Event Recap: Diamond Ball

2017 Diamond Ball photo by Larry F. Levenson
2017 Diamond Ball photo by Larry F. Levenson

On Saturday, October 7, the much anticipated Diamond Ball, presented by the Kansas City Ballet Guild, kicked off Kansas City Ballet’s 60th anniversary season at the beautiful InterContinental Kansas City At The Plaza. Guests enjoyed a lively cocktail party with delicious cuisine, breathtaking decor by Larry Wheeler Design and Craig Sole Design, crowd-pleasing entertainment by Kokomo, and two Kansas City Ballet mini-performances.


Honorary Ball Chairmen Tom & Loren Whittaker with Ball Chairmen Michael & Melanie Fenske. Photography by Larry F. Levenson
Honorary Ball Chairmen Tom & Loren Whittaker with Ball Chairmen Michael & Melanie Fenske. Photography by Larry F. Levenson

Melanie and Mike Fenske, senior vice president of the Global Facilities Group at Burns & McDonnell, chaired the event, which drew 450 formally-attired guests and grossed more than $476,000 for Kansas City Ballet. Loren Whittaker, a lecturer at The Kansas City Art Institute, and Tom Whittaker, chief legal officer at J.E. Dunn Construction and past president of Kansas City Ballet’s Board, served as the Honorary Chairmen.


2017 Pirouette Award is Elizabeth Hard Simms with her husband Michael Simms and KCB Dancer Molly Wagner. Photography by Larry F. Levenson.
2017 Pirouette Award winner, Elizabeth Hard Simms, with her husband Michael Simms and KCB Dancer Molly Wagner. Photography by Larry F. Levenson.

Before guests danced the night away, Guild President Gigi Rose honored Elizabeth Hard Simms (the first Ballet Ball Co-Chairman in 1968) with the 2017 Pirouette Award for her commitment to the performing arts.


KCB Dancers Amanda DeVenuta and James Kirby Rogers performing an excerpt from Devon Carney’s "Romeo & Juliet." Photography by Larry F. Levenson
KCB Dancers Amanda DeVenuta and James Kirby Rogers performing an excerpt from Devon Carney’s “Romeo & Juliet.” Photography by Larry F. Levenson
KCB Guild President Gigi Rose with Bonne Illig. Photography by Larry F. Levenson
KCB Guild President Gigi Rose with Bonne Illig. Photography by Larry F. Levenson
Bryan & Jennifer Wampler, James Jordan, Jack & Barbara Spilker, and Bruce & Vicki Baxter. Photography by Larry F. Levenson
Bryan & Jennifer Wampler, James Jordan, Jack & Barbara Spilker, and Bruce & Vicki Baxter. Photography by Larry F. Levenson
KC Ballet Board President Kathy Stepp with husband Howard Rothwell. Photography by Larry F. Levenson
KC Ballet Board President Kathy Stepp with husband Howard Rothwell. Photography by Larry F. Levenson
Melinda Petet, Susan Sands, Katherine and Jim Schorgl and Greg & Barbara Storm. Photography by Larry F. Levenson
Melinda Petet, Susan Sands, Katherine & Jim Schorgl, and Greg & Barbara Storm. Photography by Larry F. Levenson

Dancer Profile: Molly Wagner

As she begins her sixth season with Kansas City Ballet, Company Dancer Molly Wagner shares her obsession with inspiration and other things she enjoys.


A: I took ballet, jazz and tap growing up while competing in gymnastics, but then in high school I couldn’t imagine doing anything but ballet. I threw all my energy and dreams into it.

Q: Do you have hobbies or special Interests?

A: When I have time off, I love to take my 2-year-old dog to the Shawnee Mission Park to swim for hours. Seeing his boundless joy makes me happy!

Q: What are people most surprised to learn about your job as a dancer?

A: While, yes, our toes hurt when we come back from a break, our feet are NOT constantly bloody as movies love to portray.

