Youth Ballet Alumni Choreograph New Works

Cameron Miller leads rehearsal with KCYB Dancers. | Photography by Andrea Wilson
Cameron Miller leads rehearsal with KCYB Dancers. | Photography by Andrea Wilson

Since 2009 Kansas City Youth Ballet (KCYB) has been the performing ensemble for Kansas City Ballet School (KCBS). For the first time ever, they will perform choreography created by former KCYB members— Maggie Andriani and Cameron Miller.

Cameron Miller (center) in the Spring 2013 KCYB show promotions | Photography by Brett Pruitt and East Market Studios
Cameron Miller (center) in the Spring 2013 KCYB show promotions | Photography by Brett Pruitt and East Market Studios

Both Andriani and Miller went on to major in dance at universities after graduating from their respective high schools, KCBS and KCYB. Andriani attended Indiana University Jacobs School of Music, Opera and Ballet Theater, and Miller went to The UMKC Conservatory of Music and Dance. Andriani is now a member of Quixotic Cirque Nouveau and has toured with the group across the U.S. and internationally. Miller is a dancer with American Midwest Ballet (formerly Ballet Nebraska).

KCYB Experiences

Andriani remembers her experiences with KCYB and working with different choreographers fondly. She says it was constantly changing and always challenging. Working on classical variations, partnering and contemporary works allowed these younger dancers a safe space to make mistakes and learn from them on and off the stage.

“Taking ballet class is one thing but KCYB was that bridge between student and professional,” Miller says. “It was our chance to perform bigger name ballets.”

Maggie Andriani as Odette in Swan Lake for KCYB's Spring 2014 performances. | Photo by Brett Pruitt & East Market Studios.
Maggie Andriani as Odette in Swan Lake for KCYB’s Spring 2014 performances. | Photo by Brett Pruitt & East Market Studios.

When she watches old DVDs from the performances, Andriani admits her dancing is far from perfect. “But I could see myself growing as a dancer every year. My favorite memory was dancing the white swan pas from Swan Lake with Cameron, rehearsed by Hyuk Ku Kwon. Kwon taught me so much about the importance of the tiniest movements making a big impact. Cameron and I were definitely challenged with the stamina and when we finally got to perform it for our last senior show it was really emotional in a happy way,” she says.

The Opportunity

“I was happy when Kim [KCYB Director Kimberly Cowen] reached out to me because choreographing is something I started to become interested in during college, when we had a choreographic class,” Andriani says. “At Quixotic, sometimes we have choreographers come in to set pieces, but much of the time the other dancers and I collaborate to create our own pieces. So slowly I’ve been getting more experience. It’s something I’d like to continue doing, and I’m glad to have the opportunity at my former studio!”

When Cowen asked Miller about choreographing, it was after she’d attended his senior capstone performance at The Conservatory where he’d choreographed one of his own pieces.

Miller now teaches at competition dance schools in the evenings where he is building up his choreography chops.

“I have a degree in performance and choreography. That’s my end game—becoming a choreographer,” he says. “Creative, innovative, growing my own voice. I love the process. It’s fulfilling to have a piece of you out there at the end. It’s your baby.”

He is grateful for this opportunity and excited to see where he’ll go from here.

Cameron Miller | David K. Pugh Photography
Cameron Miller | David K. Pugh Photography

CAMERON Miller’s Work

Miller believes one voice can change the world. It’s an important message with younger generations. It’s one he admits he struggles with at times. “I hone in on that theme a lot with them,” he says.

He describes this work as taking place in a post-apocalyptic setting, grounded down to Earth where one thing motivates the next—a sort of structured improv. “It’s what I would have wanted to try at their age,” he says. His contemporary sock ballet is set on 17 dancers (14 women and 3 men) with 15 corps dancers and one featured couple.

