On Tuesday, May 15, Kansas City Ballet School presented its 2018 Spring Performance at the Kauffman Center for the Performing Arts. Students from Level 2 up to and including the Student Trainees from Kansas City Ballet’s Second Company performed a variety of works for the more than 900 in attendance.
Kansas City Ballet School Director, Grace Holmes, said: “I am so proud of the accomplishments of our students this year. Our Spring Performance showed off our students’ hard work and allowed them the incredible opportunity to share their passion on the Kauffman stage. The depth they are achieving in this wonderful art form of dance is so beautiful to see – they make our School proud!”
“It‘s wonderful to watch our students grow technically and artistically as they prepare for YAGP,” KCB School Director Grace Holmes said. “Having something to work towards and an opportunity to share their hard work, contributes to students’ self-confidence. And our students are so supportive of each other – it shows how close-knit our Academy community is.”
More than 10,000 students from 31 countries who competed during the regional finals around the globe. Only 1,500 were invited to the finals in New York. Of these 800 were soloists of which KCBS happily had three, one made it to the final round: Poppy Trettel.
While KCBS students did not place at the national competition finals this year, three received scholarship offers from prestigious schools.
Hannah Zucht: Harid Conservatory
Simo Atanasov: Joffrey Ballet
Poppy Trettel: Canada’s National Ballet School
Shaping the Future
When asked about the event, Racheal Nye, principal and YAGP coordinator, said, “It’s great to see the growth in the kids by the end of the process, and see the school represented so well at an international event. I also really enjoy being inspired and motivated by other schools and seeing the talented students from around the world.”
Nye is proud of the way the KCBS students were kind and welcoming to other participants, and their professional attitudes. For example, the Baroque ensemble dancers were reviewing independently and had lined up at open stage to space before she even got there to look for them.
Every year Nye reads through the written performance critiques from the YAGP judges. Her goal is to incorporate these corrections into how she teaches all of her students going forward. She tries to approach the things she wants to fix by gearing the combinations to train the body to reflexively accomplish the move correctly. By looking at the experience as a whole, she attempts to answer these questions:
What pieces/choreography seemed to do well?
How prepared were the students and was there anything that she could do in advance that would make things run more smoothly?
What could she learn about preparing better for the venue? Etc.
In doing so, the results from these competitions shape strategy for future years.
Related Blog Posts
Here are some links to past blog posts with similar topics:
On June 3, 2018, Kansas City Youth Ballet (KCYB) performed in the Rose Garden at Loose Park . The performance is part of an annual event for Kansas City Rose Society. For more than a decade, KCYB has provided entertainment for the Rose Day celebration. Other events that day include a children’s rose craft workshop, a jazz performance by Mighty MO, a Mayor’s Proclamation, and free ice cream, lemonade and bottled water for attendees.
No Divide KC will host an event at Kansas City Ballet’s Bolender Center on Saturday, June 30 from 1 to 4 p.m. called “We Move with You.” The event is open to all ages and especially families in the community and will focus on promoting ways kids and adults with developmental delays can add to the creative landscape of Kansas City. There is a $5 suggested donation.
“I’ve wanted to do an event that highlights those with delays and disabilities for a while,” No Divide KC’s Board President Stacy Busch said.
“I have a nephew with autism. When I learned about the Adaptive Dance program, I thought this would be a great way to make something happen in a very positive way. KCBS offers lots of resources and we’re really excited to partner with them to host something in their home.”
More about No Divide KC
No Divide KC is a nonprofit arts organization that creates artistic events that highlight various social causes, organizations, and issues. Using the arts as a vehicle for stimulating social awareness, participation, and community building, these performances help garner greater attention to these underserved social areas and bolster community acceptance and collaboration in Kansas City.
No Divide KC promotes warm and accepting spaces for all people. They’ve held benefit concerts combined with ways for local community organizations to recruit volunteers and spread awareness. They’ve also created documentaries that encouraged body positivity and also under represented female identifying people in our community. This fall they will create an exhibition and documentary in conjunction with the Johnson County Library that will feature local artists from multiple minority groups.
