Devon Carney Talks Tharp / Parsons / Forsythe

Devon Carney Talks Tharp / Parsons / Forsythe
Artistic Director, Devon Carney

Tharp / Parsons / Forsythe

Any ONE of these choreographers on a program is exciting, but all three? Well, Tharp / Parsons / Forsythe together is quite something! This is such an exciting moment for the company. We are thrilled to present two of the best-known works by living choreographers William Forsythe and Twyla Tharp combined with a world premiere from David Parsons. All three are absolutely incredible and brilliant.

David Parsons, the prodigal son, came home to create his first brand new work just for us [KCB]. The program begins with his original comedy gem A Play for Love, based on renowned Shakespeare characters. David Parsons’ choreography is always inventive, exciting, off-center, vibrant, challenging, and grounded (low-weighted movement). This is no exception!

If that wasn’t enough, this is our very first time performing a Forsythe work. He’s one of the greatest living choreographers on the planet and we get to perform his most-known work. It was a chance meeting with him, that conversation, when he gave us permission to perform his signature work In the Middle, Somewhat Elevated. We join top ballet companies around the world performing this work.

And, finally, I have a few words about our final piece on the program: Aerobic. Powerful. Hard. Exhilarating!

Twyla Tharp’s In the Upper Room is a huge finale for the season from a major choreographic legend. The Philip Glass music gets inside you until your nerve endings are on fire—in a good way. Tharp does an incredible job of weaving together classical ballet and contemporary dance, two very different dance disciplines, into a single signature energy. The last movement, when the dancers are firing on all cylinders and then some, leads up to a brilliant and spectacular conclusion.

This program is THE way to finish the year—a wonderful year of artistic growth. This program demonstrates that today’s dancers have to be able to do it all. And our KCB dancers deliver. Ballet doesn’t get much better than this.

 

Top photograph by Brett Pruitt & East Market Studios

Meet Tharp Parsons Forsythe

On Friday, May 10th, Kansas City Ballet will embark on an incredible dance adventure. They’ve been preparing for months with rehearsals, costume fittings and the like. But with a title like Tharp / Parsons / Forsythe, there is room to wonder what to expect.

Each of these names belongs to a world renowned choreographer known for navigating uncharted dance territory—Legends of Dance. Here’s your chance to get to know them a bit before the curtain rises.

TWYLA THARP

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Twyla Tharp was born on July 1, 1941 in Portland, Indiana to Lecile Tharp. Her mother was the first woman from Jay County, Indiana to have received a college degree. Since Ms. Tharp’s graduation from Barnard College in 1963, she has choreographed more than 160 works: 129 dances, 12 television specials, six Hollywood movies, four full-length ballets, four Broadway shows, and two figure skating routines. She has received one Tony Award; two Emmy Awards; 19 honorary doctorates, mostly recently from Harvard University; the Vietnam Veterans of America President’s Award; the 2004 National Medal of the Arts; the 2008 Jerome Robbins Prize; and a 2008 Kennedy Center Honor. Read More

DAVID PARSONS

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David Parsons has enjoyed a remarkable career as a director, choreographer, performer, master teacher and producer. Raised in Kansas City, Mr. Parsons made it to New York at the age of 17 when he received a scholarship to the Alvin Ailey School. After Ailey, he became an understudy with the Paul Taylor Dance Company and then joined the company as a principal dancer. He stayed for eight years. During summers, he toured with MOMIX; he appeared with Mikhail Baryshnikov and Mark Morris in the first White Oak tour; and he launched his choreographic career by setting work on the Taylor Company and on the National Ballet of Canada, Hubbard Street Dance Chicago, Batsheva Dance Company, and the Paris Opera Ballet. Read More

WILLIAM FORSYTHE

William Forsythe has been active in the field of choreography for over 45 years. His work is acknowledged for reorienting the practice of ballet from its identification with classical repertoire to a dynamic 21st century art form. Mr. Forsythe’s deep interest in the fundamental principles of organization has led him to produce a wide range of projects including Installations, Films, and Web based knowledge creation. Raised in New York and initially trained in Florida with Nolan Dingman and Christa Long, Mr. Forsythe danced with the Joffrey Ballet and later the Stuttgart Ballet, where he was appointed Resident Choreographer in 1976. In 1984, he began a 20-year tenure as director of the Ballet Frankfurt. After its closure, Mr. Forsythe established a new ensemble, The Forsythe Company, which he directed from 2005 to 2015. His most recent works were developed and performed exclusively by The Forsythe Company, while his earlier pieces are prominently featured in the repertoire of virtually every major ballet company in the world, including The Mariinsky Ballet, The New York City Ballet and The Paris Opera Ballet. Read More

TICKETS

Tharp / Parsons / Forsythe runs May 10-19, 2019 at the Kauffman Center for the Performing Arts. For tickets click here or call 816.931.8993.

