2018-19 Dancer Profile: Amanda DeVenuta

Meet Kansas City Ballet Company Dancer, Amanda DeVenuta. She’s danced with KCB since the 2014-15 season and will soon be dancing the lead role of Dorothy in Septime Webre’s world premiere of The Wizard of Oz at the Kauffman Center Oct. 12-21, 2018.

Q: TELL US WHY YOU BeCAME A DANCEr.

Dancer Amanda DeVenuta rehearsing the role of Dorothy for The Wizard of Oz. Photography by Elizabeth Stehling.
Dancer Amanda DeVenuta rehearsing the role of Dorothy for The Wizard of Oz. Photography by Elizabeth Stehling.

A: That’s what I was put here to do. It was just something I knew inside myself. I love it more than I’ll ever be able to describe in words. It’s my breathing.

Q: WHAT DO YOU LIKE TO DO WHEN YOU’RE NOT DANCING?

A: I’m always researching different perfumes. I love learning more about the world of scents through Nez a French olfactory perfume magazine. I love to sit in a coffee shop and write poetry and read. I like Romanian poetry because it’s dark and beautiful. I listen to Ólafur Arnalds.

Q: WHAT IS SOMETHING MOST PEOPLE WOULDN’T KNOW ABOUT YOU?

A: Either that I love doughnuts or that I write poetry. Both usually seem to shock people.

Q: HOW DO YOU STAY FIT AND HEALTHY OUTSIDE OF THE STUDIO?

A: Yoga, Pilates, swimming. I recently opened the door to gyrotonics and I love it. It’s medicine for my body.

Q: WHAT WAS THE BEST DANCING OR LIFE ADVICE YOU EVER RECEIVED?

A: Honestly, it’s just to be grateful for what I have, but always be pushing myself to improve. I can want great things for myself while still remaining gracious.

PAST PROFILE POSTS

Dancer Profile: Amanda DeVenuta

 

Top Photo by Brett Pruitt & East Market Studios

Behind the Scenes: The Wizard of Oz

In just a few short weeks, Kansas City Ballet will perform the World Premiere of Septime Webre’s The Wizard of Oz!

We anticipate 10 sold-out performances, so be sure to share that you’re seeing this fantastical new show with your friends.

ABOUT THE PRODUCTION

The scale of this world premiere is impressive:

  • The all-new music composed by Matthew Pierce, the same composer for Alice (in wonderland), is 471 pages long and features three percussion players playing 35 different percussion instruments.
  • This is a unique collaboration with Kansas City Ballet, Colorado Ballet and Canada’s Royal Winnipeg Ballet. We worked with an internationally-recognized creative team to create a major new work of outstanding quality.
  • A total of 120 stunning costumes and 112 hats, designed by Liz Vandal, in the production and our costume shop will paint 220 shoes. There are at least 60 costume changes throughout the production.
  • Upwards of 20 puppets, designed by Nicholas Mahon, including a mechanical Toto, are involved in the production. One of Mr. Mahon’s most recent projects was for the 2018 Winter Olympics Opening Ceremony.
  • A first for Kansas City Ballet, this show will feature incredible projection technology, designed by Aaron Rhyne, using a combination of three state-of-the-art projectors. This will add an integral design element that helps provide atmosphere and dimensionality, and enhance the experience.
  • More than 300 light cues, designed by Trad A Burns, will take place using over 1000 channels of lights.
  • There will be eight flying effects executed by multiple characters.
  • At least 120 people, not including dancers, were part of this collaboration team including designers and makers.
  • In Kansas City, 30 company dancers and 15 second company dancers will make up the cast, not counting children.
  • There are 23 children’s roles and two casts for a total of 46 children performing in The Wizard of Oz, providing a huge asset to the development and growth of the Kansas City Ballet School.

ABOUT THE MUSIC

wATCH REHEARSALS

UPCOMING FREE EVENTS

The Wizard of Oz Photography: Story lines and visual elements from the classic motion picture by Warner Bros. Theatre Ventures. Dancer Amanda DeVenuta. Photographer Kenny Johnson.

2018-19 Dancer Profile: Daniel Rodriguez

Meet Kansas City Ballet Company Dancer, Daniel Rodriguez. Born and raised in New York, Daniel is a proud Fiorello H. LaGuardia High School graduate (the school FAME is based on), and just recently married. He’s also big into Marvel comic books, and generally a self-professed pretty nerdy guy.