Taryn Layne-Mulhern found her passion for dance early in life.
Originally from Iowa, where she began her dance training, Layne-Mulhern’s family moved to Kansas City in 2001. She continued her training at Somerset Ballet Centre (SBC) in Prairie Village. SBC was acquired by Kansas City Ballet School (KCBS) as a second campus the following year. Two of her teachers that first year were Kimberly Cowen and Maureen Hall. Cowen danced with Kansas City Ballet for 20 years before retiring in 2012 to join the faculty of Kansas City Ballet School and Hall is still a member of KCBS’s faculty. Two other major influences from the KCB were former principal dancers under Todd Bolender, Lisa Thorn Vinzant and Sean Duus. Thorn Vinzant is now Ballet Master for Orlando Ballet and Duus still teaches at KCBS in addition to working in the KCB Community Engagement and Education Department.
Layne-Mulhern started teaching dance as a teenager, and taught her first class at KCBS when she was in her early 20s. “Teaching just seemed very natural,” she says.
Expanding Dance Education
As an aspiring dancer in her 20s, Layne-Mulhern performed with some of the smaller KC dance companies but also moved to New York for a couple of years to pursue performing opportunities as a freelance dancer.
Other very formative experiences as a ballet teacher came about while she was living in New York. Layne-Mulhern completed American Ballet Theatre’s ballet teacher training program for all levels of ballet students, became a certified Pilates instructor, and attended an intensive anatomy workshop at the Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai. “All of those things helped me grow exponentially as a teaching artist, and I still draw on those experiences, while continuing to build on them as much as possible. I definitely strive to be a lifelong learner,” she says.
When she returned from New York, she came back to teaching at KCBS.
Teaching in the Academy
Over the years, Layne-Mulhern has taught every level of the Academy at KCBS, either as a regular teacher or a sub, but she currently teaches ballet, pre-pointe, pointe, and conditioning for Levels 3, 4, and 5. “Those three levels are so formative – the students have a solid foundation of knowledge, but they’re still learning new steps and perfecting many aspects of their technique,” she says. “They’re also rapidly developing as artists in these levels, and unlocking so much potential. It’s an exciting time for them as students, and it’s very inspiring to have the privilege of being their teacher. I expect a lot from myself as a teacher, and I expect a lot from my students; I want all of us to give 110% every class, every day.”
Teaching in the Studio Division
Adult classes are different. Layne-Mulhern tries to make ballet as accessible as possible in adult classes. “Ballet is absolutely for everyone. I like to say in my beginning ballet classes that you’re not going to just walk into your first class or two or three and be anywhere near perfect, and that’s really okay. Ballet is like so many other worthwhile challenges – learning to play an instrument, learning to speak a foreign language – it takes time, work, and repetition to figure it out and move forward,” she says.
What does she enjoy about sharing ballet with students? “I find so much happiness in it, and I want to give that to other people,” Layne-Mulhern says. “I believe that dance will always be relevant and important. It has so much beauty and integrity and joy to offer the world, and the world will always need those things.”
Want to try her class?
Interested in taking an adult studio class with Taryn Layne-Mulhern? Check out the upcoming schedules here.
This past weekend (March 1-4, 2018) Kansas City’s Folly Theater was teeming with tutus. It was the first time Youth America Grand Prix (YAGP) had held a Regional Semi-Final in Kansas City. It appears to be a success.
More than 300 students from all over the city, region and country competed.
Just how did KCBS stack up against the competition? Pretty well.
For the second year in a row, KCBS received the “Outstanding School Award”. Last year it was at the competition in Indianapolis. “It felt good to get it here at home. There were several schools in the running, so it wasn’t something we expected to get but we are thrilled and honored,” Holmes said.
Also of special note, Kansas City Ballet School student, Aurora Wessel (11), won the “Hope Award”. This is an award that YAGP doesn’t always give out. It is intended as a special honor for the student who exceeds in both contemporary and classical competition. It’s more prestigious than simply winning first place. Aurora placed in the Top 12 for both Contemporary and Classical dance categories in the Pre-Competitive Age Division.
