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

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

Devon Carney Talks Nutcracker

FROM DEVON CARNEY, ARTISTIC DIRECTOR:

It seems like only yesterday, we launched this amazing $2 million production of Kansas City Ballet’s The Nutcracker. It seems like only yesterday… but it’s now been three years.

In that time, I’ve seen it nearly 75 times on stage at the Kauffman Center. Last year, in 2017, we even took it on the road to The Kennedy Center in Washington, D.C. where we performed multiple times to sold-out audiences.

TRADITIONS

Each year I continue to make revisions here and there, always striving to make it just right. I know perfection is impossible, but the art… the art is in the striving. I am excited at the unique opportunity to revisit, reexamine, rethink, re-envision, and renew this production for you each and every year. The magic lives in the details and each performance holds the key to discovering new heights of artistic achievement.

These beloved characters and familiar roles are treasured traditions and even fertile testing ground for identifying the next leading dancers in our company. It’s also an earned rite of passage for our student performers. It’s the chance to see the next generation stepping into the limelight in featured roles, and it’s you and your loved ones bearing witness to it all.

This show is for kids from 2 to 102—and that’s always my goal—to experience the holidays with a childlike heart and sense of wonder. My hope is you walk out of the theatre feeling lighter on your feet and bursting with holiday spirit as well.

May that spirit of the season inspire you to laugh a little louder, hug a little tighter and delight in the special moments that are so wonderful. Let us remember these festive events and give thanks for our blessings.

Happiest Holidays!

Top Photo by Brett Pruitt & East Market Studios

Event Recap: The Emerald City Ball

Honorary Chairmen Mr. and Mrs. W. Anthony Feiock, Mr. and Mrs. Gary Rose, Executive Director Mr. Jeffrey J. Bentley. Photography by Larry F. Levenson.
Honorary Chairmen Mr. and Mrs. W. Anthony Feiock, Mr. and Mrs. Gary Rose, Executive Director Mr. Jeffrey J. Bentley. Photography by Larry F. Levenson.

On Saturday, October 6, the Kansas City Ballet Guild presented the Emerald City Ball, a celebration of Kansas City Ballet’s world premiere of Septime Webre’s The Wizard of Oz, at the beautiful InterContinental Kansas City At The Plaza. Guests enjoyed a lively cocktail party, delicious cuisine, breathtaking decor by Larry Wheeler and Craig Sole Designs, crowd-pleasing entertainment by Michael Beers Band, and a spectacular runway show featuring the fashions of Oz narrated by costume designer Liz Vandal. Gigi Rose chaired the event. Carol and W. Anthony Feiock, whose involvement with Kansas City Ballet has been long and noteworthy, served as honorary chairman. Guild President Susan Meehan-Mizer and Kansas City Ballet Executive Director Jeffrey J. Bentley presented the 2018 Pirouette Award to Frank Byrne, executive director of the Kansas City Symphony, for his outstanding contribution to the performing arts.