The music is a subtle contemporary piano piece. “There’s a sorrow, a sadness and it’s full of emotion,” Miller says. “The undertone of strength and passion… I’ve been wanting to use it for a while now. “

“I hope that the students learn there’s a world outside of classical ballet. Don’t get me wrong. I love ballet. It’s wonderful. But I want them to know more styles because dancers need them, too, in many companies,” Miller says. “I also want them to know becoming a choreographer is an option someday.”

Maggie Andriani
Maggie Andriani

MAGGIE Andriani’s Work

Andriani’s biggest inspiration lately has been strong feminine voices, such as the recent rise in diverse women elected into office, and all of the strong women of the #metoo movement, including dancers in certain companies. So, she was really excited she’d be choreographing for 10 girls. The music she chose is from a very old, rarely performed Vivaldi opera called “Nisi Dominus”. “I liked the strong, singular female vocalist. She sounds haunting but also very powerful,” she says.

Her goal is for her choreography to show that femininity can be powerful and capable, but still beautiful. And she hopes the girls can start to realize the inner beauty in every single dancer. She believes unique beauty is the defining nature of their artistry, and they should own it! Andriani wants them to realize the power in their voice as dancers, because she feels like that voice has always been somewhat suppressed. She hopes to work in more collaborative, inclusive spaces.

“We’re almost done with the piece, so I’m eager to finish and spend the remaining rehearsals on details and movement quality. The girls have been really great in working with me on trying new things that I know are somewhat out of their comfort zone. We’re all learning a lot together,” Andriani says.

KCYB Performances April 5-7, 2019

The program features multiple ballets including Esmeralda, Spartacus pas de deux and brand new works by Maggie Andriani and Cameron Miller. Tickets go on sale March 1 here.

2019 YAGP Semi-finals Results

KCBS Students Jordan Noblett, Madeline Duritza, Claire Duritza, Colleen McKenzie, Juliette Rafael, Mina Vasiliya Stoyanova and Talia Lebowitz
KCBS Students Jordan Noblett, Madeline Duritza, Claire Duritza, Colleen McKenzie, Juliette Rafael, Mina Vasiliya Stoyanova and Talia Lebowitz

Kansas City Ballet School has now competed in Youth America Grand Prix (YAGP) for four years—the last two years Kansas City has been the host. The competition took place at The Folly Theater downtown and the master classes were held at KCBS.

In 2019, KCBS submitted 71 solo entries, three pas de deux entries, and four ensemble entries for a grand total of 78 entries—up 15 entries from 2018. KCBS had students competing in every category. The Kansas City Semi-finals had 523 total entries.

“My favorite part of YAGP is seeing the progress in the students by the end of the year. And even though it is a competition, it feels like it brings us within our school and even the whole dance community together,” KCBS’s Principal and YAGP Coordinator Racheal Nye says. “Lots of supportive energy and learning from one another!”

A total of 18 coaches and choreographers worked with the students for approximately 35 hours of rehearsals per week preparing for the competition. This was outside of their regular ballet and dance classes. The list of coaches and choreographers include: Racheal Nye, Dmitry Trubchanov, David Justin, Debbie Jacobs-Huffaker, Sean Duus, Danielle Fu, Lamin Periera dos Santos, Dillon Malinski, Amaya Rodriguez, James Kirby Rogers, Taryn Ouellette, Amanda Moder, Austin Meiteen, Jeremy Hansen, Ryan Jolicoeur-Nye, Andi Abernathy, Duncan Cooper, Courtney Collado, and Parrish Maynard.

KCBS Students Kaylee Meinholdt and Paisley Park
KCBS Students Kaylee Meinholdt and Paisley Park

APPRECIATION

The accomplishments of KCBS students in this competition would not be possible without the KCBS staff and faculty. So much more goes into YAGP behind the scenes than most people realize. Planning starts now (March) for next year, coaches are identified and paired with students over the summer, and rehearsals start in August.

