Remembering Deena Budd

“Gala Performance”, choreographed by Anthony Tudor and performed in 1993. Kansas City Ballet Dancers: Deena Budd & Robert Skaft

Kansas City Ballet mourns the passing of former company dancer, Deena (Budd) Haws. Deena danced with Kansas City Ballet for 13 years (1983-1996). She passed away on June 14, 2019 in North Carolina.

Deena’s beautiful smile and infectious laugh endeared her to so many. Her dedication to ballet was apparent. Former Kansas City Ballet Artistic Director Todd Bolender often cast Deena in jumping or comedic roles. She had a lot of energy and a great sense of humor. She was so strong and her fast footwork, soaring jumps, and incredibly fast turns, kept audiences fully engaged.

Deena also was known for her practical jokes both inside and outside of the studio.

George Balanchine’s “A La Francaix” from 1991. Kansas City Ballet Dancers: Deena Budd & Sean Duus. Photo by Don Middleton.


“She was a prankster,” fellow company dancer Sean Duus recalled. “I remember one bus tour she hid an alarm clock in someone’s bag set to go off at 2:30 a.m. Once it did, it took forever to find it. In retaliation, the next night while she was performing the other dancers all got her suitcase and sewed all the arms and legs of her regular clothes shut. She took it all in stride.”

“Everyone loved Deena. She was so warm and friendly,” Sean went on to say. “On my first day with the company, I walked into the studio to take class. Every time I tried to take a place at the barre someone would tell me it belonged to someone else. It was very territorial. But when I looked at Deena, she smiled and told me to take the place next to her. I will never forget that, her kindness.”


Paula Weber’s “Carmina Burana” from 1996. Kansas City Ballet Dancer: Deena Budd.

Former company dancer Kim Cowen remembers, “I grew up watching her dance. She was incredibly strong but looked so effortless. She was super, super light on her feet with amazing jumps. It was like she had springs in her feet, but I never heard her land. She was like a cat that way. She also had really graceful port de bras. Everything just looked effortless. And she was always smiling. Her feet were so strong and she had so much control of every step.”

Chief Operating Officer Kevin Amey, who was the company tour manager in those days, remembers Deena, “She could turn like a top. Deena danced in Alvin Ailey’s The River. She danced the section called “Vortex” and it seemed like she could spin forever.”


Her best friend for over 30 years and former company dancer Susan (Lewis) Sands said, “Of course we danced together, but we were also roommates for four years until we each got married two weeks apart from one another in the summer of 1990.”

Deena married Fred Haws of Raytown, Mo. After she retired, she taught full time at Kansas City Ballet and she would travel to Colorado in the summers when the Summer Intensive program was held at Crested Butte in the late 90s. In 1998, she and Fred moved to Atlanta where Deena taught at Atlanta Ballet School before eventually moving to North Carolina.

She left a lasting mark on Kansas City audiences, staff and fellow dancers.

If you’d like to leave a memory or comment, please do so here. They will be shared with her family.


For more about Deena, please read her obituary.


Todd Bolender with Deena Budd during a Nutcracker rehearsal in St. Louis (1996). Photo by Kevin Manning, St. Louis Post-Dispatch.
Balanchine’s “Serenade” from 1993. Kansas City Ballet Dancers: Deena Budd & Edward Augustyn
Todd Bolender’s “An American in Paris” from 1987. Kansas City Ballet Dancers: Deena Budd & Brian Staihr
“Celebration” by Zachary Solov in 1992. Kansas City Ballet Dancers: David Scamardo & Deena Budd

Board Profile: Kathy Stepp

Founder of Stepp & Rothwell, Kathy Stepp, leads Kansas City Ballet’s Board as president. Her term covered both the 2017-2018 60th Anniversary Season, as well as, this 2018-2019 Season when Septime Webre’s The Wizard of Oz had its world premiere. We want to thank Kathy for her leadership and hard work. We also want to learn more about how her role as president has made an impact.


A client invited us to join them at a ballet performance. This was back before the Kauffman Center, and it happened to be springtime. I knew nothing about the ballet, except for a dim understanding of The Nutcracker. The performance we attended was far from my “Nutcracker” perception—it was a mixed rep. I remember that during the intermission Jeff Bentley came out on stage to invite the audience members to sign up for next year’s season tickets out in the lobby. I so loved what I saw that day that I marched right up to the desk in the lobby and bought season tickets for the next year!


