994, Christopher decided by attending the University of Utah and studying theatre like his father he could get to know him better. Following in his father’s footsteps helped him through his grief and to solidify his paternal connection. However, like his dad, he switched his major to dance and received a scholarship. Though he never finished his degree, it was the jumping off point he needed.

The Next Step

In April of 1998, he was invited to take ballet classes by Jonas Kåge, then the artistic director of Ballet West. For two weeks he attended class and Kåge only watched him once. He told Christopher he had no open contracts. But the next day on Christopher’s birthday, Kåge offered him a job.

Christopher went on to dance with Ballet West for 21 years—15 of those as a principal dancer. He even had the opportunity to dance his father’s role of ‘Ferdinand’ from The Tempest in his same costume. It was a role he’d watched his dad perform from backstage as a child.

“Legacy, emotion, life experience. Dance is reaching out and communicating these things. That’s what I learned from my dad and what I witnessed growing up. I have a soulful need to connect and dance,” Christopher says.

“My mother had an enormous role in mentoring me as well,” he remembers. “She is a ballet historian, lecturer and definitely a resource for me.”

Teaching the Next Generation

After a fulfilling dance career, Christopher decided to take his love for dance to a different level and teach. “For me it’s about watching the light bulb go on as I teach them,” he says. Inspiration, he explains, can come in so many ways: from figuring out new ballet steps and learning to partner to the emotional side of ballet that can tap into the soul and cultivate joy and meaning beyond the movements.

For Christopher, partnering is the most fulfilling part of dance. “It’s two people connecting, trusting and relying on each other completely to accomplish something so beautiful. That’s such a rich experience,” he explains. “It goes beyond learning steps and repeating them. You have to be in tune with others. That human connection with a partner is my favorite part of what we do. I hope to inspire that with any dancer I work with. An unbroken connection with your partner is a shock wave to the audience and onstage. It’s palpable.”

He strives to be a mature and professional resource to young dancers. His goal is to guide them in a healthy way to be better dancers, professionals and people. If he’s being honest, which he always is, he hopes to help cultivate the best human souls who are dancers.

“I like to talk a lot about my own experience as a dancer to try and find a way to convey to them what we do. The work and fatigue… right up to going onstage… it all comes together to prove every moment of our effort and struggle is more than worth it—especially when you know you have the audience hooked. It’s different for every dancer and so I must teach it differently,” Christopher says.


As early as his first year as a Ballet West dancer he knew he wanted to be a choreographer. It would be 10 years into his career before Ballet West Artistic Director Adam Sklute would start an annual new works program called “Innovations”. That very first year Christopher submitted an idea. Three works were chosen to develop and perform on the program. Christopher’s pas de deux (dance for two) was one. Reviewers called his work Neo Neo Classical style. It was very athletic and demanded a high level of partnering.

“I always try to have a deeply emotional message,” Christopher admits. “I hope to elicit an emotional response from the audience. So I bring a wide array of experiences to the table. There is no end of gratitude for those I have worked with. These gifts I’ve been given, I must pass on.”

Why Kansas City Ballet

Ballet West had toured to KC to perform at the Music Hall in 2002-2003, but Christopher’s first real experience with Kansas City Ballet was in 2006, when he staged his father’s ballet Mobile on the company. There are these tiny threads and connections that have been stitched over the years.

Then a while back, he met KCB Artistic Director Devon Carney by chance and afterwards started to notice stories online about KCB doing amazing things. At some point, Christopher reached out to Devon directly about whether there were any openings as a Ballet Master or Second Company Manager. At that time those positions were filled. But when a spot opened up, Devon reached out to Christopher to apply. The rest is now history.

Christopher has been impressed with the warm welcome he has received.

He and his wife, Loren, are about to buy a home in Mission, Kan., and have a list of places to visit around the metro, including a number of barbecue restaurants. They, along with their two dogs, are ready to make KC home.

Second Company

Wasting no time, Christopher has lead Kansas City Ballet’s Second Company to perform three performances at Second Company @Crossroads Hotel on Saturday, Sept. 7th at the Crossroads Hotel. See more from this event here.