The overall number of pieces performed by category by all participating schools: Pre-competitive Category (66 pieces), Junior Category (196 pieces), Pas de Deux (14 pieces; 7 were from KCBS), Ensembles (30 pieces), Senior Classical (122 pieces) and Senior Contemporary (76 pieces).
“Many of the visiting schools and the judges were pleasantly surprised at how wonderful Kansas City is and how well the arts are supported here,” Kansas City Ballet School Director Grace Holmes said. “I was surprised at how many schools locally and regionally came to KC to participate.”
It’s no secret that Kansas City is conveniently situated in the heart of the country making it an easy drive from many states or a great place for air travel. And as a new YAGP venue, there was a lot of excitement specifically because of the “unknowns”. A little unpredictability can have advantages, so in this competition it’s not a bad thing to compete in a new location.
Kansas City Ballet School students really made an impression according to KCBS YAGP Coordinator Racheal Nye, “I received such positive feedback from other schools’ students and parents about the kindness of our KCBS students towards others, and that is something I’m incredibly proud of. Our kids were wonderful ambassadors for our school.”
“I am so happy with the work that all of our coaches and teachers put into preparations for this competition. At first I was not sure about having our students participate in a competition. But Racheal changed my mind about that when she brought a small group to YAGP two years ago. The reason we now do YAGP is because of Racheal. She had the vision that in participating in YAGP, our students could expand their already intense dance education by working through the process of learning, refining and performing these solos. And on top of coaching, she single-handedly did all the administration and scheduling, not to mention costumes, makeup demonstrations and took care of so many other details,” says Holmes. Her dedication certainly paid off. See the list of KCBS accomplishments for the 2018 YAGP Regional Semi-Finals below.
Holmes would like to thank Kansas City Ballet Artistic Director Devon Carney and Kansas City Ballet Executive Director Jeffrey J. Bentley for supporting KCBS in its YAGP efforts. “It’s always a huge undertaking for the school and it puts strain on the organization to have this many kids participate. So, I appreciate them taking a leap of faith on us,” Holmes says.
FINALS IN NYC
Invitations to attend the 2018 YAGP Finals will go out soon. The Finals will be held in New York City on April 19 at Lincoln Center.
2018 YAGP, KANSAS CITY, MO, KCBS WINNERS
Outstanding School: Kansas City Ballet School
1st Place Pas de Deux Category
2nd Place Ensemble: Coda from Esmeralda (Racheal Nye)
Hope Award: Aurora Wessel (11)
Top 12: Penelope Guezuraga (11)
3rd Place: Penelope Guezuraga (11)
Top 12: Kathryn Benson (11)
Junior Classical Women
1st Place: Poppy Trettel (12)
3rd Place: Melody Sasser (14)
Top 12: Addison Diaz (14), Mia Porter (12)
Junior Classical Men
2nd Place: Grady George (13)
Top 12: Poppy Trettel (12)
Top 12: Camryn Potts (17), Grace Reed (18), Hope Wampler (16), Timothy TV Cao (15)
Top 12: Camryn Potts (17), Mina-Vasiliya Stoyanova (17), Timothy TV Cao (15)
Read previous post about the 2018 YAGP competition?
Thirty-seven Kansas City Ballet School students are registered to perform 63 entries at the Youth America Grand Prix (YAGP) Semi-finals in Kansas City March 1-4, 2018. The number has grown each of the last three years that KCBS has started organizing students to compete.
KCBS Principal and YAGP Coordinator Racheal Nye oversees the program for KCBS. “I like the idea of having an end goal all year. It motivates students. Ballet training is the long game and it can be hard to find new ways to motivate yourself to give 150% in every class. But with something like YAGP, there are smaller goals along the way that help motivate my students to continue pushing themselves. They work on these concepts of their performance and bring them into their classwork as well. It changes the way they take class and it opens them up to how lessons fit into the bigger picture.”
