2019-20 Trainee Profile: Priyana Acharya

2019-20 Trainee Profile: Priyana Acharya

Priyana Acharya, a native of Libertyville, Ill., joins the Second Company as a Trainee.

2019-20 Trainee Profile: Priyana Acharya

Q: TELL US WHY YOU BECAME A DANCER?

A: I started dancing when I was 2 years old. However, I started to pursue ballet more intensely when I turned 13 and started attending summer programs. I became a dancer because I enjoy being able to share a story with others. Most people expect someone to only be able to share a story through words, but dance allows you to express yourself through movement. This is one of the many aspects of dance that makes me continue to want to pursue this profession.

Q: IS THERE SOMEONE SPECIFIC THAT INSPIRES YOU IN YOUR LIFE AND/OR CAREER?

A: Yasmine Naghdi is one ballerina who truly inspires me! Her strength and artistic choices are incredible. She is also a very versatile dancer! Nowadays, it is important to be able to do any form of dance and perform it to the best of your abilities, which is exactly what Yasmine does!

Q: HOW DO YOU STAY FIT AND HEALTHY OUTSIDE OF THE STUDIO?

A: I love taking Pilates and yoga classes because they are really good forms of cross-training. Yoga and Pilates classes help to strengthen your body so that you are able to work to your fullest and healthiest potential in class and rehearsals.

Q: WHAT EXCITES YOU MOST ABOUT THE 2019-20 sEASON?

A: I am very excited for the amazing repertoire this season! From The Nutcracker to Swan Lake to Serenade…there is so much to look forward to this season. Also, I love the environment here at Kansas City Ballet because all of the faculty and staff are so welcoming, kind, and supportive. Everyone is one big family!

Top Photograph by Savanna Daniels.

Trainee Profile: Colleen McKenzie

Trainee Profile: Colleen McKenzie
Colleen McKenzie

“My mom originally put me in ballet because she thought I’d look cute in the leotard,” 17-year-old Colleen McKenzie says. With her dad in the military, Colleen McKenzie has called many places home. She started dancing at age 3 while the family was stationed in Germany. Over the years she’s danced at seven different dance schools in many different states.

“The more I did it [danced], the more I liked it,” she admits. She tried lots of other activities from soccer to tennis but always made the decision to stop for ballet.

The family returned to the east coast states for a while before they moving to Hawaii for a year. While there, Colleen learned about Kansas City Ballet School through Pointe Magazine and auditioned for the Summer Intensive in 2017 via a video audition. She was accepted to the program but decided not attend.

Trainee Profile: Colleen McKenzie
Colleen McKenzie | Photo by Brett Pruitt & East Market Studios

KCBS DAYTIME PROGRAM

She also learned about Kansas City Ballet School’s Daytime Program, where students who are serious about ballet can spend their daytime hours focused on dancing while doing their academic schooling online in the evenings. That sounded like a great opportunity, so she reached out about enrollment. They still had her audition video and accepted her.

“Coming here I just knew I was going to like it,” Colleen remembers. “It’s a small, big city. And the way KC supports the arts is really cool. It feels like a safe city and like home.”

In addition to the Daytime Program, Colleen auditioned for the student performing ensemble for KCBS, Kansas City Youth Ballet. Since the spring of 2018 to spring 2019 she was part of KCYB. “I’ve really liked it. Last year I was a demi-soloist and part of a pas de deux (dance for two). This past fall, I was in corps roles. I really liked working as one group.” She danced a special soloist role in Pharaoh’s Daughter.

YOUTH AMERICA GRAND PRIX

Colleen also trained for Youth America Grand Prix (YAGP). YAGP held their regional semi-final competition in KC for the second time this past spring.

This year Lamin Pereira dos Santos, a member of Kansas City Ballet’s professional company coached her. “He could pass his experience to me,” she says. Lamin competed in YAGP growing up. “I like the process of working on something and then performing it,” Colleen admits. “The process is the reason for me. That and taking masterclasses.”

Trainee Profile: Colleen McKenzie
Colleen McKenzie | Photo by Brett Pruitt & East Market Studios

FROM STUDENT TO TRAINEE

Her hard work paid off.