This group will perform alongside the professional company during the Kansas City Ballet season. In addition, they will be part of Lecture Demonstrations and other public events that are TBA. Learn more about the Second Company.


Top Photo by Brett Pruitt & East Market Studios.

Staff Profile: Victoria Frank

Victoria Frank calling The Nutcracker at The Kennedy Center in 2017. Photo by John Burke
Victoria Frank calling The Nutcracker at The Kennedy Center in 2017. Photo by John Burke

In just two short weeks, Kansas City Ballet will bring The Nutcracker back to the Kauffman Center stage. Thousands will enjoy watching the production, but there’s one woman calling the shots backstage at every performance. Meet Kansas City Ballet Stage Manager Victoria Frank.


My introduction to theatre was through my father’s theatre company in Edinburgh, Scotland — the Realistic Theatre Company of Edinburgh. Most people don’t realize I am from England and lived in my hometown of York until I was 16 years old. (I’ve completely lost my accent!) I spent three summers performing in the children’s chorus of various musicals produced by my Dad’s company from age 11 to 15 and learned that I loved theatre but what I really wanted was to be backstage running things. My dad was the stage manager, production manager and company manager, so you could say I followed in his footsteps all the way to Kansas City! When I moved to KC, I had two years of high school left to complete and felt immediately at home in the theatre department at North Kansas City High School. The theatre teacher, Mr. Jackson, encouraged me to follow my heart and let me stage manage and assistant stage manage our high school shows from almost my first day at the school. I gained my first professional experience as a Production Assistant (PA) on A Christmas Carol at the Kansas City Repertory Theatre at age 18 when Jim Mitchell was the stage manager there. I learned so much about stage management from him and still consider him a mentor and friend to this day. It was through working at The Rep that I heard about the BA and MFA programs at UMKC and set my sights on earning those degrees to put me on the right path for my career. My stage management work in opera, theatre, and ballet has taken me across the country and occasionally back to the UK!

Stage Manager Victoria Frank working backstage. Photo by Steve Wilson.
Stage Manager Victoria Frank working backstage. Photo by Steve Wilson.


The first time I worked for KCB was in 2008 as a Child Wrangler for The Nutcracker — a seasonal, part time position from October to December that still exists today! I child-wrangled The Nutcracker for four seasons and occasionally served as Assistant Stage Manager (ASM) for other productions throughout those years. I took a couple of years off from ballet to be a freelance opera stage manager (In the summer time, I still try to work in opera) but I applied for and was offered the role of full season Stage Manager when the position opened up in 2013. I started in August of that year.


Ballet stage managing is a different type of stage management from any other performing arts genre and many people have never heard of a stage manager at all! The easiest part of my job to describe is what I do during performances — I am backstage for every performance at my console and I “call” the show. The console is wired with various switches that connect to lights backstage that I turn on and off to cue the crew when to perform their various moves (rope lights along the wall are used to cue the fly men when to bring drops in or out, light bulbs hanging backstage on each side are used to cue carpenters or props department for scene changes). I also have a headset to communicate verbally with the light and sound board operators, my ASMs, the spotlight operators, deck electricians and some of the backstage crew. Nothing happens onstage unless I say “go”, from the moment the house lights dim at the beginning to when they come back up after bows. I start making pages over a backstage and dressing room intercom system and calling cues an hour before a performance starts!


During our theatre technical rehearsals, I am calling all of the same cues but also helping to keep track of when we need to take breaks, when we need to push forward or have time to really figure out a tricky onstage moment with the dancers and crew. If there are students in the production I may be helping the ASMs and Wranglers figure out when to switch to a different cast or return the students who just rehearsed to the stage so they can work on notes with the choreographer. The ASMs and I also create paperwork for the crew to follow during the rehearsals and run of the show that lists where and when each move happens — that paperwork often has to be updated and reprinted as we learn more about the show in tech so that everyone is on the same page for the next rehearsal.

Call book work in progress. So many Post-Its!
Call book work in progress. So many Post-Its!


