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.