Kansas City Ballet’s Artistic Director Devon Carney selected Colleen to join the Trainee Program, which is part of Kansas City Ballet’s Second Company. Her new role begins in August.

In the meantime, she’s taking part in KCBS’s Summer Intensive program.

“I’m really excited for next year. It’s a great opportunity and so fun,” Colleen confesses.

And as a Trainee, she’ll have opportunities to perform in the community and even in company shows at the Kauffman Center for the Performing Arts.

In 2018, Colleen was given the chance to dance more advanced roles in The Nutcracker including dancing in the snow scene and also as a “Flower” in addition to an “Angel” role — a role typically given to the older students.

“It was Amazing! It was really cool getting to dance with so many talented dancers,” she exclaims. “There were seven casts. So dancing with someone new every night was normal

THE FUTURE

“I love classical ballet. I just really love it here,” says Colleen.

She now calls KC home while her family resides in Virginia.

2018-19 Trainee Profile: Teresa Bowden

2018-2019 KC Ballet Trainee and Second Company Member Teresa Bowden. Photography by Savanna Daniels.

Teresa Bowden is a Trainee and member of Kansas City Ballet’s Second Company. Originally from Cary, North Carolina, this is her first season as a Trainee.

Q: wHY DID YOU BECOME A DANCER?

A: I started dancing because my little sister didn’t want to finish her lessons. They were already paid for so my mom gave them to me.

KCB Trainee Teresa Bowden in The Nutcracker | Photography by Brett Pruitt & East Market Studios
KCB Trainee Teresa Bowden in The Nutcracker | Photography by Brett Pruitt & East Market Studios

Q: HOW DO YOU STAY FIT AND HEALTHY OUTSIDE OF THE STUDIO?

A: I enjoy going to the gym and cross training.

Q: WHAT DO YOU LIKE TO DO WHEN YOU ARE NOT DANCING?

A: When I am not dancing, I like to read books and watch Netflix/YouTube.

Q: WHAT IS YOUR GUILTY PLEASURE? 

A: I really enjoy rewatching The Office and thrift shopping.

 

 

Top Photo by Savanna Daniels.

2018-19 Trainee Profile: Katherine Clark

2018-2019 KC Ballet Trainee and Second Company Member Katherine Clark. Photography by Savanna Daniels.

Katherine Clark is a Trainee and member of Kansas City Ballet’s Second Company. Originally from Columbus, Georgia, this is her second season as a Trainee.

Q: wHY DID YOU BECOME A DANCER?

A: I have always been a bit shy. I was drawn to the fact that I could speak through movement rather than words. From a young age I felt very attached to my work and was grateful that each day I had something to work towards. I also felt that, out of all professions, being a ballet dancer is my way of giving back and connecting with society. I guess the fear of a desk job is a good motivator.

Q: HOW DO YOU STAY FIT AND HEALTHY OUTSIDE OF THE STUDIO?

A: I go to the gym and do Pilates. I also make sure I see a physical therapist if I notice an injury coming on.

Q: WHAT DO YOU LIKE TO DO WHEN YOU ARE NOT DANCING?

A: I take college classes during my time off. I went to college for a year before I came to KCB. Since then I’ve been trying to work towards a degree slowly. I find it refreshing to take my mind off ballet and challenge my thinking in other ways. I usually come back re-inspired and have more knowledge to incorporate into my work at the studio.

Q: WHAT IS YOUR GUILTY PLEASURE? 

A: Peanut Butter

Q: WHAT WAS THE BEST ADVICE YOU EVER RECEIVED?

A: The best advice I have been given would be to “find beauty in your struggle and to trust the process.” I have faced many obstacles as a dancer, but I am really glad that I have. I see how those days forced me to grow artistically, mentally, and physically. You learn a lot when you allow yourself to be vulnerable and as artists we have to become comfortable with being so open.

 

Top Photo by Savanna Daniels.

2018-19 Trainee Profile: Emma Pennell

2018-2019 KC Ballet Trainee and Second Company Member Emma Pennell. Photography by Savanna Daniels.

Emma Pennell is a Trainee and member of Kansas City Ballet’s Second Company. Originally from Allen, Texas, this is her second season as a Trainee.