“I want to thank every coach, student, and administrator involved! I also want to shout out to Racheal Nye, who manages the project,” says Kansas City Ballet School Director Grace Holmes. “She goes beyond the call of duty, spending hours finding the right coach and solo for each student, taking into account each student’s technical ability and learning style.  She also spends hours working on music, getting accounts sorted, and making sure students have costumes. At the event, she was there for every student in need, whether they were our students or not.  We appreciate her SO much for everything she does for KCBS!”

BEYOND COMPETITION

Grace Holmes said: “I am SO proud of all of our students who participated in YAGP this year.  We had students representing our Academy from both Evening and Daytime Programs.  Every student worked so hard to present their best work in their moment on stage.  It is gratifying as a teacher and director to see our students grow through the process of learning, refining and performing their pieces.  Watching them grow as artists and achieve their goals is what it is all about.”

In addition to performing well on stage KCBS students were wonderful ambassadors for KCBS and Kansas City. Holmes believes this to be as important as the event itself.

Holmes admits the ballet world is very small and KCBS students will find themselves working alongside people in the future, who they danced alongside in their past. At YAGP, it’s the students chance to learn not only to share the stage but to foster an openness with other students. She deems this strengthens the dance community as a whole.

“When we start working on YAGP, we let our parents know that for the School, the priority is on the learning and growth experience, and not the competition awards,” Holmes says. “The awards are a reflection of our students’ hard work, but KCBS is proud of every student who participates regardless of the outcome. We see how hard the students are working and how much progress they are making, and that is the true reward.”

2019 RECOGNITION AND AWARDS

The YAGP Finals will be in New York April 12-19, 2019. Kansas City Ballet School has had students invited for the last four years and hopes to again. Invitations will go out soon.

Below is the list of recognition Kansas City Ballet School and students received at this year’s YAGP Semi-finals awards ceremony:

 

Outstanding School 2019

 

Pre-Competitive Classical (41 total entrants)

3rd Place: Chloe Kim

Top 12: Kaylee Meinholdt, Paisley Park

 

Pre-Competitive Contemporary (29 total entrants)

3rd Place: Paisley Park

Top 12: Kaylee Meinholdt, Chloe Kim

 

Junior Classical (120 total entrants)

2nd Place: Kathryn Benson

Top 12: Lillie Barr

 

Junior Contemporary (78 total entrants)

2nd Place: Hannah Hudson

 

Senior Classical Women (118 total entrants)

2nd Place: Talia Lebowitz

Top 12: Hannah Zucht

 

Senior Classical Men  (118 total entrants)

3rd Place: Timothy TV Cao

 

Senior Contemporary (98 total entrants)

Top 12: Timothy TV Cao

 

Ensembles (29 total entrants)

3rd Place: Duncan Cooper Continuum

Top 12: Parrish Maynard Fractals

Top 12: Racheal Nye Nocturne


Pas de Deux (10
 total entrants)

1st Place: (Tie) Talisman-Hannah Zucht/Timothy Cao
and Remembrance-Juliette Rafael/Timothy Cao

 

PAST POSTS RELATED TO YAGP

2018 YAGP NY Finals Results

2018 YAGP Results for KCBS

KCBS Competes: 2017 YAGP Finals in NY

KC Hosts Youth American Grand Prix

 

2018-19 Dancer Profile: Sarah Joan Smith

Columbia, South Carolina native, Sarah Joan Smithjoined Kansas City Ballet in 2016

Q: WHAT IS IT LIKE TO BE A PROFESSIONAL DANCER?

A: It’s exhilarating, fulfilling, inspiring and exciting but also tiring and taxing emotionally and physically.

Dancer: Sarah Joan Smith | Photographer: Kenny Johnson
Dancer: Sarah Joan Smith |
Photographer: Kenny Johnson

Q: WHAT IS YOUR FAVORITE DANCE BAG ITEM AND WHY?

A: My wooden foot roller, because I use it between every combination, phrase or piece that I do.