When not in the theatre, I spend about half of my time in my office and half of my time in the studio watching or helping with rehearsal. If it’s a big new show, like The Wizard of Oz, I spend most of my day in the studio learning the technical aspects of the show along with the dancers so we are all as prepared as possible when we get to the theatre. In the 15-minute break between the end of the dancer’s morning class and the beginning of rehearsal, I make sure the studios are set up with the things the dancers and staff need for the day — CDs, archival DVDs, props, rehearsal costumes… I spend a surprising amount of time tracking down chairs for people to sit in! Our Ballet Master (Kristi Capps) and I have lunch every day in her office while she works on finalizing the rehearsal schedule for the dancers and it’s my job to make sure it gets posted and distributed to all the right people at the end of lunch. At the end of the day, I clear the studios again in time for the school’s evening classes starting. The rest of the day is spent responding to emails, helping to schedule various events (interviews, meetings, costume fittings, student rehearsals), preparing and updating show paperwork and drinking a cup of tea. No two days are the same lately, but that’s one of the things I enjoy most about stage managing — there’s no time to get bored!


The Nutcracker is different from a typical production because the run is so much longer. A typical show has between six and 10 performances over a two-week span, for The Nutcracker this year we have 27 performances and are in the theatre for four weeks. For the dancers, this means they have opportunities to dance a wider range of roles within a production — we have between five and seven different casting combinations, during the rest of the season our productions have two or three casts. This is also a production where there is an opportunity for the ASMs and I to learn each others tracks so we can rotate or sub in if someone is out for a show. We have a total of six people on the stage management team for The Nutcracker — myself (the SM), two Assistant Stage Managers, a Student Stage Manager and two Assistant Student Stage Managers, by far the biggest staff we have all year. I am the only full-season, salaried Stage Manager on staff. Our first ASM is with us for most of the season and two of the Student Stage Managers were also with us for The Wizard of Oz but because The Nutcracker is a big show with a lot of students, we bring in more staff to make sure the show runs smoothly.


As a stage manager, it can be tricky to maintain a good work/life balance when you’re in the middle of preparing for a production or in the theatre. Luckily, I have a very understanding husband (we just got married in June!) who is a freelancer, so we try to take advantage of our time off together when we can.


I was most surprised that as a ballet stage manager, you’re not expected to be in rehearsal all the time. Opera and theatre stage managers are in rehearsal and are running rehearsal from the very beginning and it’s a different set up with ballet — the Artistic Staff runs the rehearsal and the Ballet Master assigned to the piece is responsible for knowing the details of the staging. I go to rehearsal to set up the props and costumes, learn the show technically, to have my own blocking notes for reference and occasionally to take archival video or help with the students.


I love calling shows. It’s hard to describe but I think it must be how a performer feels when they are onstage doing what they love. Calling the first cue to start a performance, especially on opening night, can be so thrilling. It’s like flipping the switch to start a roller coaster and there’s no getting off until it’s over!


Photography provided by John Burke, Steve Wilson, Kansas City Ballet and Victoria Frank.

Summer Notes: Ramona Pansegrau

“The best thing in the world is to make music. To be able to do that, I am privileged,” says Kansas City Ballet Music Director Ramona Pansegrau.

Kansas City Ballet Music Director Ramona Pansegrau has filled her summer with incredible (and stressful) musical experiences.

11th Annual USA International Ballet Competition

After Peter Pan wrapped on May 20, she was on a plane the next day to Jackson, Miss. She served as the music director for the 11th annual USA International Ballet Competition in Jackson June 10-23, 2018. This first trip was to find the music in the music library for all of the contestants.


The next day she boarded a plane bound for Massachusetts and the annual Jacob’s Pillow festival that she’s played a role in for the past 16 years. This year she helped prepare music for a world premiere ballet by Annabell Lopez Ochoa  at the Opening Gala of Jacob’s Pillow on Saturday, June 16.

11th Annual USA International Ballet Competition Continued

Then she flew back to Jackson on June 19 for session 3 of the competition to rehearse the orchestra for the Awards Gala and the Encore Gala, June 22-23. All competition medalists perform their solos or pas de deux to live orchestra.

Here’s the thing, though. The medalists are chosen and the list of their performance music is given to Ms. Pansegrau around 2 or 3 a.m. Friday. That’s when the real fun begins as she must stay up all night to prepare and arrange all the music from the larger collection (97 lbs of music!) she pulled in May. Her first rehearsal with the orchestra was from 9 to 11:30 a.m., the morning of the Awards Gala. That was followed by orchestra and dancers rehearsing together from 1 to 3 p.m. A dress rehearsal came next, from 4:30 to 6 p.m., and the Gala began at 7:30 p.m. Learn even more about this challenging and brutal process in this Mississippi Today article where Ms. Pansegrau is featured.

Preparing for Kansas City Ballet’s 2018-2019 Season

Now that she’s back, she’s keeping busy working on a new set of orchestra parts for Kansas City Ballet’s February show, Lady of the Camellias.

On Aug. 6, she’ll be back in the studios playing optional company classes. The dancers will all return Aug. 20 for the season.


Jeffrey Bentley: Nonprofit Professional of the Year

Luncheon Chairs Mary T. O'Connor and Mark C. Thompson pose with Jeffrey J. Bentley and his 2018 Nonprofit Professional of the Year award   |   J Robert Schraeder Photography
Luncheon Chairs Mary T. O’Connor and Mark C. Thompson pose with Jeffrey J. Bentley and his 2018 Nonprofit Professional of the Year award | J Robert Schraeder Photography

On Wednesday, May 16, Jeffrey Bentley received the Nonprofit Professional of the Year award at the the 34th Annual Philanthropy Awards Luncheon hosted by Nonprofit Connect. He was nominated by Kansas City Ballet Board President Kathy Stepp and Kansas City Ballet Chief Development Officer Jennifer Wampler.

“Jeff continues to innovate and fulfill the organizational mission to establish Kansas City Ballet as an indispensable asset in the Kansas City community.” —Kathy Stepp, Stepp & Rothwell

Please leave your congratulations messages for Jeff in the comments section.


Remembrance: Brenda Crowe

Brenda Crowe and her son Tyler Crowe at Kansas City Ballet's "The Nutcracker" in 2016.
Brenda Crowe and her son Tyler Crowe at Kansas City Ballet’s “The Nutcracker” in 2016.

Brenda Crowe’s smile was contagious. Her good moods were the best!

The feisty, auburn-haired box office manager originally joined Kansas City Ballet in September of 1997 as an administrative assistant. Then in 1998, she moved into the role of Box Office Manager and never looked back. She’d found her calling.

Brenda quickly made a name for herself in the way she championed for subscribers and donors of KC Ballet. Her loyalty to these groups was profound, as was theirs for her. It was not unusual for a long list of subscribers to insist on working with Brenda directly each year to renew their subscription seats.

Brenda’s unique charms did not go unnoticed. She was a strong personality, committed to forging the path she deemed correct. Her capacity to be direct was renowned. She loved the KC Ballet that had become her home away from home.

Brenda’s loyalty extended to her staff in the box office as well. She was devoted to them and went out of her way to show them appreciation with potluck lunches and treats and to shower them with motherly affection or advice.

As much as Brenda loved Kansas City Ballet, her heart was in being a mother to her son Tyler. Tyler grew up at KC Ballet taking classes, volunteering and working in the box office at performances. He was the driving force in her life and KC Ballet became his extended family as well. In fact, KC Ballet’s former Artistic Director Todd Bolender took a special interest in Brenda and Tyler. She cherished their friendship. So much so that photos of Todd remained prominently displayed in Brenda’s office after his death in 2006.

Brenda Crowe will be deeply missed. Her loss is a heavy blow to the KC Ballet family. The best moments: when she was quick with a joke or a laugh, when her smile and the twinkle in her eye were contagious, or when her caring heart showed how much this Ballet family meant to her… these are moments that won’t be forgotten. In the end, these are the moments that mattered most. These are the moments behind why she is and will always be beloved.

Share Thoughts or Memories

Please share your favorite memories or thoughts for Tyler in the comments section.


