Dancer Profile: Charles Martin

Charles Martin joined Kansas City Ballet in 2007 just in time to celebrate Kansas City Ballet’s 50th Anniversary. He’s now in his 11th season with the company.


A: My mom owned a dance studio and I was always there dancing around, so I started classes at age 3.


A: Getting to express things that words can not.

Dancer: Charles Martin. Photography: Brett Pruitt & East Market Studios.
Dancer: Charles Martin. Photography: Brett Pruitt & East Market Studios.


A: I love doing hair and makeup!


A: Work hard, even when it’s hard work.


A: Meditating, stretching or taking a nap.

A Gift of Music from The Guglers

The Guglers pictured with their baby grand piano, Artistic Director Devon Carney, Music Director Ramona Pansegrau, Ballet Master Parrish Maynard and members of Kansas City Ballet. Photography by Elizabeth Stehling.
The Guglers pictured with their baby grand piano, Artistic Director Devon Carney, Music Director Ramona Pansegrau, Ballet Master Parrish Maynard and members of Kansas City Ballet. Photography by Elizabeth Stehling.

Steve and Sheila Gugler raised their family in Kansas City, but now retired, they were ready for their next big adventure: moving to San Diego. Such a move meant paring down on physical items they’ve owned for years, even beloved ones like Sheila’s Kawai baby grand piano.

As the move to San Diego drew near, the couple began the arduous process of clearing out their large Kansas City home. When it came to Sheila’s baby, the piano, she knew it had to go but to whom?

“We were moving to a much smaller space in San Diego and there simply wasn’t room for it. I think that was the hardest thing about our move. I loved that piano,” said Sheila.

She knew that she wanted the recipient to appreciate it and really play it a lot.

Her Eureka Moment

“One night it came to me at 2:30 a.m. like a light bulb,” Sheila said. She remembered her daughter had taken lessons at Kansas City Ballet School during the Todd Bolender years at the Westport Allen Studios. Ballet classes were not just a way to learn to dance but also a vehicle for learning music appreciation, and at Kansas City Ballet School the classes are taught with live pianists playing the accompaniment.

“I knew this would be a great way to really expand the enjoyment of the piano by not only the many, many students, but the talented accompanists that KCB employs as well.”

When Sheila told her daughter her plan she replied, “Oh, Mom! What a great idea.”

Making it Happen

All that was left to do was reach out to Kansas City Ballet Music Director Ramona Pansegrau about the idea. Ramona came out and “kicked the tires” to be sure the piano was up to the challenge.

It was.

Once the piano arrived in the studio, its new home, the Guglers were invited to attend a ballet class with members of the company. The experience touched Sheila and Steve deeply. “We got to see our gift in use,” Sheila said, “We couldn’t be happier about our decision.”

And KCB couldn’t be happier to be the proud new owners.

Honoring the gift

“We are thrilled to have the Guglers’ beautiful piano in our Studio 2,” said Ramona. “As our pianist pool has grown in both size and expertise, the need for fine instruments has increased. In Studio 2, a studio used for company rehearsals as well as school classes, it is essential to be able to see ‘feet touch the floor’ to establish correct tempos for our professional dancers. The gift of a grand piano enables that to happen—and therefore it makes the process of studio to stage much easier. I am so grateful to the Guglers. We will treasure their lovely instrument for years to come.”


Kansas City Ballet is a 501(c)(3) organization. The majority of our operating budget each year is made up of grants and donations. If you are interested in making a gift to Kansas City Ballet, please contact Director of Individual Giving Debra Goldstein at 816.216.5597 or visit our website.

Volunteers Needed. Apply Now!

Volunteers are ready to sell food tickets and answer questions at a past KC Dance Day. Photography by Brett Pruitt & East Market Studios
Volunteers are ready to sell food tickets and answer questions at a past KC Dance Day. Photography by Brett Pruitt & East Market Studios

This year Kansas City Ballet will open their doors for the seventh annual KC Dance Day. This FREE event includes dance classes and local dance performances for all ages—even an open rehearsal by Kansas City Ballet dancers! And every year, around 2,000 eager Kansas Citians are expected over the course of the day.