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

A: I grew up in Kiev, Ukraine until I was 12 years old.

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

A: Travel, explore, cook, spend time with friends and family.

 

Top Photo by Brett Pruitt & East Market Studios

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.

Meet Two of Our ROAD Teaching Artists

Left–R.O.A.D. Teaching Artist Olivia Shaw at Crossroads Academy | Photography by Andrea Wilson. Right–R.O.A.D. Teaching Artist Jenna Wurtzberger at a R.O.A.D. Rally at Hartman Elementary School | Photography by Elizabeth Stehling
Left–R.O.A.D. Teaching Artist Olivia Shaw at Crossroads Academy | Photography by Andrea Wilson. Right–R.O.A.D. Teaching Artist Jenna Wurtzberger at a R.O.A.D. Rally at Hartman Elementary School | Photography by Elizabeth Stehling

Kansas City Ballet’s Reach Out And Dance (R.O.A.D.) Residency Program has been in community schools since the year 2000. But under April Berry, KCB’s Director of Community Engagement and Education, this program has expanded considerably over the last two years.

WHAT IS R.O.A.D AND ITS GOALS?

R.O.A.D. Residency programs use movement/dance to support the academic curriculum taught in many 3rd and 4th grade classrooms throughout the metro. The program currently serves over 20 schools in urban, suburban, and rural school districts in Missouri and Kansas.

Teaching artists from Kansas City Ballet’s Community Engagement and Education department teach weekly movement classes to hundreds of local 3rd and 4th grade students in their schools. Live music is provided in these classes by pianists from KC Ballet. The result is that students learn and retain new information and a different learning paradigm is created to support academic instruction.

The program has many goals. The introduction of various styles of movement and music is one goal; another is to incorporate basic principles found in dance such as: space, time, effort, cooperative learning, and self-discipline into the learning environment. Yet another is to incorporate exercises and games that support Language Arts, Social Studies, Math and Science curriculum.

WHAT IS A TEACHING ARTIST?

A Teaching Artist is different from a dance instructor. KCB Teaching Artists, also called artist educators or community artists, are responsible for teaching students in a wide range of community settings, the fundamentals of dance, and integrating dance concepts and principles related to movement with National and State Education Standards.

Two of our four R.O.A.D. Teaching Artists, Jenna Wurtzberger and Janie Olivia Shaw,  have been working in KCB’s R.O.A.D. Residency program for the past two years. Jenna and Olivia collaborate with KCB’s R.O.A.D. director and with classroom teachers to advance learning for their students. Both use the art of dance to reinforce academic studies within the classroom. They also stress the importance of creativity, critical thinking, improvisation, and communication.

Jenna is a dancer, choreographer, and dance educator. She has an undergraduate degree in dance and psychology from the University of Nevada and a master’s degree in dance from Temple University in Philadelphia.  Olivia has a degree in performance and choreography from Coker College in South Carolina. They have both studied dance and performed.

ON THE JOB

We asked them to talk about why they love their jobs as teaching artists at Kansas City Ballet.

Jenna has taught dance in many different settings; in dance studios, community centers, other dance residency programs in schools, and college dance programs. But she has never encountered a program like R.O.A.D. “The unique structure and approach to dance education are what makes this job at KC Ballet so wonderful. The curriculum is flexible enough to be able to incorporate my teaching philosophy while also valuing what the students have to offer. I get to share a room with expressive, talented, funny and loving students each and every day. I am beyond humbled to be able to share my knowledge and love of dance with this community,” she says.

“There are so many rewarding aspects of this job,” Jenna continues. “Some are small, such as a student with a huge smile walking into the room and telling you that they ‘love to dance!’ or telling you that they have been practicing the R.O.A.D. Chapter Dance in their backyard while their parents are watching. Some are much bigger, such as working with students who are non-verbal and they are communicating with their body just as effectively as their verbal peers or seeing the transformation of a student who is extremely shy and self-conscious to being the center of attention with confidence.”