Emma Pennell (in green) during 2018 Summer Intensive class at Kansas City Ballet School | Photography by Elizabeth Stehling
Emma Pennell (in green) during 2018 Summer Intensive class at Kansas City Ballet School | Photography by Elizabeth Stehling

Q: wHY DID YOU BECOME A DANCER?

A: One of my older sisters was a dancer; so naturally I wanted to dance as well and be just like her. Ever since I began at age 4, I fell in love with the art form. I continued to pursue dance because it was so fulfilling to perform and express myself in unique ways.

Q: WHAT DO YOU LOVE MOST ABOUT BALLET?

A: As an art form specifically, I love ballet because it allows me to express my emotions, whatever they may be at the time. I am able to interpret the role and make it personal and apply those emotions to make ballet more connective.

Q: WHAT IS SOMETHING MOST PEOPLE WOULD NOT KNOW ABOUT YOU? 

A: What most people don’t know about me is that during my junior year of high school I became a Certified Nurse Aide. Also, during my senior year of high school I took an Emergency Medical Technician course and am in the process of becoming nationally certified.

Q: HOW DO YOU STAY FIT AND HEALTHY OUTSIDE OF THE STUDIO?

A: Outside of the studio, to stay fit I enjoy running. It allows me to clear my mind and focus on something else while simultaneously exercising and building my stamina.

Q: WHAT WAS THE BEST ADVICE YOU EVER RECEIVED?

A: The best advice I have received is to stay happy in every situation. Looking for the positives and staying uplifted helps you get through the hard days and makes the tough times go by a little faster.

 

Top Photo by Savanna Daniels.

2018-19 Trainee Profile: Georgia Fuller

2018-2019 KC Ballet Trainee and Second Company Member Georgia Fuller. Photography by Savanna Daniels.

When she’s not writing poetry or busy buying fun socks, Georgia Fuller is honing her skills as a Trainee and member of Kansas City Ballet’s Second Company. Originally from Cincinnati, this is her second season as a Trainee.

Q: WHAT DO YOU LOVE MOST ABOUT BALLET?

A: I love the expression and the hard work required for ballet. It is the only art form that requires you to do crazy things with your body, but look completely effortless on top. You have two jobs in Ballet—to not only be technically correct, but to also share real emotion with the audience. I love that about dance, having a connection with those who are watching you.

KCB Trainee Georgia Fuller dancing in the Snow Scene in "The Nutcracker" | Photography by Brett Pruitt & East Market Studios
KCB Trainee Georgia Fuller dancing in the Snow Scene in “The Nutcracker” | Photography by Brett Pruitt & East Market Studios

Q: WHAT QUESTION ARE YOU MOST ASKED ABOUT YOUR JOB?

A: A lot of people are curious about what we actually do as professional dancers—I think there’s definitely a misconception about the art form as a whole. I usually explain to people that while what I’m doing is somewhat unconventional, it’s still similar to any other 9 to 5 job. You work hard, put in the effort, and everything is taken seriously.

Q: WHAT IS YOUR FAVORITE SNACK, STRETCH AND DANCE BAG ITEM? 

A: My favorite snack is almonds or veggies and hummus. My favorite stretch would definitely be anything to stretch out my deep six muscles because they are always sore! And my favorite dance bag item would be my tennis ball because I’m always needing it to roll out any knots or tight muscles.

Q: HOW DO YOU STAY FIT AND HEALTHY OUTSIDE OF THE STUDIO?

A: I take Pilates reformer lessons at least once a week, and I go to the gym frequently. I love exercising, so I make sure to include a lot of cardio and weight training into my routine

Q: WHAT WAS THE BEST ADVICE YOU EVER RECEIVED?

A: My dad once told me that in dance, there’s always someone better than you, and someone worse than you. It reminds me to keep pushing myself to grow more each day, but to always appreciate and acknowledge the progress that I’ve already made.

 

Top Photo by Savanna Daniels.

2018-19 Trainee Profile: Juliana Kuhn

2018-2019 KC Ballet Trainee and Second Company Member Julia Kuhn. Photography by Savanna Daniels.

