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

11 thoughts on “Remembering Deena Budd

  1. I was a student at the Kansas City Ballet school, (back when it was called the State Ballet of Missouri). Deena was one of my favorite teachers. I have very fond memories of her. She always pushed me to work harder, but with a kind and gentle spirit. I’m sorry to hear of her passing. My sincerest condolences go to her family and friends.

  2. So terribly sorry to hear that Deena has passed away. We both started at KCB together. She was such an incredibly sweet and heroism person. My deepest condolences to her family.

  3. Deena! So young, such a beautiful spirit, warm smile, great laugh, and always at that door at the barre. Fond memories of you.

  4. Deena and I joined the company in 1983. She was such a beautiful dancer. So fast and precise. She was always a bright light in and out of the studio. And she had the best sense of humor. Especially on the tour bus. She would make those long drives through Arkansas and Texas so much fun. To this day when I teach my students I tell them about Deenas amazing chainé turns…she is the only dancer that could turn so fast and in 5th position. So beautiful. I send my deep condolences to her family and her sparkle and her bright red lips with be missed. I hope she is up in heaven with Mr. Bolender and if she is I know he is giving her notes on “The Still Point”.

  5. It was always a joy recognizing the many talents that made up the show! Those “gala events” performed created life-time memories for each and everyone of you! Thanks for your gifted talents which made Kansas City so successful. Her father and I wish to thank you for your support. We loved her dearly.

  6. Deena was the sweetest & most helpful ballet teacher especially when I first joined the State Ballet of Missouri School. She helped prepare me for joining the company and was always so kind and smiling beautifully. I looked up to her as a ballerina who danced like she was on air. I will never forget her. May she dance with Mr. Bolender now in heaven.

  7. Deena was loved by everyone and will be terribly missed. She was both a beautiful dancer and person so kindhearted and generous. On tour she was my roommate and I will never forget her stories of her beloved cat named Bobcat whom she covered with red lipstick from her kisses and also painting her father’s hunting dogs nails the night before going on a hunt. She was a bright shinning light whose memory will live in our hearts. My deepest sympathy goes out to her family.

  8. Deena Budd was such a happy person, I mistakenly pegged her as a stereotypical blonde when I first started working in the ballet office. She immediately straightened me out with a highly intelligent, but kind, comment. She and Susan Lewis went to NYC to have achiles tendon surgery and the doctors were very impressed with their quick recovery. It was my second impression of the excellence each of the dancers held to their craft. I was honored to work with Deena and appreciated her intensity, creativity, and fun-loving sweet nature. I will look forward to seeing her and Todd Bolender performing together in a heavenly theater.

  9. My first days in the United State are associated with Deena, her kindness, her beautiful dancing and that unbelievable smile on her face.
    Deena, you will be missed 💔

  10. I can’t believe this! I’m SO sad! I worked with Deena at Atlanta Ballet and totally adored her. She was special, beautiful and such a wonderful human being; a sweet spirit and a dear friend/co-worker. Deena, I’ve missed you since you moved away. I will always miss you.

  11. I was heartbroken to hear about the loss of sweet Deena. She was adored by all whose lives she touched. Her beautiful smile, welcoming spirit, wonderful sense of humor and generosity are what got me through my first days and many years to follow at Kansas City Ballet. Such an amazing friend and role model. I always hoped that I would be just like her. My condolences to Fred, Wesley and all of Deena’s family. ❤️

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