R.O.A.D. Teaching Artist Olivia Shaw at Crossroads Academy | Photography by Andrea Wilson
R.O.A.D. Teaching Artist Olivia Shaw at Crossroads Academy | Photography by Andrea Wilson

Olivia notes that for her the most rewarding part about being a teaching artist is being able to give back to the community. “I am able to share my experience, training, and passion for dance with a diverse range of students and create relationships with the children I teach. The R.O.A.D. program provides an outlet for these kids through dance and helps them build confidence.”

Jenna admits there can be challenges. Keeping students interested in class and particularly students who think they do not like to dance are examples. “However,” Jenna notes, “these challenges of the job have pushed me to become a more creative and effective educator.”

Olivia feels this position has provided her an opportunity “to do what I love.”

EXCITING MOMENT

Engaging community schools, teachers, students, and their families, and igniting a passion for dance are other benefits of this program. This past December Jenna attended KC Ballet’s The Nutcracker and had an emotional experience. “I saw some of my R.O.A.D. students on stage at the Kauffman Center,” she said. “To see them sharing the stage with other talented dancers from Kansas City Ballet made my heart melt and was something I will never forget.”

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.

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

Event Recap: An Evening with Ramona Pansegrau

Photography by Larry F. Levenson
Photography by Larry F. Levenson

Kansas City Ballet Bolender Society attended Lady of the Camellias or How I Fell in Love with Chopin at Age 4 with Music Director Ramona Pansegrau on January 24 hosted at the Carriage Club by Mike and Melanie Fenske.

The evening included special performances by mezzo-soprano Sarah Curtis and Second Company dancers with a cocktail and dessert reception.

SPECIAL ANNOUNCEMENT

Attendees enjoyed the musical portion of the evening and then heard Artistic Director Devon Carney’s exclusive announcement of Kansas City Ballet’s 2019-2020 season, which features Adam Hougland’s WORLD PREMIERE Carmina Burana, Devon Carney’s Swan Lake, Lila York’s Celts, George Balanchine’s Serenade, and Edwaard Liang’s Wunderland.

For tickets or more information click here.

EVENT Photos

Kansas City Ballet's Second Company performed. Photography by Larry F. Levenson
Kansas City Ballet’s Second Company performed. Photography by Larry F. Levenson.
Angela Walker, Barbara Storm, and Ramona Pansegrau. Photography by Larry F. Levenson.
Angela Walker, Barbara Storm, and Ramona Pansegrau. Photography by Larry F. Levenson.
Joan Locke, George Langworthy, Ramona Pansegrau. Photography by Larry F. Levenson.
Joan Locke, George Langworthy, Ramona Pansegrau. Photography by Larry F. Levenson.
Doug and Karen Downing, Mathew and Jane Webster, Devon Carney, and KCBII Dancers. Photography by Larry F. Levenson
Doug and Karen Downing, Mathew and Jane Webster, Devon Carney, and KCBII Dancers. Photography by Larry F. Levenson
Diana and Rick Poccia and Ramona Pansegrau. Photography by Larry F. Levenson.
Diana and Rick Poccia and Ramona Pansegrau. Photography by Larry F. Levenson.
Steve and Cathy Doyal, Artistic Director Devon Carney and Pam Royal Carney. Photography by Larry F. Levenson.
Steve and Cathy Doyal, Artistic Director Devon Carney and Pam Royal Carney. Photography by Larry F. Levenson.
Executive Director Jeffrey J. Bentley and Bill and Ginny Shackelford. Photography by Larry F. Levenson.
Executive Director Jeffrey J. Bentley and Bill and Ginny Shackelford. Photography by Larry F. Levenson.

 

2018-19 Dancer Profile: Taryn Mejia

Kansas City native, Taryn Mejia, began taking lessons at Kansas City Ballet School at age 3. She studied ballet at KCBS and The School of American Ballet before joining New York City Ballet. She joined Kansas City Ballet in 2012

Q: WHY DID YOU BECOME A DANCER?