Trainee and member of Kansas City Ballet’s Second CompanyJuliana Kuhn is from Lenexa, Kan. This is her first year with Kansas City Ballet’s Second Company.

Q: TELL US WHY YOU BECAME A DANCEr.

A: At first it was my mom taking me to ballet classes. But once I began to understand the incredible athleticism and the beauty in dance, I knew there was nothing else I would rather do. I love being able to express myself and grow in artistry while pushing the limit of what my body can do.

Juliana Kuhn (pictured third from left) dances during the snow scene in "The Nutcracker" (2018). Photo by Elizabeth Stehling.
Juliana Kuhn (pictured third from left) dances during the snow scene in “The Nutcracker” (2018). Photo by Elizabeth Stehling.

Q: WHAT DO YOU LIKE TO DO WHEN YOU’RE NOT DANCING? 

A: I love hanging out with my friends but I also love to read. It is such a good way to keep my brain engaged and I just love being sucked into another world found in a good book.

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

A: I had the opportunity to visit Japan last summer (2017). It was amazing and definitely a highlight of my life so far.

Q: WHAT DO YOU LOVE MOST ABOUT BALLET?

A: I love how meticulous and expressive it is. How you can say so much with such delicate and beautiful movement. I also love how it can affect people in such unique and diverse yet equally beautiful ways.

Q: WHAT WAS THE BEST ADVICE YOU EVER RECEIVED?

A: I think just to be present, in dancing and life. Often as dancers we go on autopilot and are always dreaming of the next goal. So it really struck me when I was told to always be present for the journey because otherwise you miss out on so much of the unexpected good.

 

Top Photo by Savanna Daniels.

2018-19 Trainee Profile: Grace Reed

2018-2019 KC Ballet Trainee and Second Company Member Grace Reed. Photography by Savanna Daniels.

Trainee and member of Kansas City Ballet’s Second CompanyGrace Reed was born in New Mexico but grew up in Texas and Kansas City. She was invited to become a KCB Trainee while attending Kansas City Ballet School. 

Q: TELL US WHY YOU BECAME A DANCEr.

A: Growing up, my brother (who now has a major in Piano Performance) was constantly practicing his piano pieces. You could always find me dancing around behind him as he played. Because my mom saw how inspired I was by my brother’s music, she decided to enroll me in ballet classes. Since then, I am still finding inspiration to dance.

Trainee Grace Reed front left with Kansas City Ballet Dancer Courtney Nitting front right in "The Nutcracker". Photography: Brett Pruitt & East Market Studios.
Trainee Grace Reed front left with Kansas City Ballet Dancer Courtney Nitting front right in “The Nutcracker”. Photography: Brett Pruitt & East Market Studios.

Q: WHAT DO YOU LIKE TO DO WHEN YOU’RE NOT DANCING? 

A: When I am not dancing, I love to spend my time reading, knitting, exploring nature, or watching movies with my family. I love getting to dance, but sometimes you have to do “normal people” things to help you enrich what you get to do in the studio.

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

A: A current FBI agent once recommended that I look into pursing a career as an agent after viewing my marksmanship at the shooting range.

Q: WHAT DO YOU LOVE MOST ABOUT BALLET?

A: I always find new things to enjoy about ballet, even if I have seen a certain piece a hundred times. Ballet itself is always challenging me to accomplish things I never thought I could.

Q: WHAT WAS THE BEST ADVICE YOU EVER RECEIVED?

A: The best dancing advice I have ever received is from one of my teachers, Claudio Munoz. He once told me to “Dance like you’re wearing a Versace or Oscar de la Renta gown.” Because I love looking at gowns from those designers, it immediately made sense to me how I should carry myself during the certain piece he was coaching me on at the time. Since then, I have reminded myself of those words whenever I have felt unsure of myself while dancing.

 

Top Photo by Savanna Daniels.

2018-19 Trainee Profile: Leah Upchurch

2018-2019 KC Ballet Trainee and Second Company Member Leah Upchurch. Photography by Savanna Daniels.
 

Trainee and member of Kansas City Ballet’s Second CompanyLeah Upchurch grew up in Virginia Beach, Va.