EVENT PHOTOS

Mr. and Mrs. Leonard Cohen, Mr. Devon Carney, Ms. Liz Vandal. Photography by Larry F. Levenson.
Mr. and Mrs. Leonard Cohen, Mr. Devon Carney, Ms. Liz Vandal. Photography by Larry F. Levenson.
Mrs. John Walker, Trainee Miss Leah Upchurch, Mr. John Walker, Trainee Miss Juliana Kuhm. Photography by Larry F. Levenson
Mrs. John Walker, Trainee Miss Leah Upchurch, Mr. John Walker, Trainee Miss Juliana Kuhm. Photography by Larry F. Levenson
Ms. Kristina Klug, Ms. Kim Stevens, Mrs. Cliff Illig, Ms. Kathy Fallon, Ms. Collette Harrison, Ms. Sandy Pummill, Ms. Charmaine Pummill, Ms. Rachel Thompson, Ms. Leah FitzGerald, Ms. Gretchen FitzGerald. Photography by Larry F. Levenson.
Ms. Kristina Klug, Ms. Kim Stevens, Mrs. Cliff Illig, Ms. Kathy Fallon, Ms. Collette Harrison, Ms. Sandy Pummill, Ms. Charmaine Pummill, Ms. Rachel Thompson, Ms. Leah FitzGerald, Ms. Gretchen FitzGerald. Photography by Larry F. Levenson.
Beautiful ambiance, floral by Mr. Larry Wheeler and Mr. Craig Sole. Photography by Larry F. Levenson.
Beautiful ambiance, floral by Mr. Larry Wheeler and Mr. Craig Sole. Photography by Larry F. Levenson.
Mr. Ian Spinks, Ms. Juliette Singer, Mr. and Mrs. Bill Dondlinger, Mr. and Mrs. Gary Rose, Chairwoman, Mr. Septime Weber, Mr. and Mrs. Randy Downing. Photography by Larry F. Levenson.
Mr. Ian Spinks, Ms. Juliette Singer, Mr. and Mrs. Bill Dondlinger, Mr. and Mrs. Gary Rose, Chairwoman, Mr. Septime Weber, Mr. and Mrs. Randy Downing. Photography by Larry F. Levenson.
Costume Fashion Show announced by Costume Designer Liz Vandal (middle). Members of Kansas City Ballet's Second Company walked the runway. Photography by Larry F. Levenson
Costume Fashion Show announced by Costume Designer Liz Vandal (middle). Members of Kansas City Ballet’s Second Company walked the runway. Photography by Larry F. Levenson
KCB Trainee Mr. Jeremy Hanson, Company dancer Ms. Tempe Ostergren, Mr. and Mrs. Josh Rowland, Mr. and Mrs. Jim Stowers, Mr. and Mrs. Bill Parkerson, Mr. and Mrs. Spencer Jones, Mr. and Mrs. Bill Esrey. Photography by Larry F. Levenson.
KCB Trainee Mr. Jeremy Hanson, Company dancer Ms. Tempe Ostergren, Mr. and Mrs. Josh Rowland, Mr. and Mrs. Jim Stowers, Mr. and Mrs. Bill Parkerson, Mr. and Mrs. Spencer Jones, Mr. and Mrs. Bill Esrey. Photography by Larry F. Levenson.
Executive Director Mr. Jeffrey J. Bentley, Pirouette Award Winner Mr. Frank Byrne, Ballet Guild President Ms. Susan Meehan-Mizer. Photography by Larry F. Levenson.
Executive Director Mr. Jeffrey J. Bentley, Pirouette Award Winner Mr. Frank Byrne, Ballet Guild President Ms. Susan Meehan-Mizer. Photography by Larry F. Levenson.

 

Photography by Larry F. Levenson

Beauty Shines in Hawaii

Devon Carney's The Sleeping Beauty cast performed at Ballet Hawaii Aug. 3-5. Photography by The Smoking Carmera, Joe Marquez
Devon Carney’s The Sleeping Beauty cast presented by Ballet Hawaii Aug. 3-5. Photography by The Smoking Camera, Joe Marquez

Ballet Hawaii, along with special guest dancers, performed Kansas City Ballet Artistic Director Devon Carney‘s The Sleeping Beauty Aug. 3-5, 2018 at the Neal S. Blaisdell Center in downtown HonoluluThe performances followed three weeks of rehearsals.

“Everyone did so wonderfully and all the Ballet Hawaii young dancers really stepped up! The audiences loved all the performances,” Carney said. “We all had a great time!”