Dancers: Molly Wagner & Liang Fu. Photography: Brett Pruitt & East Market Studios.
Dancers: Molly Wagner & Liang Fu. Photography: Brett Pruitt & East Market Studios.

Q: Do you have a personal mantra or affirmation that you swear by? if so, what is it?

A: Before I go on stage, Angie Sansone and I tell each other: “You’re the most beautiful ballerina in all the lands.” It’s our goofy way of entering the stage with confidence. But as far as day-to-day mantras go, “You are enough.” Sometimes this career can make you insecure and frustrated, but at some point you have to just believe in yourself.

Q: what is something most people wouldn’t know about you?

A: I’m obsessed with TED Talks and watch one every morning before work to inspire me.

Mass™ Medical Storage Sponsors Romeo & Juliet


Aubrey and Penelope Guezaraga
Aubrey and Penelope Guezaraga

MASS™ Medical Storage Owner Aubrey Guezuraga is not your typical corporate sponsor. In fact, before his daughter Penelope was born it’s pretty safe to say he would never have predicted his company would be donating to Kansas City Ballet.

Penelope was born unilaterally deaf on her left side and wears a hearing aid. The doctors at Children’s Mercy told the Guezuragas she would have a hard life. They said she would have a lack of coordination; an inability to pay attention to more than one thing at a time; and that down the road, dyslexia and reading, learning, and behavioral issues would likely follow. That’s a tough prognosis for any parent to hear. They also made suggestions. They recommended she get involved in activities that would provide full-brain stimulation like music, art, and dance.


Penelope Guezaraga in 2014
Penelope Guezaraga in 2014

So at age 3, Penelope was enrolled in creative movement classes at Kansas City Ballet School. And although at a young age dance may not have come naturally, she continued to take classes year after year.

“Being good at ballet wasn’t the point for us,” Guezuraga says. “We just wanted to give her a chance to challenge her brain and help her development. But a funny thing happened as time went by… she loved it. We found everyone was so supportive and eventually something clicked. She began to have leadership opportunities in class and her confidence really grew.”

This progress spilled over into other aspects of Penelope’s life as well.

When she was in first grade she was testing in the bottom for reading skills. So, the Guezuragas got her a tutor. And using the same process of focus, determination, and persistence she’d been using for dance, Penelope improved.


Penelope Guezaraga with her KU Engineering Fair Medal
Penelope Guezaraga with her KU Engineering Fair Medal

Penelope has continued to exceed expectations. She placed 5th in KU’s engineering fair for 8th graders when she was only in the fifth grade. Adding to her dancing, last year she participated in The Nutcracker, The Sleeping Beauty and in the regional and national Youth American Grand Prix ballet competitions… and her lowest grade was a 98%.

Penelope is currently 11, in 6th grade, and the president of her class. She’s in Level 5 at KCBS and is still participating in Youth American Grand Prix. She’s a leader and a well-rounded person.

“The Ballet gave her a straight forward method of addressing problems and improving herself in part because there, she has always been treated as a capable person. She is humble and hard working. I thank the Ballet for giving her the tools and life lessons to help her to be the best she can be in all aspects of her life,” Guezaraga says.


Knowing how much Penelope has been helped, Guezaraga is grateful to the organization and also to all of the donors that see the value in supporting the mission of Kansas City Ballet and School. For that reason, he hopes his sponsorship shows his appreciation of both Kansas City Ballet and its supporters. But he also hopes he inspires other growing businesses to start on this path as well: Growing a community to support the arts to drive excellence and new thought and to drive inclusiveness.

“It’s a gift to me to be a part of helping bring Romeo & Juliet to Kansas City. And it’s only fitting since it is also the favorite score of my daughter and I,” Guezaraga says.



To become a Kansas City Ballet Corporate Sponsor, please contact Patty Bowen at 816.216.5584. Click here to learn more about 2017-2018 corporate sponsorship opportunities.

Dancer Profile: Kelsey Hellebuyck

Company Dancer Kelsey Hellebuyck reveals a little about her love of the arts and her clothing obsession as she begins her second season with Kansas City Ballet.