 

Top Photo: KCB Dancers Amaya Rodriguez and Joshua Bodden. Photography by Kenny Johnson.

New Moves Opens Thursday!

Dancers Enrico Hipolito and Elysa Hotchkiss rehearse Emily Mistretta's "Prism Break" | Photography by Elizabeth Stehling
Dancers Enrico Hipolito and Elysa Hotchkiss rehearse Emily Mistretta’s “Prism Break” | Photography by Elizabeth Stehling

Kansas City Ballet performs their annual New Moves program at the Todd Bolender Center for Dance & Creativity this week (March 28-31, 2019).

The show features brand new choreography by Gary Abbott (Associate Professor of Modern Dance from UMKC), Haley Kostas (local dancer, choreographer, and dance educator), Ryan Jolicoeur-Nye (Northwest Arkansas Ballet Theatre Artistic Director), Price Suddarth (Pacific Northwest Ballet soloist), and current company dancers Courtney Nitting, Emily Mistretta and James Kirby Rogers.

We sat down with company members Emily Mistretta and Courtney Nitting to find out more about their choreographic process.

EMILY MISTRETTA

WHAT DO YOU ENJOY ABOUT CREATING NEW WORK?

Last year was my first time trying to create a piece.  It was a little daunting at first. I probably enjoy it the most when it all comes together and starts to look like something.  For me it’s ambiguous for a long time and then at one point it clicks and I can start to see it form. That is a very exciting feeling.

WHAT IS THE HARDEST PART ABOUT CHOREOGRAPHING?

The hardest part is deciding where I want it to go.  I can see movement and a trajectory in front of me, but the options are literally endless.  Sometimes you want something specific and other times you’re open to see where the momentum of the piece or any given movement will take you, its hard to be calm and let things unfold instead of trying to take control. It’s a balance between what you envision and what wants to happen organically. My process is me by myself in the studio improving and seeing what comes out.  From there I kind of string together steps or a sequence and then it sparks my mind for what else is about to happen.

WHERE DO YOU GET YOUR INSPIRATION?

My inspiration usually comes from the music.  The music dictates the way that I want to move at any given moment and I try to take my cues from that.  Sometimes there is a certain theme or feeling I want to evoke and I’ll try to keep that in the back of my mind as I’m moving.

LAST YEAR YOUR LEAD FEMALE DANCER WAS INJURED ON OPENING NIGHT. YOU HAD TO STEP IN TO PERFORM IN YOUR OWN WORK FOR THE REMAINING PERFORMANCES. WHAT WAS THAT LIKE?

It was really fun to perform in my own piece! I want my work to feel good and to be fun to do. Being a dancer, still sometimes it’s odd to be on the other side. You have this impulse to want to dance even if it’s in the work you’re creating.  So, yes, it was super fun. Though I think it helped that I had never planned on dancing it, I think it’s even trickier to choreograph yourself into a piece.  Of course, just because I choreographed it did not mean I knew the steps whatsoever.  Especially when a dancer takes it and makes it their own, it’s not really what it was initially anymore. So, I had to learn it and figure it out and improve myself back into it.  It gives you an insight into what you’re making someone else do and then you apologize for making them do the step that way because now you know how it feels.

 

COURTNEY NITTING

WHAT IS YOUR EXPERIENCE WITH CHOREOGRAPHING?

It started when I was a student at SAB. They have a program called Student Choreographic Workshop and I thought, “Why not try it?” I love all aspects of dance. I love being creative. So I thought I might as well try choreographing since I have been given the opportunity. I did that for two years and actually had small reviews written on them and they were liked. I thought maybe this is something I can keep in my back pocket. Then last year at Pennsylvania Ballet, they do a program called ‘Shut up and Dance’. It’s a performance that raises money for Manna (a food service for people with serious illnesses who need nourishment to heal). My piece opened the show and went over really well. So when coming to Kansas City Ballet and learning about New Moves, I thought I’d give it another go.