Q: TELL US WHY YOU BeCAME A DANCEr.

A: I was introduced to dance by a not-for-profit organization named National Dance Institute (NDI). It was founded by the incredible Jacques D’ Amboise former New York City Ballet super star principal. He created NDI to expose children to the arts for free, and I was in a school that had the program. Before I knew it, through the program, I was exposed to ballet, jazz, tap and more serious dance forms, and here we are. I always loved the technical aspect to it, the rigor of the discipline, and the fun I had with my friends.

Q: WHAT IS SOMETHING MOST PEOPLE WOULDN’T KNOW ABOUT YOU?

A: I spent a year training and teaching ballroom dance! As much as I love ballet, I’m also pretty well versed in social dance, I’m great at weddings!

Q: WHAT IS YOUR FAVORITE DANCE BAG ITEM AND WHY?

A: I love ‘rolling out’ which is technically stretching, so my foam roller is my favorite dance bag item! Rolling out the overused muscles in my legs really help me get through the demands of a ballet season.

Q: WHAT HAVE YOU ENJOYED DOING IN KC?

A: My wife and I went to a Sporting KC game, and I am now forever a fan! Great stadium, great team, and great supporters! I love when a city rallies around a team. It makes sporting events all the more exciting!

Q: WHAT WAS THE BEST DANCING OR LIFE ADVICE YOU EVER RECEIVED AND WHY?

A: One of my favorite quotes of all time is “We are what we repeatedly do. Excellence, then, is not an act, but a habit,” by Aristotle. That quote has guided me through life and dance. I truly believe in constant, thoughtful work. I will never be the greatest dancer in the world, but I want to be known as someone who worked their butt off to improve. You’ll be amazed where all those good habits will get you, I sure am.

 

Photography by Brett Pruitt & East Market Studios

You’re Invited: Kickoff to Oz at Union Station

Join Kansas City Mayor Sly James as he leads a procession to announce the Kickoff to Oz with an official proclamation about Kansas City Ballet’s World Premiere of The Wizard of Oz. Dorothy’s ruby slippers will be put on display and attendees will enjoy a performance by the Second Company, and an educational dance workshop for kids will follow.

Selfie Contest

Take a selfie with Dorothy’s ruby slipper pointe shoes before they make their world premiere during Kansas City Ballet’s The Wizard of Oz, October 12-21 at the Kauffman Center.

Upload to Kansas City Ballet Social Media Channels and type the hashtag #OZsomeKC. Be sure to like or follow us anytime before September 30. We will announce the winner on October 1.

Instagram: @kc.ballet

Facebook: @kcballet

Twitter: @kcballet

One lucky fan will WIN 4 tickets to Kansas City Ballet’s The Wizard of Oz! We will randomly select a winner from one of our social media sites.

Tickets

For tickets visit KCBallet.org or call 816.931.8993.

2018-19 Dancer Profile: Courtney Nitting

Please welcome new Kansas City Ballet, Company Dancer Courtney Nitting.

Q: WHAT DOES JOINING kcb MEAN TO YOU?

A: Joining KC Ballet this year as a new dancer officially makes my dream come true. Though I have had experience as a professional dancer prior, I never could personally call myself a professional. I didn’t feel as though I earned that title, not receiving a main company position. However, this year I have now accomplished what my 3-year-old self has been waiting for. I’m so appreciative for this opportunity and very excited to now say that I am a professional ballerina with my one of my biggest dreams in life accomplished.

Q: TELL US WHY YOU BECAME A DANCER.

A: I became a dancer because…well, the story is a bit out of the ordinary. I was 3 years old and told my mom I wanted to go to a real ballet school. I had never really seen ballet or knew what dance was but something inside me said this is what I was going to do; this is what I wanted to be when I grew up. From that moment on, ballet has always been my main focus and my true passion; the more I learned and got challenged in the art, the more I fell in love with ballet. I just knew it was my calling; it’s my air, my heart, and my soul.

Q: wHAT’S IT LIKE BEING A PROFESSIONAL DANCER?

A: Being a professional dancer with a professional company is a dream. It’s the greatest feeling to call what I love most in life my career. Not many people can say they love their job and that they’ve achieved one of their biggest aspirations in life; I am lucky to say I have. From daily class every morning, to rehearsals that run all hours of the day and finally ending with a performance for the public to enjoy, are experiences I wouldn’t change for the world. It doesn’t feel like work because you are living in every moment. Each of these moments make everyday being a professional dancer a gift.