Q: What do you enjoy most about being a dancer?

A: I TREASURE being able to do what I am passionate about for a living! An added bonus being, I can share this beautiful and still VERY ALIVE artform with people who haven’t yet been exposed. Not only through performances, But even just about town! I often meet people who say they’ve NEVER met a Ballerina, nor have they ever been to the ballet! After sharing some of my experiences and all that goes into this profession, how it is SO MUCH MORE then just standing on you tippy-toes, They’re EXCITED to come and see a show, to have a personal connection with someone on the stage, see our athleticism and feel moved by the music and the movement.

Q: Do you have hobbies or special Interests?

A: Quite a few! But to name a couple off the top: I’m a bit of a “FASHIONPHILE”, a “Walking Wardrobe” if you will. I get a high curating new things to add to my collection. I also adore antiquing! finding things with history, imagining what they’ve seen, the stories they could tell. Sometimes there is nothing better then a Sunday spent painting or sketching, I find it very relaxing and a nice way to clear your head and prepare for the week ahead.

Q: What do you enjoy most about Kc?

A: Besides our company, our amazing studios and the absolutely STUNNING Kauffman Center, where we are so blessed to perform, I LOVE just how much KC appreciates The ARTS in ALL FORMS! The Ballet, Opera and Symphony, the performance venues, the museums and art galleries they are some of the BEST in the world! Also Kansas City has some incredible restaurants and fantastic shopping! I was amazed moving here at ALL this city had to offer!  There are even great wineries just beyond the city proper in Kansas! A few of us dancers have gone on some tastings over there and let me just say, This California girl was quite impressed!

Q: what is something most people wouldn’t know about you?

A: I live in a 2-bedroom apartment, the second bedroom being solely a closet. I’ts just me, my little dog Coco and a whole lot of clothes and shoes……A WHOLE LOT! Take a peek in my closet and my everyday ballerina life on Instagram: @IvanaDance or Twitter: @KelseyIvana! [Incidentally, Kelsey will be doing an Instagram takeover of the Ballet’s account @kc.ballet Oct. 10-15, 2017.]

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.


Devon Carney

Kansas City Ballet Artistic Director


Top photo by Brett Pruitt & East Market Studios.


NEW MOVES opened this past weekend here at the Bolender Center. This choreographic showcase allows company dancers and outside guest choreographers to create new works on our dancers. This year six new works premiered, of which four were created by company dancers Charles Martin, Travis Guerin, Anthony Krutzkamp and Ian Poulis, and two by outside guests, Erin Lustig of Seamless Dance Theater and Ilya Kozadayev, former principle dancer with Houston Ballet.

Take a look below to see some highlights from this past weekend. If you’re in the area, you still have a couple chances to catch this great performance! Get your tickets for April 4 or 5 by visiting our website or calling 816.931.2232!


Nutcracker Ball – Meet the Co-Chairs

Susan Bubb and Megan Bubb Cribb: Nutcracker Ball Co-Chairmen 2013

Susan Bubb (left) & Megan Bubb Cribb (right)

Susan Bubb and Megan Bubb Cribb are honored to be representing the Kansas City Ballet Guild as Chairmen of the 46th annual Nutcracker Ball. The rich tradition of the Ballet Ball and the timeless beauty of The Nutcracker will magically transform the Bartle Hall Grand Ballroom on December 6th for this very special and momentous occasion. Longtime Ballet fans, Susan and Megan are happy to be able to set the framework for this new annual event. With a new date, theme, and location, this is sure to be an evening of enchantment to put you into the holiday spirit.  Net proceeds from the fundraiser support both the Kansas City Ballet and Kansas City Ballet School. Susan and Megan are proud to be  part of such an exciting time for the performing arts in Kansas City, with the announcement of the Ballet’s new artistic director, Devon Carney, we know you will agree that 2013 is truly a milestone of new direction. Susan and her husband Stephen have enjoyed opening their home for many local organizations, the Junior League of Johnson and WyandotteCounties, the Lyric Opera, The Barstow School, PEO, Fireside, the Ballet Guild and the CarlsonCenter at JohnsonCountyCommunity college. Megan careers as team lead of The Bubb Cribb Team of Reece and Nichols, she shares this team with her brother Eric Bubb and husband Christopher J. Cribb. She has a passion for all things real estate and Kansas City.