There have been so many great experiences with KCB—from performances to patron trips to the Kennedy Center to balls—that it is very hard to say. But if I have to choose something, I’d say it’s been the opportunity to meet so many great and dedicated people. The board members are wonderful; the staff is wonderful; the patrons are wonderful; and the dancers are simply amazing!

Kathy Stepp at Celebrate 60 event at Kauffman Center during the 2017-18 Season. | Photography by Larry F. Levenson


I can’t take credit alone for anything, but I am proud that during my tenure we visited with Austin Ballet to learn about ways to energize our audience development efforts, which led to our current collaboration with data miners and marketers, and that we got the Endowment campaign off the ground. We also had a fabulous 60th anniversary party, and we worked to integrate the Guild and the BARRE groups more closely into our structure.


I love to share my personal experience of learning what athletes the dancers are and how impressive the productions are, in all respects. The Ballet brings happiness to people’s lives! Not only is the dancing beautiful, but it’s such a collaboration of dance and music and lights and costumes…  It’s simply amazing!


I think that many people have a misunderstanding of ballet, as I did. I so want everyone to experience it once—they will be blown away! My husband and I have four season tickets, so we bring other people with us to performances.


The most important lesson I learned is that the people involved—from the dancers to the administrative staff and everyone in between—are passionate about what they do, to an extent I haven’t seen in any other walk of life. Also, because I focus on finances in my day job, it was eye-opening to see the financial workings of an art company. The performances simply cannot be self-sustaining, because there are a limited number of seats, and it is important to keep the prices at an accessible level. Therefore, an awful lot of people have to support the arts.


My husband and I get a lot more than we give!  We’ve met wonderful people and best friends, as well as dancers from around the world!

Event Recap: End of Season Party at Lathrop Gage

L-R Back Row: Jeffrey J. Bentley, Devon Carney, Kathy Stepp, Jack Rowe, Andrew Elsberry. Front Row: Angela Walker, Tempe Ostergren, Ginger and Michael Frost.

On Wednesday, May 22, 2019, Kansas City Ballet’s Board, Staff, Dancers and Bolender Society Members gathered to celebrate another successful season. In addition to sharing the many highlights from the 61st season, which began with the world premiere performance of Septime Webre’s The Wizard of Oz, dancer Tempe Ostergren was recognized for her retirement nine years with the company. Kansas City Ballet Board President Kathy Stepp congratulated everyone for their hard work and dedication. President-Elect Jack D. Rowe hosted the event at Lathrop Gage.

Event Photos

Vince Clark, Joe and Claire Brand, Val Caniparoli, and Carol Feiock.
L-R: Barbara Storm, Siobhan McGlaghlin Lessley, Jeffrey J. Bentley, Ball Chair Peggy Beal, Linda Peakes
Kathy Stepp, Music Director Ramona Pansegrau, Tom and Loren Whittaker, Danielle Bausinger and Liang Fu.
Amanda DeVenuta, Mark Sappington, Gavin Abercrombie, David Donovan, and James Kirby Rogers.
Tony and Carol Feiock, Jan Foletta, Karen Yungmeyer and Zack Hangauer.
Outgoing KCB Board President Kathy Stepp congratulates the group on a great season.
Executive Director Jeffrey J. Bentley, Glen and Susan Sands, Vince Clark and Dr. John Hunkeler.

Student Profile: Joelle Kimbrough


Joelle Kimbrough dreams of becoming a professional ballerina someday.

“I can express the way I feel through body movement and that’s really neat. It’s also a stress reliever,” says Joelle, a sophomore at Bishop Miege.

Joelle (age 3)

The 15 year old has taken dance classes since she was 3. Three summers ago she attended Kansas City Ballet School’s Junior Summer Intensive program and the following year she was accepted into Kansas City Ballet School’s (KCBS) Summer Intensive.

After enjoying both programs, she decided to transfer from another local dance school to KCBS’s Academy for full-time ballet and dance instruction. Now she just finished her first full year of Academy instruction.

Recently, Joelle was selected to be a 2019 Ambassador for Brown Girls Do Ballet® (BGDB) —the first one for Kansas City.


BGDB, based in Dallas, started as a way to help increase participation of underrepresented minority populations in ballet programs. Through organizing and arranging ballet performances, photo exhibitions, and providing resources and scholarships, BGDB assists young girls in their ballet development and training. Brown Ballerina Jr. Ambassadors (ages 10-12) and Brown Ballerina Youth Ambassadors (ages 13-17) programs bring Brown Ballerinas in Training and mentors of diverse backgrounds. Together they build community and become the local faces of Brown Girls Do Ballet.