WHAT DO YOU ENJOY ABOUT CREATING NEW WORK?

I enjoy being in the studio with the dancers and seeing it come together. Sometimes the steps or movements you create in your head don’t work. But when it does, it’s like a magic moment. Seeing what you had pictured in your head or written on a piece of paper come to life is extremely gratifying.

WHERE DO YOU GET YOUR INSPIRATION?

I get my inspiration from the music. I always try and continuously listen to my music to the point where I know every sound and note and see what it tells me to create. I like to think of the quote by George Balanchine “see the music, hear the dance.” This is what I hope people get when they watch my piece.

WHEN YOU DECIDED TO CHOREOGRAPH YOU WERE A BRAND NEW MEMBER OF THE COMPANY. WHAT MADE YOU DECIDE TO THROW YOUR HAT INTO THE RING?

Deciding to choreograph for New Moves as a brand new company member I knew was a risk. No one knows me, I don’t know the dancers, and it’s extra work and pressure. However I like to think that I face risk situations like this head on. For me it’s important to not only come into a new company and show myself as a dancer, but all the other interests I have. I don’t want to be a one trick pony; I want to show that I have much more to offer.


New Moves opens this Thursday, March 28 and runs through Sunday, March 31. A few tickets are still available here or by calling the Ballet Box Office at 816.931.8993.

Devon Carney Talks Lady of the Camellias

Kansas City Ballet’s Artistic Director Devon Carney shares some thoughts on the company’s upcoming performances of Val Caniparoli’s Lady of the Camellias Feb. 15-24 at the Kauffman Center.

The Choreographer

It’s a privilege for Kansas City Ballet to perform this landmark creation by the world-class choreographer Val Caniparoli—one of his signature works.

Caniparoli is no stranger to Kansas City Ballet. In February 2010, the company presented his Lambarena with its striking music, a mix of Bach and African rhythms. Then in May of 2017, our company performed his dramatic and intense ballet, The Lottery, based on Shirley Jackson’s shocking short story by the same name.

The Ballet

For Lady of the Camellias, his choreography demands a physical technicality and profound artistry from the dancers to express the breadth of emotion in this compelling story. It’s an intense artistic challenge and an opportunity for our dancers to develop true three-dimensional characters. We continue to raise the level of artistic content and thus, the quality of our artists. Building on this momentum keeps moving them forward, as we continually find productions to benefit both you, our audience, and our dancers alike.

In this particular ballet, our journey includes experiencing romantic interludes with Armand, a young countryman, and Marguerite, a famous courtesan as they become entangled in a forbidden affair. These two come from differing backgrounds and socio-economic levels, but they discover true love. At its heart, this is a story of love at its deepest and most sincere. And this strong romantic connection between these two characters makes this such a great story ballet—one that will surely endure for the ages.

Despite everything they experience, Marguerite has faith in Armand and hope for their life.
Love is indeed the greatest power one can experience in life.

Ultimately though, the forces working against them lead to heartbreak and loss. Of course, the
final scene rips your heart apart with such romance and compassion and yearning for what might have been.

Through it all, I’m reminded of this famous quote from George Sand: There is only one happiness in this life, to love and be loved.

I couldn’t agree more.

 

Top photograph by Brett Pruitt & East Market Studios

Behind the Scenes: Lady of the Camellias

Dancers Kaleena Burks and James Kirby Rogers with Emily Mistretta and Lamin Pereira dos Santos. Photography by Elizabeth Stehling.
Dancers Kaleena Burks and James Kirby Rogers with Emily Mistretta and Lamin Pereira dos Santos. Photography by Elizabeth Stehling.

Kansas City Ballet dancers are busy rehearsing in the studios. They perform Val Caniparoli‘s Lady of the Camellias Feb. 15-24 at the Kauffman Center for the Performing Arts.

Set to Frédéric Chopin’s romantic score, Alexandre Dumas’ love story makes its triumphant Kansas City premiere. The story inspired popular adaptations including Baz Luhrman’s movie Moulin Rouge! and Verdi’s opera La Traviata.