Right now Nye and the other coaches are focusing on stamina—running the pieces until the dancers are comfortable. She likens it a bit to the Olympics. “We’re working on last minute polishes like nuances, artistry, and presentation. We’re making sure costumes and headpieces fit and conducting stage make up tutorials.”
With the competition happening here at home, the sheer number of KCBS students and ballet coaches are the highest they’ve been. Besides the chance to perform for a panel of accomplished judges, students have the opportunity to take master classes in ballet and dance from them as well. They also get to meet kids, like them, from all over who are passionate about ballet. And, of the 10,000 students around the US and the world competing at Semi-finals, only about 1,000 will be invited to the Finals in New York City in April. KCBS is hoping to again have students selected.
This year’s KC Semi-finals performances will be held at The Folly Theater, downtown and Kansas City Ballet School is the location for master classes. The latter is very exciting to Grace Holmes, KCBS School’s director: “These master classes bring kids into our facility that have likely never been here before. The Bolender Center is a world-class facility for dance, so that’s a great thing. An added benefit is that the students may have a chance to observe our Kansas City Ballet company dancers at work in rehearsals. These YAGP students are often the most talented students at their own schools, having them in our ‘home’ gives us a chance to woo them with all we have to offer in the way of our Summer Intensive and Trainee programs.”
Nye says: “This year it’s definitely a draw to be here in KC, our students will dance in performances from classical or contemporary solos, to classical or contemporary Pas de Deux (dance for two), to small or large ensembles. It’s a lot to coordinate and it starts in the fall.”
Nye manages a lot of details for the competition including making sure everyone is registered, assisting with music selection and editing, advising on costume selection, providing makeup tutorials, arranging coaches, and providing schedules the week of the competition.
“Once YAGP publishes the order of the performances, I sit down and create schedules for all of my students of where they need to be and when,” Nye says. “It’s time consuming, but it becomes our bible during those four days.”
When asked to describe what it’s like during the competition, Nye says: “It’s hectic and busy and crowded. You kind of feel rushed and then at other times you’re just waiting around. It’s 8:30 a.m. to 9:30 p.m. each day for me. I’ll be rehearsing kids and getting them to the stage and assisting with makeup or costume issues all day. I’m grateful when a parent hands me a sandwich or a coffee… otherwise I’d never know what time it was. The 12 hours goes by really fast for me.”
This year, since the competition happens locally, more students and coaches are able to participate without travel costs.
Holmes says: “I’m really excited to see the progress the students have made with different coaches. It will be interesting to see their influences. Every teacher provides something new, different strengths, different critiques… all working together to achieve better technique, musicality and artistry.”
The students, coaches, and parents have invested so much time and energy preparing for the Semi-finals. It’s time for the fun to begin with performances, master classes and meeting the other participating students from all over. In addition to these incredible experiences, each student receives a written evaluation of his/her performance(s) offering constructive critiques for ways to improve from the judges. Nye will read all of these evaluations to determine if they offer broader ways to improve class goals for the coming year. In this way everyone benefits from the process.
What drives Nye to take on so many students for this annual competition? “I like coaching,” Nye says. “And I REALLY like classical ballet! I enjoy providing the students with so much individual attention because ultimately it really helps their confidence.”
If you’d like to attend the performances for the competition at The Folly, tickets will be available at the door for $10 for each day. You can also support the students and the school by leaving a comment on this post.
Interested in learning more about the 2017 YAGP competition?
Enrollment has already begun for Kansas City Ballet School’s wide array of classes and camps for kids ages 2-18.
Summer is a great time to try ballet. The classes are 4 or 6-week sessions that meet 1-2 times a week. It’s a nice sample of what the fall and winter semesters bring. Summer camps meet four times in one week, with a performance during the final 15 minutes of class on the last day. Camp themes include Little Mermaid, Fairy Princess or Super Hero. Additional courses and workshops are available for ages 8-18.
“Our summer programs are a great way for children to spend the summer – physical and artistic activity combined,” KCB School Director Grace Holmes says. “Students who already dance can maintain and enhance their training, and those who have never danced before can try something new.”
If your child is interested in ballet, this is the chance to try it!