The program creates opportunities for young dancers in training to become leaders—eventually mentoring other Brown Ballerinas in Training.

“I had heard about the organization and the ambassador program,” Joelle says. “I always wanted to be one and the opportunity presented itself. So, I took advantage.”

The process required an application and two recommendation letters. Joelle submitted her grade cards along with one letter from KCBS Director Grace Holmes and one from Fine Arts Pastor, Phil Stacey from City Center Church, Lenexa Kan. She received an interview. About three weeks later they told her she was selected. “There are 14 or 15 of us out of 300 applicants. But I’m the only one from KC. I will promote ballet to all races. I will bring diversity to ballet,” Joelle says. “They have other events similar to KC Dance Day. And there are ways to get sponsorships from certain companies or organizations. There are even scholarship opportunities.”

student-profile-joelle-kimbroughBGDB is based in Dallas and the ambassadors are from across the country and Mexico.

“After my year is up, I could reapply,” she says, “but either way I am always affiliated.”

The program involves mentors, too. Ballerinas from other companies and professional dancers want to help the next generation of brown girls.

“I’m excited about the attention this appointment brings to KC and KCBS,” Joelle says.


“I do want to be a professional ballet dancer with a major ballet company someday. If not that, I see myself doing something in the medical field. Anesthesiology has recently caught my attention,” she says.

Either way, Joelle Kimbrough’s star is on the rise and we wish her much success.

Announcing 2019 Nutcracker Ball Honorary Chairmen

The 2019 Nutcracker Ball Honorary Chairmen

Nutcracker Ball Honorary Chairmen:  Dr. Roger and Mrs. Sandy Jackson Photography by:  Jonathon Braswell, Strauss Peyton Photography

Kansas City Ballet Guild is pleased to announce long-time supporters of the Kansas City Ballet and generous members of the Kansas City community, Dr. Roger and Mrs. Sandy Jackson, as Honorary Chairmen for The Nutcracker Ball.

The 2019 Nutcracker Ball Honorary Chairmen Dr. Roger and Mrs. Sandy Jackson and Ball Chairman Peggy Beal invite you to join them for an evening of cocktails, exquisite cuisine and dancing on Saturday evening, November 23, 2019, at The InterContinental Kansas City on the Country Club Plaza.  The Nutcracker Ball, presented by Kansas City Ballet Guild, benefits the Kansas City Ballet and the Kansas City Ballet School.

For more information and ticket purchases, please go to

Event Recap: KC Ballet Guild’s Spring Luncheon

KC Ballet Guild Spring Luncheon

Table decor

The Kansas City Ballet Guild held its annual Spring Luncheon on May 9th at the Carriage Club. Hosts Felicia Bondi and Pauline Henne planned the lovely luncheon – Craig Sole provided the beautiful floral arrangements. President Susan Meehan-Mizer recognized special guest, Rene Horne, a retiring staff member after 12 years of service to the Ballet. After, guests were treated to a dance performance by Kansas City Ballet’s Youth Ballet, Susan introduced the 2019-2020 Guild Board and passed the gavel to her successor, incoming President John Walker.


Rene Horne, Outgoing President Susan Meehan-Mizer

2019-2020 GUILD BOARD

2019-2020 Guild Board – (front row) Christine Waldschmidt, Carol Blum, Cathy Bourne, Juliette Singer, Incoming President John Walker, Peggy Beal, Francie Mayer, (next row back) Teresa McKinney, Cyndi James, Gail Van Way, Edie Downing, (next row back) Nan Lippincott, Gigi Rose, Karen Yungmeyer, Penelope Vrooman, (back row) Angela Bedell, Jo Anne Dondlinger, Melissa Ford, Sarah Ingram Eiser, Sarah Bent, Angela Walker. Out of camera range: Crissy Dastrup, Carol Marr, Lisa Hickok, Tempe Ostergren Elsberry.


Kansas City Ballet Board of Directors Chairman Julia Irene Kauffman, Artistic Director Devon Carney, Dr. Roger Jackson, Sandy Jackson


Gigi Rose, Juliette Singer, Susan Meehan-Mizer

Teresa McKinney, Stephanie Eppler
Sue Ann Fagerberg, Suzanne Shank, Joyce Whitehead, Carolyn Parkerson
Susan Bubb, Karen Downing, Kathy Anderson, Joan Brisimitzakis
Penelope Vrooman, Vicki Baxter, Susan Sands, Francie Mayer
Christine Waldschmidt, Julia Steinberg


Kansas City Ballet Youth Dancers Talia Lebowitz and Timothy TV Cao
Kansas City Ballet Youth Dancers Morgan Dunham and Tristan Hanson
Kansas City Ballet Youth Dancers Kathryn Benson, Grace Campbell, Colleen McKenzie, Jordan Noblett, Sara Radka

Photography: Larry F. Levenson



Kansas City Ballet School Students Timothy TV Cao and Hannah Zucht performed at the 2019 YAGP NY Finals. | Photography by VAM.