REHEARSAL FOOTAGE

REHEARSAL PHOTOS

Dancers Emily Mistretta and Lamin Pereira dos Santos. Photography by Elizabeth Stehling.
Dancers Emily Mistretta and Lamin Pereira dos Santos. Photography by Elizabeth Stehling.
Dancers Emily Mistretta and Lamin Pereira dos Santos. Photography by Elizabeth Stehling.
Dancers Emily Mistretta and Lamin Pereira dos Santos. Photography by Elizabeth Stehling.

DANCER PROFILES

Learn more about the dancers in the lead roles of Armand and Marguerite.

“The greatest thing you’ll ever learn is just to love and be loved in return.”

Behind the Scenes: The Wizard of Oz

In just a few short weeks, Kansas City Ballet will perform the World Premiere of Septime Webre’s The Wizard of Oz!

We anticipate 10 sold-out performances, so be sure to share that you’re seeing this fantastical new show with your friends.

ABOUT THE PRODUCTION

The scale of this world premiere is impressive:

  • The all-new music composed by Matthew Pierce, the same composer for Alice (in wonderland), is 471 pages long and features three percussion players playing 35 different percussion instruments.
  • This is a unique collaboration with Kansas City Ballet, Colorado Ballet and Canada’s Royal Winnipeg Ballet. We worked with an internationally-recognized creative team to create a major new work of outstanding quality.
  • A total of 120 stunning costumes and 112 hats, designed by Liz Vandal, in the production and our costume shop will paint 220 shoes. There are at least 60 costume changes throughout the production.
  • Upwards of 20 puppets, designed by Nicholas Mahon, including a mechanical Toto, are involved in the production. One of Mr. Mahon’s most recent projects was for the 2018 Winter Olympics Opening Ceremony.
  • A first for Kansas City Ballet, this show will feature incredible projection technology, designed by Aaron Rhyne, using a combination of three state-of-the-art projectors. This will add an integral design element that helps provide atmosphere and dimensionality, and enhance the experience.
  • More than 300 light cues, designed by Trad A Burns, will take place using over 1000 channels of lights.
  • There will be eight flying effects executed by multiple characters.
  • At least 120 people, not including dancers, were part of this collaboration team including designers and makers.
  • In Kansas City, 30 company dancers and 15 second company dancers will make up the cast, not counting children.
  • There are 23 children’s roles and two casts for a total of 46 children performing in The Wizard of Oz, providing a huge asset to the development and growth of the Kansas City Ballet School.

ABOUT THE MUSIC

wATCH REHEARSALS

UPCOMING FREE EVENTS

The Wizard of Oz Photography: Story lines and visual elements from the classic motion picture by Warner Bros. Theatre Ventures. Dancer Amanda DeVenuta. Photographer Kenny Johnson.

Devon Carney Talks Peter Pan

Dear Dance Enthusiast,

J.M. Barrie’s 114-year-old story about Peter Pan, the boy who never wanted to grow up, continues to attract new generations. These types of stories make the greatest impact: kids finding themselves in unusual circumstances and realizing the human spirit can overcome anything. And Peter Pan is no different. The message, wrapped in adventures, comes down to family and following your heart to find where you belong.

Dancer: Dillon Malinksi Photographer: Kenny Johnson
Dancer: Dillon Malinksi Photographer: Kenny Johnson

Influences

I was definitely influenced in many ways by J.M. Barrie’s classic tale but also by movies like “Hook” with Dustin Hoffman and Robin Williams and the musical with Sandy Duncan. For this production, I was most inspired by the wonderful music from my friend, musician, composer and ballet conductor Carmon DeLeone. His enchanting score is paramount to this production and wonderfully tells the story. Written in 1994, this will be the third or fourth ballet production to use this delightful and soaring music. I believe it is becoming the standard much like Prokofiev for Romeo & Juliet. It’s thematic, fun, and light-hearted and lends itself to great character development.

A Living Composer

As a special treat, DeLeone will conduct our first weekend of shows. It’s not every day one has the chance to witness a living composer conducting his own ballet score. It’s a unique experience that was just too exciting to pass up. After the first weekend, DeLeone will graciously pass the baton to our incredible Music Director Ramona Pansegrau to lead the Kansas City Symphony for the remaining shows.