After auditioning during last year’s three-week summer intensive at the Dutch National Ballet Academy, Kansas City Ballet School Student Leah Reiter was invited to attend NBA year round. It is the only ballet school in The Netherlands affiliated with the internationally acclaimed Dutch National Ballet.
“I don’t think anyone in my family was prepared for me to move away at 15 years old,” former KCBS student Leah Reiter says.
Reiter, currently a student at NBA in The Netherlands, started ballet classes in Omaha, Neb., when she was 8 years old. At age 11 she moved to Kansas City and began attending Kansas City Ballet School.
Reiter says attending Kansas City Ballet School—a school she’d heard a lot of good things about while living in Omaha—is where her passion for ballet began.
“Of course I hope to make a career dancing! I think I knew from the start that it [ballet] is what I was meant to do. There was never really a moment when I thought about stopping,” Reiter says. “I wouldn’t be working as hard as I am or sacrificing the things I am if I just wanted to dance for fun. I feel so fortunate to have the possibility to do something I love so much for a living. That would be my ultimate reward for all the blood sweat and tears that I’m putting into this beautiful art form.”
She enjoys being able to channel all her stress from the day and all of her thoughts and feelings into class or rehearsal. Taking negative energy and putting it to good use, like a grand allegro combination has helped her achieve quite a bit of height at times. Finding the positivity wherever she can allows her to improve not only her state of mind but also her dancing.
A MAJOR CHANGE
Moving to Europe has affected her, of course. She talks about the obvious major changes like living so far from her family and friends but also the extreme rewards. She says the teachers and staff work with the academy and are all incredibly talented, along with the other students. Another huge factor that plays a part in the experience at the NBA is the amount of exposure she gets to other cultures. There are students from all corners of the world; including Italy, Japan, Switzerland, Canada, Spain, Australia, America, and of course, The Netherlands. She describes the learning atmosphere as quite inviting as well. “Because everyone has moved to a different country, we are all very supportive and welcoming of each other,” she says.
There are countless things she has learned as a dancer. Two of the most important things: how to stay humble and how to take care of herself.
Both are crucial for a healthy mind and body. Reiter quotes one of her best friends, Anna Hughlett. “When you walk into class, forget everything you might’ve been stressing about and focus on dancing. That’s the beauty of dance—it’s in the moment.” She thinks all dancers of all ages could learn something from this outlook. Another of her own would be: Looking at other dancers and wishing you looked like them is good in small amounts, but if you do it too much, it can get ugly. It’s a fantastic thing to have goals, but if you try to reach them in an unhealthy and neurotic way, it only hurts you,” Reiter says. “Be healthy!” Such wisdom beyond her years.
GREAT KCBS MEMORIES
As a KCBS student, Reiter had the opportunity to audition for Kansas City Ballet company performances as well. “I have been so fortunate to dance in some of Kansas City Ballet’s productions including: Todd Bolender’s Nutcracker, as well as Devon Carney’s Nutcracker, Victoria Morgan’s Cinderella, Septime Webre’s Alice (in wonderland), and Devon Carney’s The Sleeping Beauty. Being able to see behind the scenes what goes into making a company production so great is an amazing experience. Dancing alongside the gorgeous dancers of KCB is also very inspiring,” Reiter says.
Her absolute favorite part of dancing as a member of Kansas City Youth Ballet, the performing ensemble of the KCBS, was the performing. “It’s so rewarding to see everyone’s hard work pay off with an exciting performance. It’s also awesome to dance such fun choreography alongside some of your best friends,” Reiter says.
THE COMFORTS OF HOME
Being across the pond, it’s natural that Reiter would long for many of the comforts of home. “Of course I miss the obvious like my family, friends, and pets, but I also miss some very specific things,” Reiter says. “Spending hours in the many expansive parks of Kansas City, the amazing barbecue, and Bella Patina are just a few of the ones that come to my mind the quickest.”
She also misses her KCBS teachers Racheal Nye and Grace Holmes. “They have been there for me through this journey of becoming the best dancer I can be and I can’t thank them enough,” