Devon Carney Talks Nutcracker


It seems like only yesterday, we launched this amazing $2 million production of Kansas City Ballet’s The Nutcracker. It seems like only yesterday… but it’s now been three years.

In that time, I’ve seen it nearly 75 times on stage at the Kauffman Center. Last year, in 2017, we even took it on the road to The Kennedy Center in Washington, D.C. where we performed multiple times to sold-out audiences.


Each year I continue to make revisions here and there, always striving to make it just right. I know perfection is impossible, but the art… the art is in the striving. I am excited at the unique opportunity to revisit, reexamine, rethink, re-envision, and renew this production for you each and every year. The magic lives in the details and each performance holds the key to discovering new heights of artistic achievement.

These beloved characters and familiar roles are treasured traditions and even fertile testing ground for identifying the next leading dancers in our company. It’s also an earned rite of passage for our student performers. It’s the chance to see the next generation stepping into the limelight in featured roles, and it’s you and your loved ones bearing witness to it all.

This show is for kids from 2 to 102—and that’s always my goal—to experience the holidays with a childlike heart and sense of wonder. My hope is you walk out of the theatre feeling lighter on your feet and bursting with holiday spirit as well.

May that spirit of the season inspire you to laugh a little louder, hug a little tighter and delight in the special moments that are so wonderful. Let us remember these festive events and give thanks for our blessings.

Happiest Holidays!

Top Photo by Brett Pruitt & East Market Studios

New Sensory-Friendly Nutcracker Performance

KCB Company and School Dancers. Photography by Brett Pruitt & East Market Studios.

Kansas City Ballet’s The Nutcracker is a cherished holiday tradition for many. But for some families whose loved ones have sensory sensitivities, this experience has seemed out of reach… until now.

Partnering with Autism Speaks, Children’s Mercy Hospital and Breedlove Family Foundation, Kansas City Ballet is pleased to present a sensory-friendly performance of The Nutcracker for children, families and adults with sensory sensitivities, autism spectrum disorder, Down Syndrome or other special needs. Appropriate changes have been made to the performance on Wednesday, Dec. 12, 2018, to create a welcoming and safe space for all in attendance.

What makes this performance sensory friendly?

• Reduced sound levels, especially loud and surprising noises.

In order to create a more calming atmosphere, Music Director Ramona Pansegrau will be leading the Kansas City Symphony in a softer version of The Nutcracker score geared towards anyone with sound sensitivities. Artistic Director, Devon Carney, also has worked to make any necessary changes to parts of the performance that may be alarming or frightful for this audience such as cannon shots, etc. All of these changes are intended to create maximum enjoyment for our audience.

• House lights will remain half lit.

Keeping the lights in the theatre on at about 20% will allow just enough light for family members to see each other therefore making many of our guests feel more comfortable in this space.

• Relaxed house rules…

freedom to get up and move around, and permission to talk freely during the performance. Trusting families to behave in the most appropriate way that works for them is the goal. To help with this, audience numbers will be limited so that families can spread out in the theatre, as needed.

• Designated quiet space will be available throughout the evening.

Those that need a respite from the entertainment, for whatever reason, will be able to access areas to relax and recharge.

• Trained staff, ushers, and volunteers to assist patrons.

The Kauffman Center and the Ballet will have plenty of cheerful staff, ushers and volunteers available for whatever needs arise.

“We want everyone to feel welcome and to see the theatre as a safe space,” Artistic Director Devon Carney said. “We want the audience to let their imaginations soar and experience the magic of The Nutcracker.

The Nutcracker: What to Expect

Very soon, you will be taken to the Kingdom of Snow and Land of the Sweets in The Nutcracker!

27 holiday performances at the Kauffman Center • Souvenir Photo Booth • Nutcracker Holiday Boutique

The scale of this production is impressive:

• Last year, Kansas City Ballet presented seven sold-out performances of The Nutcracker at the world-renowned John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts to rave reviews.

This bright, colorful production bursts forth on the stage with its abundance of joy and holiday cheer, which is immensely satisfying …” – DC Metro Arts

  • Featuring dozens of colorful characters, Kansas City Ballet’s The Nutcracker is one of the region’s most successful presentations, all led by the extraordinary professional Kansas City Ballet Company, Second Company and 212 students selected from Kansas City Ballet School.
  • Kansas City Ballet has been performing The Nutcracker annually since 1972.
  • Kansas City Ballet engaged designers with international credentials to create this new The Nutcracker. The design team included Devon Carney (choreography), Holly Hynes (costumes), Alain Vaës (sets), and Trad A Burns (lighting).
  • The production, which cost $2 million to create, took over one year to build, with four studios building sets and backdrops and 27 costume studios from all over the United States.
  • The Sugar Plum Fairy tutu has 254 stones on it as well as velvet leaves hand-pressed over a fire. The lace on the Sugar Plum Fairy’s tutu cost $100/yard.
  • The snow is made up of specially coated and cut paper and approximately 50 lbs. are used for each performance.
  • Approximately 55 people work backstage to coordinate scenery, lighting, costumes and other duties during each performance.
  • New this season is a family-friendly sensory performance, Dec. 12 at 6 p.m. This special performance of The Nutcracker is geared towards children, families and adults with sensory sensitivities, autism spectrum disorder or other special needs. To learn more, click here.
  • Kansas City Ballet Guild Nutcracker Boutique. When you attend, shop at the boutique for fun holiday items, including a variety of festive Nutcrackers and ornaments.
  • Nutcracker Souvenir Photos are available in the lobby with characters before and after the show. To pre-purchase, click here.
  • In 2015, The Nutcracker reached over 95% sold to capacity and $2.56 million in sales, smashing records and generating $700,000 more in ticket sales over the previous year.
  • That same year 37,752 people of all ages attended The Nutcracker marking it as the highest attendance in its Kansas City Ballet history.


Tickets are still available click here or call the Ballet Box Office at 816.931.8993.


Photography: Top image – Dancer Whitney Huell. Photographer: Brett Pruitt & East Market Studios.

2017 Nutcracker from DC to KC!

In front of Kennedy Center. Photography by John Burke.
In front of Kennedy Center. Photography by John Burke.

The Nutcracker Performs in D.C.

 Kansas City Ballet performed The Nutcracker at the Kennedy Center in Washington D.C. Nov. 22-26, 2017. See images from Kansas City Ballet’s trip.

Review by The Washington Post‘s Sarah Kaufman.

KC Ballet Dancers Tempe Ostergren and Michael Davis with Company Dancers. Photography: Brett Pruitt & East Market Studios
KC Ballet Dancers Tempe Ostergren and Michael Davis with Company Dancers. Photography: Brett Pruitt & East Market Studios

The Nutcracker Opens in KC

Kansas City Ballet opened The Nutcracker at the Kauffman Center for the Performing Arts in Kansas City last night. It will run through Christmas Eve (Dec. 24). Tickets are still available here.

Check out Abigail Trabue’s review in PerformInk Kansas City.

Letter from Devon: The Nutcracker 2017

Dear Dance Enthusiasts,

We are so grateful to you, our audiences, who’ve come to share your holiday with us and to appreciate the joy of The Nutcracker. This is my favorite time of year. A time for reflection and renewal. A time to take stock of blessings and to refine that which I hold most dear.

It was a labor of love to choreograph and oversee the creation of this production with the help of an incredible design team: Alain Vaës who developed such stunning sets, Holly Hynes who designed magnificent costumes, and Trad A Burns who put together an incredible lighting scheme.

I truly appreciate the opportunity to once again direct all of these amazing dancers. Each year is a chance to revisit these roles and continue to tweak them to play to strengths and to keep the roles fresh.

And, our wonderful Kansas City Ballet School students are our next generation of rising stars growing to take on better and better roles each year. It makes me so proud that we cast the entire children’s cast from our own school—not all companies can do that. It’s a true demonstration of the caliber of our students and teachers.

Kansas City, you have a world-class production here to enjoy every year for generations to come. The whole show is a testament to that and it is what drew the attention of the Kennedy Center.

This year we were especially proud to have been invited to perform our Nutcracker in our nation’s theater, the John F. Kennedy Center, in Washington, D.C. over Thanksgiving week. It was an amazing experience for all of us to represent KC in D.C. in such an incredible way.

I’ve always said this show is for kids from 2 to 92—and that’s my goal—to experience the holidays with a childlike heart and sense of wonder. My hope is you walk out of the theatre feeling lighter on your feet and bursting with of holiday spirit as well.

Happiest Holidays!

Devon Carney

The Nutcracker—Celebrating 45 Years

KCB Company and School Dancers. Photography by Brett Pruitt & East Market Studios.

In 2015 Kansas City Ballet Artistic Director Devon Carney choreographed a brand new record-breaking, critically acclaimed production of The Nutcracker for Kansas City Ballet and built on a legacy that KC audiences have treasured for 45 years.

Everything’s Up to Date in Kansas City

Carney’s $2.1 million version brought even more in the way of updated special effects and delightful details, thanks to his captivating choreography and the help of his amazing creative team: Alain Vaës (sets), Holly Hynes (costumes), and Trad A Burns (lighting). The production has been so well received that the Kennedy Center in Washington, D.C., extended an invitation to perform it there this year during the week of Thanksgiving.

Carney stated: “We have the honor of being invited to our country’s national theatre for a limited engagement to present our acclaimed production during our 60th Anniversary Season, and I am especially proud to represent all Kansas Citians in our nation’s capital during the Thanksgiving holiday.”

The Nutcracker has touched Kansas City audiences since the first performance in the Southwest High School Auditorium on Wornall Road. It began with Founder Tatiana Dokoudovska and her choreography and vision in 1972.

KCB’s first Clara, Lisa (Merrill) Hickok, played the role for the first four Nutcracker performances. During the first two years, the Company performed the Nutcracker Suite, but by 1974 they began performing the full-length ballet. Hickok described her experience those early years as “exciting and scary.”

Miss Tania had a reputation for her incredible work ethic. She insisted on the best from her dancers. And, she knew all of the ballets by heart.

“One of my fondest memories involves Miss Tania. It was the final performance for me after four years as Clara. The production staff presented roses to Miss Tania on stage after she was brought out at the final bows. She gave them to me and it truly touched my heart. I’ll never forget that moment of her acknowledgement of my dedication…even as a 12-year old,” recalls Hickok. “It has impacted my desire to help this Company for the rest of my days.”

Bolender’s Nutcracker

In December 1981 under the direction of Artistic Director Todd Bolender, The Nutcracker premiered to full houses. During his tenure, Bolender revamped the choreography, most notably in the Waltz of the Flowers. He also arranged for new costumes and in 1994, new sets designed by Robert Fletcher.

Former KCB dancer and current Kansas City Ballet School Principal, Kimberly Cowen, had the privilege to work with Bolender. “Todd made you feel like you had to be on top of your game every step you took,” Cowen says.

Cowen remembers Bolender wanted the first act to be all about the children. Not surprising since Bolender made it a point to start the KCB School. In 1996 when Artistic Director William Whitener took the helm, the tradition of focusing on the kids continued.

The Spirit Lives On

The Nutcracker is more than just a holiday tradition. It’s an important training tool for the dancers. “Nutcracker is one of the only times a dancer gets to perform his or her role more than just a few times,” Carney says. “They have the chance to improve…grow. It’s interesting to see how much they can develop their role during the run and perhaps again in subsequent years.”

In 45 years, Nutcracker has continued to draw audiences and student performers alike. Many families attend every year as part of their holiday traditions. In the end, it’s about dreams.

“As the end of the run draws near, the company is usually excited the holiday is here. But the kids are so sad Nutcracker’s over. They’re nervous at the beginning of December but by the end they’re having fun. You really see them change,” says Cowen who, since retiring from the stage in 2012 has worked for Kansas City Ballet School and helps rehearse the children’s casts.

Maybe that is where the magic comes from…

Featuring dozens of colorful characters, Kansas City Ballet’s The Nutcracker is one of the region’s most successful presentations, all led by the extraordinary professional Kansas City Ballet Company, Second Company and 163 students selected from Kansas City Ballet School.

Kansas City Ballet will once again present The Nutcracker this holiday season this December. The enchanting costumes, stunning sets, stellar choreography by Artistic Director Devon Carney, and Tchaikovsky’s memorable score, continue to tell the timeless tale of Clara and her Nutcracker Prince as they journey to the unforgettable Land of the Sweets.

The Nutcracker runs Dec. 7-24 at the Kauffman Center for the Performing Arts, downtown. Visit for tickets or more information.

The Nutcracker Travels to D.C.

KCB Dancers: Angelina Sansone and Thom Panto dancing the roles of Snow King and Queen in The Nutcracker (2016). Photography: Brett Pruitt & East Market Studios.

Kansas City Ballet is honored to have been invited to bring our Nutcracker to the Nation’s stage at The John F. Kennedy Center to perform this week (Nov. 22 and 24-26, 2017). The undertaking of such an endeavor is not light work. There were many considerable tasks involved in accepting the opportunity, not the least of which was simply getting everyone and everything there. Never one to back down from a challenge, especially one as special as this, there have been months spent preparing.


It will take four semi-trailer trucks and many hours on the road to get all of the sets and production pieces to D.C. Kansas City Ballet General Manager Kevin Amey also spent hours arranging flights for all the members of the company and artistic and production staff.


Kansas City Ballet Music Director Ramona Pansegrau spent many, many hours re-orchestrating our Nutcracker score for the larger National Symphony Orchestra at The Kennedy Center. Among other additions, they have two harpists instead of one. These scores will only be used during this run.

Children’s Cast

Kansas City Ballet Artistic Director Devon Carney and Kansas City Ballet School Principals Kimberly Cowen and Racheal Nye auditioned hundreds of children in D.C. and have spent countless hours preparing materials to assist the D.C. stagers during rehearsals until Kimberly and Devon could be there to rehearse them with our company.

Read more about this trip from The Kansas City Star. Hear more at KCUR


KC Ballet Instagram News

In honor of Kansas City Ballet’s Nutcracker debut at the John F. Kennedy Center in Washington, D.C., next week, KC Ballet has Company member Lamin Pereira dos Santos and KCB School Student Maggie Crist on board to takeover the @kc.ballet and @kc.balletschool Instagram accounts respectively. Be sure to follow them on their incredible journey that begins today! Send them some hometown love as they represent KCB in our nation’s capital. They’ll begin KC performances on Dec. 7th at the Kauffman Center.


Photo Credits:

Top: KCB Dancer Lamin Pereira dos Santos. Bottom: KCB Dancer Michael Davis and KCB School Student Maggie Crist. All photography by Brett Pruitt & East Market Studios.

The Gift of Ballet

During our Nutcracker season we asked many of you to donate to our Holiday Magic Campaign, which sent children from the Boys and Girls Club of Greater Kansas City and their families to The Nutcracker. 

Thanks to your generous gifts, more than 225 local children were able to attend The Nutcracker! The children enjoyed the performances so much that they created artwork as a special “thank you.” We couldn’t resist sharing. Without you, this kind of inspiration would not be possible.

Kansas City Ballet is thankful to all of those who gave the gift of The Nutcracker to these local children.


A Very Merry Nutcracker!

What has Kansas City said about Kansas City Ballet’s The Nutcracker? Click on the links below for exclusive interviews, videos, and pictures! There’s still time to buy tickets! Click HERE for more information!

KC Star: Click the link below to read about the last performance of Todd Bolender’s The Nutcracker.

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KC Star: Click the link below to see Nutcracker by the Numbers.

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KC Star: Learn about some Kansas City holiday productions!

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KC Star: Click the link to view a gallery of Nutcracker rehearsal photos!

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KC Independent: Click the link below to read about the final performance of Todd Bolender’s The Nutcracker.

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KCUR: Click the link to listen and/or read about Kansas City Ballet Dancer, Geoffrey Kropp, and his busy ballet schedule.

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KSHB TV 41: Click the link to see how reporter, Cynthia Newsome finds out ballet isn’t easy!

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WDAF 4: Click the link to read about this years Nutcracker production!

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KCUR’s: Click the link for a behind-the-scenes speak peek of The Nutcracker dress rehearsal!

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KKFI: Click the link to listen to radio host, Michael Hogge, talk about our annual production of The Nutcracker!

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