Excitement

Having never had the chance to perform it as a dancer, I’m beyond excited to share my new choreography for this production of Peter Pan with you. The sets and costumes are so whimsical. And, working with the company and so many talented students from Kansas City Ballet School has been incredible.

“It is not in doing what you like, but in liking what you do that is the secret of happiness.” – J.M. Barrie, Peter Pan

The company and I have been blessed to share what we like to do best with you. We hope our happiness is contagious.

Sincerely,
Devon Carney, Artistic Director

Behind the Scenes: Peter Pan

Kansas City Ballet Dancers Amanda DeVenuta and Kevin Wilson in Peter Pan rehearsals. Choreography by Devon Carney. Photography by Elizabeth Stehling.
Kansas City Ballet Dancers Amanda DeVenuta and Kevin Wilson in Peter Pan rehearsals. Choreography by Devon Carney. Photography by Elizabeth Stehling.

Kansas City Ballet closes their 60th Anniversary Season with Peter Pan at the Kauffman Center for the Performing Arts May 11-20, 2018. Artistic Director Devon Carney is putting the finishing touches on his world premiere choreography. Enjoy a few photos from a recent rehearsal.

Tickets are still available here.

More Rehearsal Photos

Kansas City Ballet Dancers Kevin Wilson, and KCB II Dancers Angelin Carrant, and Gavin Abercrombie in Peter Pan rehearsals. Choreography by Devon Carney. Photography by Elizabeth Stehling.
Kansas City Ballet Dancers Kevin Wilson, and KCB II Dancers Angelin Carrant, and Gavin Abercrombie in Peter Pan rehearsals. Choreography by Devon Carney. Photography by Elizabeth Stehling.
Kansas City Ballet Dancers Amanda DeVenuta and Kevin Wilson in Peter Pan rehearsals. Choreography by Devon Carney. Photography by Elizabeth Stehling.
Kansas City Ballet Dancers Amanda DeVenuta and Kevin Wilson in Peter Pan rehearsals. Choreography by Devon Carney. Photography by Elizabeth Stehling.

Devon Carney Talks Dance Festival

Dear Dance Enthusiast,

This is a very exciting time in the history of Kansas City Ballet. How wonderful to say we are 60 years old—celebrating our age, maturity and staying power in the cultural landscape of KC! So, in honor of our 60th I’ve brought together six incredible, challenging and inspiring works for our KCB artists to perform. These ballets represent the incredible diversity of works in the field of dance and help showcase the talents within our current assemblage of world-class artists.

Kansas City Ballet Dancers Angelina Sansone and Liang Fu rehearse a world premiere by Andrea Schermoly. Photography: Elizabeth Stehling.
Kansas City Ballet Dancers Angelina Sansone and Liang Fu rehearse a world premiere by Andrea Schermoly. Photography: Elizabeth Stehling.

Given a dancer’s career is only so long, it’s important to seize opportunities to perform a variety of ballets to experience it all, or as much as one can! This diverse collection of works in a compact time period is just that chance. Performing both Jirí Kylián’s Petite Mort and also the highly regarded Balanchine’s Diamonds is a treat, then to turn around and dance contemporary work like James Kudelka’s The Man in Black and Stanton Welch’s Play is incredible, but that’s not to mention the thrill of being in on the creative genesis of two new works from Matthew Neenan and Andrea Schermoly. This will be two weekends for the books!

Kansas City Ballet Dancer Michael Davis rehearsing The Man In Black. Choreography by James Kudelka. Photography: Elizabeth Stehling.
Kansas City Ballet Dancer Michael Davis rehearsing The Man In Black. Choreography by James Kudelka. Photography: Elizabeth Stehling.

As an audience member, these experiences can equate to a fabulous banquet where you find lots of
tasty treats to delight your palate. This magnificent variety of dance has been produced in the latter 20th century right up until today. What’s more… all but one of these choreographers are still living. I applaud you for taking a risk to see this program. The payoff can be priceless: enjoying more entertainment diversity, developing a deeper love and appreciation of dance and being able to share that personal experience with those close to you. Thank you for trusting us and earning your hypothetical dance pioneer badge.