Q: WHAT QUESTION DO YOU GET ASKED A LOT AS PROFESSIONAL DANCER?

A: The question I get asked most about my job as a dancer is if our toes hurt from being on pointe. The answer to this is quite simple: YES! Dancers feet hurt all the time and most of the time. We get blisters, bruised toe nails, aches and pains like all other athletes. The difference is that while we are in this pain, we have to look like we are walking on clouds; effortless and calm. However, while we might look like beautiful fairies on top, our insides could be screaming with boiling pain. On the contrary, this pain doesn’t stop us from dancing our hearts out because the moment that curtain goes up, all your pain goes away. Its the magic of the stage that sweeps us off our feet; sometimes quite literally.

Q: WHAT IS ONE THING MOST PEOPLE WOULDN’T KNOW ABOUT YOU?

A: One thing most people wouldn’t know about me is that I wear two different sizes in pointe shoes; one for each foot. I have always had one foot bigger than the other for as long as I can remember. I have tried for so many years to wear one size but I would always go back to wearing two. So in order to get one pair of shoes I order two pairs in the differing sizes. Then I take one shoe from each size to make a full pair. I am not the only dancer ever to wear two sizes, but it has created some uneven challenges when I am dancing. I just look at it as another reason to work even harder.

Q: WHAT WAS THE BEST DANCING OR LIFE ADVICE YOU EVER RECEIVED AND WHY?

A: The best dancing and life advice I have ever received comes from my mom. She is my biggest support and always knows the right things to say at the right times. However, there is one thing we have always kept close between us no matter what life has thrown at us. This is to “never give up.” I have had some ups and downs when it comes to dancing and life in general, but keeping that little phrase in the back of my mind always helped to keep moving forward. I treasure those three words and will live by them forever.

 

Photography by Brett Pruitt & East Market Studios

2018-19 Dancer Profile: Whitney Huell

Now in her fifth season with Kansas City Ballet, Company Dancer Whitney Huell, opens up about her interests.

Q: TELL US WHY YOU BeCAME A DANCEr.

A: I started dancing after seeing my older sister perform in a recital. When I took my first ballet class I was hooked. I loved learning to do new and challenging movements and working to improve them every class. The constant work to improve steps intrigued me.

Q: wHAT’S IT LIKE BEING A PROFESSIONAL DANCER?

A: Being a professional dancer is a blessing because we get to pursue our passion of dance in the form of a job. Doing what you love for a living is a wonderful feeling. There are definitely ups and downs within one’s career but this profession is an exciting one.

KC Ballet Dancer Whitney Huell

Q: WHAT IS YOUR GUILTY PLEASURE?

A: Food! I love dining out. I am very frugal but it is very hard for me to turn down a restaurant invitation.

Q: WHAT IS YOUR FAVORITE SNACK?

A: My favorite snacks during a rehearsal day are fruit strips. They are tasty, sweet and give you a bit of a sugar boost. I like the strawberry and peach flavors from Whole Foods.

Q: WHAT WAS THE BEST DANCING OR LIFE ADVICE YOU EVER RECEIVED AND WHY?

A: Don’t compare yourself to others. Being the best dancer you can be is the goal. I think this is important and has helped me grow as an artist.

 

Other blog posts about Whitney Huell:

Dancer Profile: Whitney Huell

Dancer Spotlight: Whitney Huell

 

 

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.

2018 Summer Intensive Recap

Photography: Andrea Wilson
Photography: Andrea Wilson

Kansas City Ballet School‘s 2018 Summer Intensive program ended today. To mark the occassion, students’ families watched an informal demonstration of what the students learned these past five weeks.

There were 167 students who attended this year’s intensive program. Of those, only 37 are current KCBS Academy attendees, the rest were chosen through auditions that took place across the country or through video auditions. The majority of students came from outside of Kansas and Missouri, and two were from outside of the U.S. Of these one is from Japan and the other from Bulgaria.

Besides learning from an incredible list of teachers and faculty from Kansas City Ballet, others included: Sarah Lane, Alicia Graf Mack, Olivier Munoz, Larissa Ponomarenko, and Mel Tomlinson. All couldn’t be happier with the students’ eagerness to learn or their progress during the program.

“The students who attended our summer intensive this year were amazing,” said Kansas City Ballet School Director Grace Holmes. “Their level of commitment, camaraderie and artistic spirit, took our program to new levels. I am so proud of all of the students who danced with us this summer and we are grateful that they and their parents chose Kansas City Ballet School.”