It’s a big task to pull off this event. All KC Ballet staff are on hand over the course of the day helping to make sure everyone has a great time, but even more help is needed. Each year more than 40 volunteers are required throughout the day to ensure success.

A group of volunteers stuff items into KCB goody bags that are handed out free to attendees. Photography by Brett Pruitt & East Market Studios
A group of volunteers stuff items into KCB goody bags that are handed out free to attendees. Photography by Brett Pruitt & East Market Studios

“We simply couldn’t do it without our amazing volunteers,” says Rene Horne, Kansas City Ballet’s Manager of Events and Volunteers. “These people give in a big way. They donate their time to help Kansas City Ballet share the love of dance with our community, many of whom have never been to our building, taken a dance class or seen a performance. The energy in the building on Dance Day is electric.”

Even so, with little more than a week until the big day, there are still volunteer shifts available, especially during peak hours of 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. So, we are reaching out to recruit more amazing volunteers looking to help their community.

Volunteer Now

Those interested will need to:

  • Create a volunteer account, by clicking here. It takes less than five minutes.
  • Once an account is created, visit this page and click on the “Volunteer Registration Center” link under “Join Us” to sign in.
  • After signing in, click on the “Help Wanted” symbol on August 26 and pick a shift.

For a schedule of classes or events or for more information about KC Dance Day, click here.

KC Dance Day: August 26, 2017

KC Dance Day 2017. Photography by Brett Pruitt.
KC Dance Day 2017. Photography by Brett Pruitt.

Kansas City Ballet prepares to host their 7th annual KC Dance Day event on Saturday, Aug. 26 from 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. at the Todd Bolender Center for Dance & Creativity.

Enjoy FREE dance classes and FREE performances; even an open rehearsal by Kansas City Ballet dancers! Lunch will be served from 11:00 am to 3:00 p.m. by Two Guys and a Grill. You may purchase a $6 meal ticket in the lobby for your choice of a hamburger, veggie burger, hot dog, or chicken breast plus chips and bottled water.

All events take place at the TODD BOLENDER CENTER, 500 W. PERSHING, just west of Union Station. get map

Between 9:00 a.m. and 3:30 p.m. we will offer a complimentary shuttle trolley from the parking at the Union Station Garage to the Bolender Center. There is a charge for parking at Union Station.

You can register online here.

KCBS 2017 Summer Intensive Ends

Just five short weeks ago, 181 students arrived from all over the country, the region, the city and even a couple from Bulgaria to be part of Kansas City Ballet School’s 2017 Summer Intensive program. Most will leave more skilled and with more friends than when they began. Summer Intensives are like that, and especially in Kansas City.

While they were here they learned from a wide variety of teachers, as well as from each other. They pushed themselves to new heights. They also learned more about Kansas City through a number of excursions including a visit to Worlds of Fun and Oceans of Fun, attending a 2015 World Series Champion Kansas City Royals game, and more.

Today marked the final day of the program when the students were able to demonstrate what they’ve learned for an audience near and dear to their hearts, their families.

“It is hard to believe that our 2017 Summer Intensive at Kansas City Ballet has come to a close!  What a lovely group of dancers attended this year, and it was pretty amazing to watch the progress that the students made during these 5 weeks,” said KCB School Director Grace Holmes. “Thank you for sharing the summer with us and I hope to see you all again at KCBS!”

Read more about this group and the guest teachers here.

Top and Bottom photos by Andrea Wilson.

Event Recap: Guild 2017 Spring Luncheon

Florals by Craig Sole

The Kansas City Ballet Guild hosted its annual Spring Luncheon on May 9 at Indian Hills Country Club.  President Mark Sappington thanked the outgoing Guild Board for their hard work and welcomed the new 2017-2018 board.  Guests enjoyed beautiful floral arrangements by Craig Sole. For more information about the Guild click here.

Incoming President Gigi Rose with Outgoing President Mark Sappington
Amy Embry, Jane Webster, John Walker, Melanie Fenske, Craig Sole (in back), Jim Spaith, Peggy Beal, Mark Sappington (in back), Jennifer Wampler, Heather Ryan, Megan Bubb Cribb (in back), Gigi Rose, Jeannie Murphy, Melissa Bondon, Lisa Merrill Hickok, Karen Jordan, Lauren Merriman, Angela Walker, Susan Meehan-Mizer, Jo Anne Dondlinger

Photography: Larry F. Levenson

KCBS 2017 Junior Summer Intensive Ends

Students perform during the 2017 final demonstration for KCB School’s Junior Summer Intensive program.

The Kansas City Ballet School’s 2017 Junior Summer Intensive that began June 5th wrapped up today with a studio demonstration by the students. Specifically designed with the young dancer in mind, this four-week program offers students ages 9-13 (females who are pre-pointe or beginning pointe students) a rigorous and comprehensive study of ballet technique and exposure to a broad variety of dance styles.  All curriculum is presented in a nurturing and positive environment at Kansas City Ballet School’s Johnson County Campus.

KCB School’s Erin Steeley presents students with achievement certificates during the 2017 Junior Summer Intensive program’s final demonstration.

Students experience a truly unique program working with members of the Kansas City Ballet’s artistic staff, nationally acclaimed guest teachers as well as KCB School faculty. Former Prima Ballerina with Miami City Ballet, Iliana Lopez, and Michele Gifford from New York City Ballet were guest teachers.

On Sunday, June 25th, the students participated in a demonstration by Kansas City Ballet School as part of The Future Stages Festival at the Kauffman Center.

“It was so fun watching the students express their joy of dance at both demonstrations. It was especially inspiring to witness them performing their repertory pieces this afternoon,” said KCB School Director Grace Holmes.

This was the 5th year of the program and 40 students participated.



KCBS Student Profile: Emma Heithoff

Kansas City Ballet Student Emma Heithoff. Photography by Brett Pruitt & East Market Studios.

Beginning to take dance classes at only 3 years old has paid off for Kansas City Ballet School student, Emma Heithoff. After attending dance schools in Waukee and Des Moines, Iowa, Emma was able to begin training in the Academy’s Daytime Program. This program offers daily classes from 9:30 a.m. – 4:30 p.m. and is for ballet students who are looking for more hours of intensive training as compared to those offered in the afternoon program.

After attending the 2015 and 2016 Summer Intensive programs, Emma was thrilled to return to the Kansas City Ballet. “While I didn’t believe my experience could possibly get better, this past summer provided even more opportunity by allowing me to hear about the Daytime Program,” she said. “I believe this summer program is extremely appealing with its emphasis on strong technique, expression through the upper body, and versatility as a dancer with the plethora of classes offered.” One of Emma’s major influences was her summer teacher, Racheal Nye. “I really enjoy how she brings the idea of how strong technique should always be a priority while teaching in a tough yet extremely motivating way,” she said.


Since joining the Daytime Program with the Kansas City Ballet, Emma has already identified significant benefits. “I have loved the opportunity to have two-hour technique classes followed by one-hour pointe classes and other electives every single day,” she said. “This gives each of us the ability to improve at a faster rate than we were previously with the addition of more hours spent in the studio.”


Throughout the course of a new program, struggles are bound to occur. “I have definitely experienced a number of challenges including some issues with my back and feet while also learning how to manage injuries while dancing for so many hours,” Emma said. “Even with a higher pain tolerance after dancing since I was young, I have learned many different self-care practices in both injury prevention and taking care of myself in order to stay healthy and continue doing what I love.”

“I have also faced the challenges of continuing to fix bad habits while trying not to become frustrated when I do not see immediate progress,” she said. As these endeavors have not been easy for Emma, she has learned they can be rewarding.  “Throughout working through these challenges, I feel as if I have developed some valuable skills to help me through both my dancing and events outside of the studio.”


Kansas City Youth Ballet performance of "Giselle". Photography by Brett Pruitt & East Market Studios.
Kansas City Youth Ballet performance of “Giselle”. Photography by Brett Pruitt & East Market Studios.