Kudos to our dancers for their extraordinary efforts in presenting this series. It’s an arduous undertaking for us and unprecedented for our company to tackle six works in this short amount of time. But we believe the risk is worth it. The dancers are thrilled and we think you will be, too!

Kansas City Ballet Dancers Taryn Mejia and Michael Davis rehearse Petite Mort. Choreography by Jiří Kylián. Photography: Elizabeth Stehling.
Kansas City Ballet Dancers Taryn Mejia and Michael Davis rehearse Petite Mort. Choreography by Jiří Kylián. Photography: Elizabeth Stehling.

Yours,
Devon Carney, Artistic Director

New Moves Delivers

Dancer Taryn Mejia in "aBnOrMaL Normal" choreographed by Abdur-Rahim Jackson. Photography by Brett Pruitt & East Market Studios.
Dancer Taryn Mejia in “aBnOrMaL Normal” choreographed by Abdur-Rahim Jackson. Photography by Brett Pruitt & East Market Studios.

Kansas City Ballet opened its run of 2018 New Moves performances last night at the Bolender Center to a near sell-out crowd. The popular annual performances provide an outlet for creative choreographic expression for up and coming choreographers across the country, as well as, within the company. This year three Kansas City Ballet dancers (Emily Mistretta, Michael Davis, and Christopher Costantini) were awarded the chance to create new works on their fellow dancers along with three choreographers from the field (Abdur-Rahim Jackson, Mariana Oliveira, and Monique Meunier). The show opened with a work by Ballet Master Parrish Maynard set on the Second Company. Limited tickets are still available for this weekend’s performances. Order online or by calling 816.931.8993.

More on the blog about New Moves.

PERFORMANCE PHOTOS

Kansas City Ballet Second Dancers (KCB II) Marisa Whiteman and Gavin Abercrombie in "Fractals" choreographed by KCB Ballet Master Parrish Maynard. Photography by Brett Pruitt & East Market Studios.
Kansas City Ballet Second Dancers (KCB II) Marisa Whiteman and Gavin Abercrombie in “Fractals” choreographed by KCB Ballet Master Parrish Maynard. Photography by Brett Pruitt & East Market Studios.
Dancers Elysa Hotchkiss, Cameron Thomas, and Humberto Rivera Blanco in "Beyond Blood" choreographed by Emily Mistretta. Photography by Brett Pruitt & East Market Studios.
Dancers Elysa Hotchkiss, Cameron Thomas, and Humberto Rivera Blanco in “Beyond Blood” choreographed by Emily Mistretta. Photography by Brett Pruitt & East Market Studios.
Dancers Emily Mistretta and Joshua Bodden in "Evanesco" choreographed by Christopher Costantini. Photography by Brett Pruitt & East Market Studios.
Dancers Emily Mistretta and Joshua Bodden in “Evanesco” choreographed by Christopher Costantini. Photography by Brett Pruitt & East Market Studios.
Dancer Michael Davis in "aBnOrMaL Normal" choreographed by Abdur-Rahim Jackson.Photography by Brett Pruitt & East Market Studios.
Dancer Michael Davis in “aBnOrMaL Normal” choreographed by Abdur-Rahim Jackson.Photography by Brett Pruitt & East Market Studios.
Dancers Amanda DeVenuta and Gustavo Ribeiro with Kansas City Ballet Dancers in "Beauty in Chaos" choreographed by Mariana Oliveira. Photography by Brett Pruitt & East Market Studios.
Dancers Amanda DeVenuta and Gustavo Ribeiro with Kansas City Ballet Dancers in “Beauty in Chaos” choreographed by Mariana Oliveira. Photography by Brett Pruitt & East Market Studios.
Dancers Molly Wagner, Liang Fu and Lamin Pereira dos Santos in "Quatre Pièces de Clavecin" choreographed by Monique Meunier. Photography by Brett Pruitt & East Market Studios.
Dancers Molly Wagner, Liang Fu and Lamin Pereira dos Santos in “Quatre Pièces de Clavecin” choreographed by Monique Meunier. Photography by Brett Pruitt & East Market Studios.
Kansas City Ballet Dancers in "You Do You" choreographed by Michael Davis. Photography by Brett Pruitt & East Market Studios.
Kansas City Ballet Dancers in “You Do You” choreographed by Michael Davis. Photography by Brett Pruitt & East Market Studios.