A Celebration of Life for Brenda Crowe
Saturday, June 2  |  Open House 2-4 p.m.
Todd Bolender Center for Dance & Creativity
500 W. Pershing Road  |  Kansas City, Missouri 64108


The family requests anyone wishing to donate, to please make a gift to Kansas City Ballet in memory of Brenda Crowe. Gifts can be made in person at the Bolender Center, over the phone at 816.216.5582 or online. If you give a gift online, you’ll select “In memory of” and type in Brenda Crowe. Please know all of these gifts will go toward the Todd Bolender Scholarship Fund.

Welcome Back Jennifer Wampler

Kansas City Ballet Chief Development Officer Jennifer Wampler
Kansas City Ballet Chief Development Officer Jennifer Wampler

Kansas City Ballet is happy to welcome back veteran staffer Jennifer Wampler to the role of Chief Development Officer.

A Long History with Kansas City Ballet and KC Arts

Jennifer Wampler’s longtime relationship with KCB started in 1990 as she worked on her MBA from UMKC. She did an internship with the Ballet in the marketing and development departments. Then as an employee from 1992 to 1995, Ms. Wampler served as the Ballet’s manager of audience development. She spent most of the next 9 years working at UMKC’s School of Pharmacy before coming back to the Ballet in 2005 as the Development Director.

In 2012 after leading a highly successful capital campaign for the Todd Bolender Center for Dance & Creativity, helping drive kick off events like the first KC Dance Day in 2011 to establish the Bolender Center as a community asset, she again parted ways for another exciting project.

She led the capital campaign for UMKC’s Downtown Campus for the Conservatory project which is planned to locate just south of the Kauffman Center for the Performing Arts.

“It was a pie in the sky project with lots of fits and starts, which was similar to Kansas City Ballet’s capital campaign. But I took my experience from here, and knew there would be similar players in the process. I knew the ups and downs were normal but that we must stay the course. And, in the end, the campaign was successful,” Ms. Wampler says.

“With both high profile projects I got to meet some amazing people who make great things happen in our community. I’m so grateful for these experiences.”

Rendering of UMKC Conservatory of Dance Downtown Campus
Rendering of UMKC Conservatory of Dance Downtown Campus

What keeps her coming back to KCB?

The truth is she’s never truly left. Ms. Wampler has remained actively engaged with the Ballet through her involvement in the Guild, as a member of the Patrons Society, and as an Academy parent. She has a personal love of dance. She started dance lessons at the age of 3 and continued dancing thru grad school before becoming a founding member of Aha! Dance Theatre here in KC.

“Dance is a true passion of mine. These dancers are so phenomenal! I know the people and love the Company and the way it has grown and developed,” Ms. Wampler says. “I am grateful the way the city has embraced the Ballet. Arts growth in this city is amazing! It’s a part of who I am and who my family is with our involvement in this wonderful company.”

What are major goals going forward?

  • Continuing to raise funds for ongoing support of the company
  • Looking to future needs
  • Engaging donors in meaningful ways long-term.

Ms. Wampler knows that the growth of this organization is set to continue and that means her job is bigger and more important than ever.

No matter what lies ahead, she says, “I’m happy to be back!”

Artistic Profile: Parrish Maynard


In the fall of 2016, Kansas City Ballet invited Parrish Maynard to join the ranks of Ballet Master for the company. We spent a few minutes with Mr. Maynard to see how the transition has gone.

He has really enjoyed getting to know KC. He spoke of the energy of the city, the friendliness of its residents and the many outstanding arts amenities, and of course, about the BBQ!

Mr. Maynard was visiting Kansas City Ballet School over the summer as a guest teacher for the Summer Intensive program. He had been working with and choreographing for students since his dance career was cut short by an injury. “I retired after I broke my foot dancing,” he said. “I was devastated. My artistic director, Helgi Tomasson, asked me to try teaching in the San Francisco Ballet School. He said he wanted me to choreograph. In my time there I choreographed 23 ballets. It opened up my eyes to choreography.”

And, after 12 years, Mr. Maynard felt it was time to move onto something else.

“I was excited for the opportunity to work with professional dancers,” he said. “I’m so amazed by how much work they do for each show. Often they learn so many different roles and their days are difficult and their stamina is strong. Devon is great. He’s such a positive energy and so generous!”