Devon Carney's The Sleeping Beauty cast member Danielle Bausinger (KCB Dancer) performed at Ballet Hawaii Aug. 3-5. Photography by The Smoking Carmera, Joe Marquez
Devon Carney’s The Sleeping Beauty cast member Danielle Bausinger (KCB Dancer) performed with Ballet Hawaii Aug. 3-5. Photography by The Smoking Camera, Joe Marquez

Cast

In addition to Mr. Carney, nine Kansas City Ballet Company members joined him on the endeavor including: Liang Fu, Amaya Rodriguez, Danielle Bausinger, Humberto Rivera Blanco, James Kirby Rogers, Cameron Thomas, Kevin Wilson, Joshua Bodden, and Gavin Abercrombie. Others from Kansas City Ballet included: Kristi Capps, who served as Ballet Master; Kansas City Ballet School Faculty members Dmitry Trubchanov and Pamela Carney, who played the roles of King and Queen; and Victoria Frank, who served as stage manager. Additional special guest dancers were from Pacific Northwest Ballet, American Ballet Theatre and Eugene Ballet, the Ballet Hawaii dancers and more.

Devon Carney Talks Peter Pan

Dear Dance Enthusiast,

J.M. Barrie’s 114-year-old story about Peter Pan, the boy who never wanted to grow up, continues to attract new generations. These types of stories make the greatest impact: kids finding themselves in unusual circumstances and realizing the human spirit can overcome anything. And Peter Pan is no different. The message, wrapped in adventures, comes down to family and following your heart to find where you belong.

Dancer: Dillon Malinksi Photographer: Kenny Johnson
Dancer: Dillon Malinksi Photographer: Kenny Johnson

Influences

I was definitely influenced in many ways by J.M. Barrie’s classic tale but also by movies like “Hook” with Dustin Hoffman and Robin Williams and the musical with Sandy Duncan. For this production, I was most inspired by the wonderful music from my friend, musician, composer and ballet conductor Carmon DeLeone. His enchanting score is paramount to this production and wonderfully tells the story. Written in 1994, this will be the third or fourth ballet production to use this delightful and soaring music. I believe it is becoming the standard much like Prokofiev for Romeo & Juliet. It’s thematic, fun, and light-hearted and lends itself to great character development.

A Living Composer

As a special treat, DeLeone will conduct our first weekend of shows. It’s not every day one has the chance to witness a living composer conducting his own ballet score. It’s a unique experience that was just too exciting to pass up. After the first weekend, DeLeone will graciously pass the baton to our incredible Music Director Ramona Pansegrau to lead the Kansas City Symphony for the remaining shows.

Excitement

Having never had the chance to perform it as a dancer, I’m beyond excited to share my new choreography for this production of Peter Pan with you. The sets and costumes are so whimsical. And, working with the company and so many talented students from Kansas City Ballet School has been incredible.

“It is not in doing what you like, but in liking what you do that is the secret of happiness.” – J.M. Barrie, Peter Pan

The company and I have been blessed to share what we like to do best with you. We hope our happiness is contagious.

Sincerely,
Devon Carney, Artistic Director

Devon Carney Talks Dance Festival

Dear Dance Enthusiast,

This is a very exciting time in the history of Kansas City Ballet. How wonderful to say we are 60 years old—celebrating our age, maturity and staying power in the cultural landscape of KC! So, in honor of our 60th I’ve brought together six incredible, challenging and inspiring works for our KCB artists to perform. These ballets represent the incredible diversity of works in the field of dance and help showcase the talents within our current assemblage of world-class artists.

Kansas City Ballet Dancers Angelina Sansone and Liang Fu rehearse a world premiere by Andrea Schermoly. Photography: Elizabeth Stehling.
Kansas City Ballet Dancers Angelina Sansone and Liang Fu rehearse a world premiere by Andrea Schermoly. Photography: Elizabeth Stehling.

Given a dancer’s career is only so long, it’s important to seize opportunities to perform a variety of ballets to experience it all, or as much as one can! This diverse collection of works in a compact time period is just that chance. Performing both Jirí Kylián’s Petite Mort and also the highly regarded Balanchine’s Diamonds is a treat, then to turn around and dance contemporary work like James Kudelka’s The Man in Black and Stanton Welch’s Play is incredible, but that’s not to mention the thrill of being in on the creative genesis of two new works from Matthew Neenan and Andrea Schermoly. This will be two weekends for the books!