Since joining the Academy’s Daytime Program, Emma has been offered many exciting opportunities. These include performing with the professional company as an Angel in The Nutcracker, as a Courtier and a member of the “Garland Waltz” in The Sleeping Beauty, and a significant role in the Kansas City Youth Ballet’s performance of Giselle. “This past semester, I had the opportunity to perform the Peasant Pas de Deux in Giselle as well as a neoclassical pas in a work choreographed by Dillon Malinski,” she said. “I have never been cast in a performing pas de deux before this year, so this was an extremely fun opportunity to work on my partnering in two completely different pieces of repertoire.”


Photography by Brett Pruitt & East Market Studios.

Did You Know? Sculptures at Bolender Center

“Dreaming About” by sculptor: Rafael Muyor. A Gift from Miller and Jeannette Nichols.

Stationed on the Mezzanine in the Bolender Center, you’ll find two bronze statues of female dancers that are so lifelike it’s common for them to be mistaken for real dancers. “Dreaming About” and “Unbearable Elevation” are the work of sculptor Rafael Muyor.

Both Muyor sculptures were graciously donated to Kansas City Ballet by Miller and Jeannette Nichols in 1999. Prior to that, they had been displayed at the Nichols’ office on the Country Club Plaza.

Kansas City Ballet is grateful to Mr. and Mrs. Nichols for their ongoing support.

“Unbearable Elevation” by sculptor: Rafael Muyor. A Gift from Miller and Jeannette Nichols.

Rafael Muyor, Sculptor

Rafael Muyor was born in Madrid, Spain in 1943. He studied Industrial Design in Madrid, and then traveled to Milan and Paris where he perfected his technique of modeling. His work with bronze creates organic sculptures with volume and movement. Muyor breaks the coldness of the metal, giving his works great warmth and stunning realism.

Muyor has had solo exhibitions in Segovia, Salamanca, Malaga and Madrid, as well as in the Gallery Seiquer. His work has also been found in Gallery Four Seventeen. He has participated in, among others, the First Biennial for Plastic Arts Segovia in 1981; at Arch 1985 and 1989; Art London, Saga 1990, and 1992; Art Miami 1992, and 1996. His most recent works have been shown in the Municipal Center for the Arts – Alcorcón 2001 and at the Galería Leandro Navarro in the fall of 2006.



A Brief History of the Bolender Center

In August 2011, Kansas City Ballet opened the doors of their first permanent home, the Todd Bolender Center for Dance & Creativity.

The former Union Station Power House, is named for former Artistic Director Emeritus Todd Bolender, who incidentally was born in 1914—the same year this building was built. Bolender, a former dancer and choreographer with George Balanchine’s New York City Ballet, led the company from 1980 to 1995.

For nearly six years, Kansas City Ballet has enjoyed the Bolender Center and its seven studios, including the 180-seat Michael and Ginger Frost Studio Theater. The latter serves as the venue for KC Ballet’s annual New Moves program, as well as Second Company, Kansas City Youth Ballet, Kansas City Ballet School and other community group performance space. It also shares the same specs as the Muriel Kauffman Theatre stage—making it ideal for company rehearsals.

Bolender Center Lobby. Photographer Cody Lovetere
Bolender Center Lobby. Photographer Cody Lovetere

There are still remnants of the building’s past when you look up at the yam colored coal shoots that now serve as light fixtures. Long gone is the 250′ chimney. It was taken down in the 1975 to prevent damage from it eventually falling on its own. Gone also is the tree that used to grace the roof in the 90s. After nearly six years, and a great urban renaissance in Kansas City, it’s hard to imagine KC Ballet’s home anywhere else.

In addition to administrative and rehearsal space for the company, the Bolender Center also houses Kansas City Ballet School’s downtown campus. From academy programs for ages 3-18 including a new daytime program for serious students ages 11-18, to junior studio and adult studio classes, the Bolender Center is ‘Always On’.

More References

For more history about Kansas City Ballet, please click here.