A: I was always dancing around my house as a kid.

JCCC’s New Dance Partners September 2017 – Kansas City Ballet performing “The Uneven” choreographed by Matthew Neenan. Photo, Copyright 2017 Mike Strong, kcdance.com with full usage permissions for the companies and dancers

Q: WHAT IS YOUR FAVORITE DANCE BAG ITEM AND WHY?

A: My foam roller. So many little aches and pains are from tight muscles that can be easily rolled out.

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

A: I took six years off dancing to go to college and have children.

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

A: I like to go on outings with my children. We love Science City, Deanna Rose Farmstead, Powell Gardens, the Kansas City Zoo, The Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art, and Kaleidoscope to name a few. There is so much to do in this city and it’s a way to connect with my kids and the community.

 

Top Photo by Brett Pruitt & East Market Studios

2018-19 Dancer Profile: Tempe Ostergren

Tempe Ostergren joined Kansas City Ballet in the fall of 2010. She had studied at The School of American Ballet and Pacific Northwest Ballet, both known for their George Balanchine influences. Next she danced with Boston Ballet, known for their classical ballet style. Her experiences with these entities would shape her for her next position with Kansas City Ballet. Uniquely positioned for a growing company, Tempe was ready for the change.

Kansas City Ballet Dancers Tempe Ostergren and Liang Fu in the roles of Titania and Oberon in Bruce Wells’ A Midsummer Night’s Dream. Photography by Brett Pruitt and East Market Studios.

She’s danced many coveted roles including Juliet in Romeo & Juliet, Aurora in The Sleeping Beauty, the title role in Giselle, Titania from A Midsummer Night’s Dream (both William Whitener’s and Devon Carney’s versions), Mina in Michael Pink’s Dracula and one of her favorite, Odette/Odile in Swan Lake. Any one of these roles is an accomplishment and part of a ballerina’s bucket list. But Swan Lake holds a place in her heart. “Dancing this role felt like I was connected to all the generations of previous ballerinas who’d danced this role. It’s a special accomplishment—a bond.” Tempe says.

Working with the legendary Cynthia Gregory was one of her career highlights. “She helped me make the role my own. Her focus was on expressing the emotion of the scene. By getting that right you enrich the experience for everyone,” Tempe says.

Dancer Tempe Ostergren | Photography by Elizabeth Stehling
Dancer Tempe Ostergren | Photography by Elizabeth Stehling

SWAN SONG

Tempe will retire after 20 years as a professional ballerina.

Of Kansas City, Tempe shares her appreciation of the audiences. She considered them accepting, nurturing even. They empowered her to have freedom to perform onstage without fear and judgement. She appreciates the quality of life that KC has offered. “It’s a big city with lots of arts offerings, but without the steep costs and traffic. And the supporters are loyal and easy to talk to.”

She feels lucky to have been in the right place at the right time. She never felt pegged as one type of dancer. And having danced for two decades without a major injury, she beat the odds. Her whole career was spent with her nose to the grindstone. She’s proud that she stayed true to herself and worked diligently on her technique. She is grateful for the faith she had in herself and her rich collection of experiences both in the studio and on stage.

Tempe Ostergren | Photography Elizabeth Stehling
Tempe Ostergren | Photography Elizabeth Stehling

NEXT STEPS

Not one to ever stop progress. Tempe will continue to teach ballet classes at Kansas City Ballet School as her schedule allows. But she’s excited for her next role: mother. Her son is due this summer.

“I’ve heard that as one transitions from dancing, you never know how you will feel. It’s a totally different chapter ahead,” she says. She fully expects to immerse herself in motherhood. But down the road she imagines her interests in gardening, going back to college and teaching or coaching ballet students will come to the forefront.

“With ballet I cannot say goodbye. Never goodbye,” she says with a smile.