This Mother Daughter duo are looking forward to an enchanting evening with family and friends.

To purchase tickets to the 2013 Nutcracker Ball held on December 6th at Bartle Hall, you can visit our website or call 913.232.7609.

Getting to Know KCB II: Lark Commanday

This year marks the inaugural season for Kansas City Ballet’s second company, KCB II. Lark Commanday is one of five dancers in this new ensemble. At just 17 years old and from Peoria, Illinois, he’s the only male dancer in this group. Read below to learn more about Lark, his hobbies and what he enjoys most about being part of KCB II.


Q: How did you become involved in dance?
A: I come from a very artistic family and was encouraged to take a few ballet classes to try it out. My appreciation for dance grew as I aged, (still it grows as I age) and here I am.

Q: What attracted you to Kansas City Ballet?
A: I gained interest in KCB when I heard Devon Carney would be taking up the position of Artistic Director, because I had long been aware of his successful career.

Q: How has KCB II affected your dance career so far?
A: KCB II has given me an outstanding opportunity to cultivate my talents in a program which allows me to learn not only from teachers and choreographers, but from my peers in KCB II and mentors in the company.

KCBII_Fall13_04 copy
2013-2014 KCB II Dancers

Q: What is your favorite thing about Kansas City and Kansas City Ballet?
A: My favorite thing about Kansas City is KCB. My favorite thing about KCB is that the men in the company are always ready and glad to help a rookie out.

Q: What is one thing most people don’t know about you?
A: I know how to build a cedar-shake roof. Last year my father and I redid a section of our home’s roof which was leaking.

Q: What do you enjoy doing when you’re not dancing?
Reading, cooking, playing chess with my father, or splitting firewood.

Q: What are you most looking forward to this season?
Working and growing as a dancer alongside a world-class company that has greeted me warmly. I am also looking forward to being a part of KCB’s main-stage performances, since I have never been a part of such professional productions before.

KCB Student Apprentice: Maggie Andriani

This week we had a chance to catch up with our new student apprentice, Maggie Andriani! Between classes, Maggie gave us a glimpse of what it has been like to dance with the company so far and what she is most looking forward to this season.


Maggie has been a student at the Kansas City Ballet School for ten years, and is thrilled to have the opportunity to work with the company this year. When she first found out that she had been chosen as student apprentice, she said, “I was shaking I was so excited!”

Since then she has been taking classes with the company in addition to school, part-time work, regular dance classes and performing with the Kansas City Youth Ballet. Beginning this season Maggie will also be rehearsing and performing with the KCB! She loves the Nutcracker season and is looking forward to learning Dracula, but says she is most excited about the production of Cinderella.


Until rehearsals start, Maggie is enjoying the opportunity to take class with the company throughout the week. On Saturday mornings, when most teenagers might sleep in, she is at the studio striving to learn everything she can from the artistic staff and company dancers. She looks up to all the company members and is inspired by the qualities that they each possess. She hopes “that by watching them that somehow their special talents will transfer over to (her)!”

We are excited to watch Maggie grow in both technique and artistry as she dances alongside the company this year, and we are eager to see where her passion for dance takes her in the years to come!

In Pictures: 2013 Fall Show

From everyone at Kansas City Ballet, we’d like to thank those who were able to make it to our fall production featuring Fancy Free, along with four other spectacular pieces. Also, a big congratulations to the dancers and production staff for putting on an amazing show!

As audience members, you don’t get to see what goes on behind the scenes. From dancers hurrying to get into place, costume changes, managers calling lighting cues among many other things, backstage can be a quite chaotic but also an exciting place. Here are a few glimpses behind the curtain from our fall show….

Now, for the audience view:
(Photos courtesy of Steve Wilson)