Kansas City Ballet Dancer Michael Davis rehearsing The Man In Black. Choreography by James Kudelka. Photography: Elizabeth Stehling.
Kansas City Ballet Dancer Michael Davis rehearsing The Man In Black. Choreography by James Kudelka. Photography: Elizabeth Stehling.

As an audience member, these experiences can equate to a fabulous banquet where you find lots of
tasty treats to delight your palate. This magnificent variety of dance has been produced in the latter 20th century right up until today. What’s more… all but one of these choreographers are still living. I applaud you for taking a risk to see this program. The payoff can be priceless: enjoying more entertainment diversity, developing a deeper love and appreciation of dance and being able to share that personal experience with those close to you. Thank you for trusting us and earning your hypothetical dance pioneer badge.

Kudos to our dancers for their extraordinary efforts in presenting this series. It’s an arduous undertaking for us and unprecedented for our company to tackle six works in this short amount of time. But we believe the risk is worth it. The dancers are thrilled and we think you will be, too!

Kansas City Ballet Dancers Taryn Mejia and Michael Davis rehearse Petite Mort. Choreography by Jiří Kylián. Photography: Elizabeth Stehling.
Kansas City Ballet Dancers Taryn Mejia and Michael Davis rehearse Petite Mort. Choreography by Jiří Kylián. Photography: Elizabeth Stehling.

Yours,
Devon Carney, Artistic Director

Devon Carney Talks Romeo & Juliet

Dear Dance Enthusiasts,

It’s an incredible story that Shakespeare wrote so many years ago, a timeless tale about the powers of love and fate. Two young lovers from rival families are destined for a tragic end which will finally conclude their parents strife… uniting their houses through grief.

Devon Carney as Romeo at Boston Ballet
Devon Carney as Romeo at Boston Ballet

Performing these roles is an experience dancers never forget—I certainly haven’t, especially dancing the title roles—the mutual journey of these two: Romeo and Juliet. There is so much opportunity to create three-dimensional characters. The beginning of the ballet highlights the vibrancy of youth, the naiveté. But then the growth of these two individuals in less than a week is just astounding. The incredible scope of innocence to tragedy and the emotional weight and aging they experience… it’s critical to be able to communicate all of this as dancers and artists.

MusicAl magic

You’ll also be spellbound by the music as well. Written in 1935 by Prokofiev, it’s a brilliant score that’s not even 100 years old yet. At 82, it’s still spry. Especially of note is the clarity of Romeo, Juliet and the Capulets’ themes.

And Juliet’s theme gets me every time. I keep discovering new things about Prokofiev’s score. That’s what I love about this art form… you’re always learning. You’re experiencing this gorgeous piece of music that keeps returning to the themes that grow more and more tragic. For example, when we first meet Juliet we hear a simple lighthearted flute and by the time she wakes in the crypt her theme has grown complex and heartbreaking.

Juliet’s Theme

 

Sets and Costumes

This ballet is a visual stunner as well. I just love these sets from Boston Ballet. They are the same sets and costumes that were produced in 1984 when I danced with them as Romeo. I know them like the back of my hand. In fact, lots of companies use these sets and costumes, including Kansas City Ballet when we last performed another version in 2012.

Now everything has come full circle as I present my world premiere choreographic interpretation on these same gorgeous sets. I’ve thought about my version for a long time and now was the right moment to make it—the beginning of my 5th season leading Kansas City Ballet into its 60th Anniversary. It’s an honor to be part of this significant moment in the company’s history. And I hope you’ll join us for more great dance this season including a new Anniversary Dance Festival in April with two different programs on back-to-back weekends, and a world premiere of The Wonderful Wizard of Oz in May, plus crowd pleasers The  Nutcracker in December and New Moves in February.

Yours,

Devon Carney

Kansas City Ballet Artistic Director

 

Top photo by Brett Pruitt & East Market Studios.