Q: TELL US WHY YOU BECAME A DANCEr.

A: I became a dancer because I’ve always loved to perform. I’ve always felt invincible when I was on stage whether I was a character telling a story or dancing as myself for a piece.

Q: WHAT DO YOU LIKE TO DO WHEN YOU’RE NOT DANCING? 

A: I like to write (observations, thoughts, ideas, dreams, etc.). I find it very therapeutic and easier to express how I feel rather than talking (hence why I dance).

Leah Church (pictured center) dances during the snow scene in "The Nutcracker" (2018). Photo by Elizabeth Stehling.
Leah Church (pictured center) dances during the snow scene in “The Nutcracker” (2018). Photo by Elizabeth Stehling.

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

A: I’m OBSESSED with spicy food, the hotter, the better. Just the extra flavor with a kick makes food that much more delicious!

Q: WHAT DO YOU LOVE MOST ABOUT BALLET?

A: I honestly love how hard it is; not a lot of people dance ballet because of how particular and precise it is and I truly think it takes someone who is driven, passionate, and disciplined to be successful in the art form.

Q: WHAT WAS THE BEST LIFE ADVICE YOU EVER RECEIVED?

A: The best life advice I’ve ever received was that you’re not going to be able to please everyone; it stuck with me because I could never understand why I could be working just as hard as the person next to me but would never get recognition as the other girl would. I learned that not everyone will favor you or your dancing.

 

Top Photo by Savanna Daniels.

2018-19 Trainee Profile: Sidney Haefs

2018-2019 KC Ballet Trainee and Second Company Member Sidney Haefs. Photography by Savanna Daniels.

Trainee and member of Kansas City Ballet’s Second CompanySidney Haefs grew up in Santa Clarita, Calif. Sidney is a graduate of the University of Utah School of Dance where, in three years, she earned a B.F.A. in Ballet as well as a minor in Human Development and Family Studies. She performs as a snowflake, a flower and more during The Nutcracker performances through Dec. 23, 2018.

Q: TELL US WHY YOU BECAME A DANCEr.

A: I started dancing when I was 3 ½ years old and then moved on to ice-skating! After a few years of skating, my mother, who had studied ballet through her young adult years, thought it best to transition me towards that path. At first I didn’t really enjoy it. I continued with it because I felt like there was something keeping me connected to the art form. After a while I started to enjoy the structure and self-discipline required to strengthen ones technique. After getting to perform in many productions with my home studio, I fell in love with how, as dancers, we are able to tell a story through movement. Then, when I attended Boston Ballet’s Summer Dance Program, I knew I wanted to pursue dance as a professional career!

Q: WHAT QUESTION DO YOU GET ASKED MOST ABOUT BEING A DANCER? 

A: I think the most common questions I get asked are: “Are your feet really ugly?” and “Doesn’t it hurt to dance on your toes?” Everyone always wants to see how my feet are holding up! I usually end up explaining how my toes have become so accustomed to the discomfort that after so long, pointe shoes just feel normal. It just takes time to find what works for you when it comes to the correct padding!

Q: WHAT IS YOUR GUILTY PLEASURE?

A: Vanilla milkshakes seem to be my go to! These are definitely not that great for you, but they always seem to make me feel better.

Q: HOW DO YOU STAY FIT AND HEALTHY OUTSIDE OF THE STUDIO?

A: Some of the ways that I cross train outside of the studio would be Pilates, cycling, and weight training! I try to stick with these modes of exercise because I really enjoy them which, in turn, keeps me motivated to actually do them after dancing so many hours a day!

Q: WHAT WAS THE BEST LIFE ADVICE YOU EVER RECEIVED?

A: One of my professors at the University of Utah told me to never let a bad performance get you down. I had fallen during a show and it was really devastating. You put in so much work to prepare for performances and the hardest part about live theatre is that anything can happen. She explained to me that I couldn’t let that moment onstage affect my work in the classes or rehearsals that followed. I just needed to pick my self up and keep moving forward. This was great advice because it really showed me that there is something to learn from both success and failure and without those experiences we cannot continue to grow as dancers and artists.

 

Top Photo by Savanna Daniels.