More PHotos

Kansas City Ballet School Director Grace Holmes praises the students for their hard work at this year's intensive. Photography: Andrea Wilson

Kansas City Ballet School Director Grace Holmes praises the students for their hard work at this year’s intensive. Photography: Andrea Wilson

Photography: Andrea Wilson
Photography: Andrea Wilson
Photography: Andrea Wilson
Photography: Andrea Wilson
Photography: Andrea Wilson
Photography: Andrea Wilson

From the Archives: Tanny Le Clercq

Tanaquil Le Clercq was a principal dancer with New York City Ballet. Tanny, as she was called by friends and family, was married to George Balanchine and was once considered his muse. Over her career Balanchine, Jerome Robbins, Merce Cunningham and others created a total of 32 roles just for her. Her incredible dancing career ended abruptly when she was stricken with polio in Copenhagen during the New York City Ballet company’s European tour in 1956.

A Kansas City Ballet Connection

Tanny was friends with Kansas City Ballet’s former Artistic Director Emeritus, Todd Bolender, when he was with New York City Ballet both as a dancer and as a tour manager. The two remained friends until her death in 2000. In fact just days/weeks after she was stricken with Polio, she had sent a letter to him. She had to dictate the letter to her mother, who wrote it for her, since she wasn’t able to write for herself. She later regained use of her arms and hands. This letter lives in the Kansas City Ballet archives as part of Todd Bolender’s effects. In it she shares personal details about her illness and her outlook on life.

The letter Tanny sent to Todd Bolender shortly after her diagnosis.
Page two of the letter.

Having never recovered the use of her legs, Tanny found other ways to share her love of ballet including teaching ballet to students using her hands and arms to demonstrate the steps. She also staged ballets for companies as well, even coming to Kansas City Ballet to teach on occasion. She also wrote books, took up photography and more.

Kansas City Ballet’s Archives host items and information that relate to Kansas City Ballet, its artistic staff, dancers, and ballet repertory. Look for other highlights from the archives on this blog.

Questions?

If you have questions about KCB history or our archives, please leave them in the comments.

Related Blog Posts:

Guild Book Club

Kansas City Ballet Archives Updates Displays

Behind Closed Doors: Kansas City Ballet’s Archive Thrives

 

Summer Notes: Ramona Pansegrau

“The best thing in the world is to make music. To be able to do that, I am privileged,” says Kansas City Ballet Music Director Ramona Pansegrau.

Kansas City Ballet Music Director Ramona Pansegrau has filled her summer with incredible (and stressful) musical experiences.

11th Annual USA International Ballet Competition

After Peter Pan wrapped on May 20, she was on a plane the next day to Jackson, Miss. She served as the music director for the 11th annual USA International Ballet Competition in Jackson June 10-23, 2018. This first trip was to find the music in the music library for all of the contestants.

JACOB’s PILLOW

The next day she boarded a plane bound for Massachusetts and the annual Jacob’s Pillow festival that she’s played a role in for the past 16 years. This year she helped prepare music for a world premiere ballet by Annabell Lopez Ochoa  at the Opening Gala of Jacob’s Pillow on Saturday, June 16.

11th Annual USA International Ballet Competition Continued

Then she flew back to Jackson on June 19 for session 3 of the competition to rehearse the orchestra for the Awards Gala and the Encore Gala, June 22-23. All competition medalists perform their solos or pas de deux to live orchestra.

Here’s the thing, though. The medalists are chosen and the list of their performance music is given to Ms. Pansegrau around 2 or 3 a.m. Friday. That’s when the real fun begins as she must stay up all night to prepare and arrange all the music from the larger collection (97 lbs of music!) she pulled in May. Her first rehearsal with the orchestra was from 9 to 11:30 a.m., the morning of the Awards Gala. That was followed by orchestra and dancers rehearsing together from 1 to 3 p.m. A dress rehearsal came next, from 4:30 to 6 p.m., and the Gala began at 7:30 p.m. Learn even more about this challenging and brutal process in this Mississippi Today article where Ms. Pansegrau is featured.

Preparing for Kansas City Ballet’s 2018-2019 Season

Now that she’s back, she’s keeping busy working on a new set of orchestra parts for Kansas City Ballet’s February show, Lady of the Camellias.

On Aug. 6, she’ll be back in the studios playing optional company classes. The dancers will all return Aug. 20 for the season.