He believes the company has very good energy and a positive atmosphere every day—which makes the job easier. He’s looking forward to The Sleeping Beauty. “I performed these roles at American Ballet Theatre, so this a bit of the passing of the torch. I’m also very excited about Balanchine’s Theme and Variations coming up this spring. I’ve done it my whole career. I’m happy to be passing my knowledge and experience on,” Maynard says.

Mr. Maynard’s Motto: Never stop working or learning.


Welcome Devon Carney – New Artistic Director Designate

Last week we announced the selection of our new Artistic Director designate, Devon Carney. We are very excited to welcome him to Kansas City, and are looking forward to the future of Kansas City Ballet under his artistic direction.


Devon comes to us from Cincinnati Ballet, where he has spent roughly a decade of his career. In 2003, he was appointed chief ballet master, and was named associate artistic director in 2008.

Prior to Cincinnati, Devon was a company dancer with Boston Ballet. Joining their second company in 1978, he became a principal dancer with the main company eight years later.

Devon will see a few familiar faces when arrives at KCB, as two former dancers of Cincinnati Ballet are current dancers with us here at KCB – Jill Marlow and Anthony Krutzkamp.


As quoted in KCUR’s article, “Devon (Carney) is a really passionate person, so his personality really demonstrates that,” says Kansas City Ballet company member Jill Marlow, who danced with Cincinnati Ballet for eight years. “He’s extremely passionate about dance as an art form.”

Devon brings a wealth of knowledge to Kansas City Ballet, and we are all looking forward to his arrival in July.

He has already received a warm welcome from many of our patrons who have reached out to us via email and social media. There were also many great articles written about Devon’s selection. If you were like to learn more about him, you can find links to the articles below.

Kansas City Star | KC Metropolis | KCUR 

We hope you will join us beginning this fall for the 2013-14 Season for Devon’s first year as Artistic Director of Kansas City Ballet!

Production Manager: Amy Taylor

Q: Why did you decide to work at Kansas City Ballet?
A: While I was a graduate student at UMKC, I was offered the chance to come and assist the lighting designer. Joe Appelt, who was head of the program at UMKC, and also a former lighting designer for KCB, knew that my primary interest was in dance. I felt I would be a good fit.

Q: Do you have a previous background in dance or theatre? If so, tell me a little bit about that.
A: Dance has been part of my life for as long as I can remember. Being something of a show off, my parents enrolled me in ballet and tap classes early; I was four. I continued dancing all the way through college.

Q: Did you always know you wanted to have a role in theatre production?
A: No, my practical side told me to head into business, accounting to be specific; theatre was just a fun sideline. There came a point where I had to make a choice and I decided that I really belonged in the theatre world. As part of my classes I had to take a lighting class and I loved it. My instructors encouraged me to pursue the field further, and I was accepted to the graduate program at UMKC.

Q: What is your main role as Production Manager?
A: My primary role is to oversee the technical aspects for each performance.

Q: What is the most challenging Ballet you have worked on and why?
A: This is a definite tie. One is when “The Nutcracker” was redesigned. There were some challenges with the design that took a lot of time and patience to solve and meet with Todd Bolender’s approval.

The second is “Tom Sawyer.” So much time and thought had been put into all aspects of this production that by the time we reached technical rehearsals in the beautiful new Kauffman Center, there were a couple days that I really just wanted to hide. During technical rehearsals, it is stressful to balance the desires of the entire team while tackling the unavoidable changes that happen once the production hits the stage for the first time. It was tremendously satisfying to know that Bill Whitener and all the designers were pleased and proud of what had been accomplished when the curtain went up opening night.

Q: What has been one of your most memorable moments at the Ballet over the past 20 years?
A: We were invited to perform at Ballet Across America in June of 2008. I had the opportunity to light Todd Bolender’s “The Still Point.” It was thrilling to be part of the festival, and it was a highlight of my design career.

Q: Working for a company for 20 years is quite an accomplishment. What has been your motivation behind your decision to stay with Kansas City Ballet for this long?
A: Ultimately, I love this art form. Being able to contribute my technical skills to bring what the artistic staff and dancers create in the studio to the stage is what keeps me motivated.