Kansas City Ballet School participates in 2019 YAGP NY Finals for the third year in a row. This year marks the 20th Anniversary of the Youth America Grand Prix (YAGP). Kansas City Ballet School has been competing for the last four years.


Kansas City Ballet School Student Kathryn Benson performed at the 2019 YAGP NY Finals. | Photography by VAM.


Juniors Division (Classical and Contemporary): Kathryn Benson

Seniors Division (Classical and Contemporary): Hannah Zucht

Pas de Deux Division: Hannah Zucht and Timothy TV Cao

Ensemble Division: Claire Duritza, Madeline Duritza, Colleen McKenzie, and Hope Wampler
The group performed Fractals choreographed by Kansas City Ballet Master Parrish Maynard.


At its essence, YAGP is the world’s largest dance scholarship audition and a global network for dance. It fulfills its mission through scholarship auditions, master classes, alumni services, educational and outreach activities, performances and films. Worldwide, more than 100,000 students have participated in YAGP’s workshops, scholarship auditions and master classes. Through regional semifinals results, students are selected to participate in the New York Finals each spring.


YAGP is an opportunity for the biggest dance and ballet schools in the world to see the talent that is out there. Often scholarships and other styles of ballet and forms of training are offered to students which can be nice validation for all of their hard work. In some ways, these judges watch these kids grow up year after year.

“Being part of this competition is great for students,” KCBS Principal and YAGP Coordinator Racheal Nye says. “It shows them what is possible with dedication and determination, but it also offers them a chance to cross state and country borders, as well as continental divides, to see what similarities and interests connect them to this global ballet community.”

This year’s seminars for students and coaches included:

  • How to be Noticed by Artistic Directors
  • Dancer Wellness
  • Career Guidance
  • How to Use Time in Class to Your Advantage
  • Dance in Higher Education


Nye says: “I’m always really proud about how we present ourselves overall as a school. The things I learn I get to bring back to our school to improve and grow for the betterment of all. My kids know when I come back from NY I’m excited and ready to implement here, so everyone benefits. When ‘spring-itis’ rears its head, it is the perfect time for an infusion of enthusiasm. I’m already turning my attention to next year.”


“Every year that we participate in YAGP, I am more and more impressed by our students.  It is wonderful to see the fruition of their hard word and dedication as they perform for peers, family and friends, and judges,” says School Director Grace Holmes. “The growth of our dancers is exponential when given the opportunity to work towards a performance goal. And the one-on-one work with coaches gives the students insight into how they can be their best dancer and artist. I am SO proud of their work and accomplishments!”

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

KCB Second Company Performs on KC Symphony Program


KC Ballet's Second Company and Artistic Director Devon Carney along with KC Symphony musicians after a rehearsal. | Photography by Elizabeth Stehling.
KC Ballet’s Second Company and Artistic Director Devon Carney along with KC Symphony musicians after a rehearsal. | Photography by Elizabeth Stehling.

In Kansas City’s vast arts scene, collaboration is key. Kansas City Symphony plays for most Kansas City Ballet performances. But sometimes the scale is tipped the other way as well.

Tomorrow Kansas City Ballet’s Second Company performs alongside musicians during one of KC Symphony’s happy hour series concerts. It gives audiences, as well as artists, a chance to enjoy different layers of the arts in one tidy package.


Free KC Symphony Happy Hour Concert

Tuesday, April 30 at 6 p.m.
Helzberg Hall | Kauffman Center

Come as you are and join the scene for a casual, after-work concert hosted by the KC Symphony. Enjoy a drink in the Kauffman Center lobby and then experience a variety of dance-inspired pieces played by Kansas City Symphony musicians. Hear Piazzola’s lively Libertango arranged for woodwind quintet, a concert waltz for cello quartet and much more. Dancers from KC Ballet’s Second Company will perform on two works choreographed by Kansas City Ballet Artistic Director Devon Carney.

Cash bars open at 5 p.m. A one-hour concert in Helzberg Hall follows at 6 p.m. FREE general admission tickets are Sold Out! Sponsored by Lead Bank.

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 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 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 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


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.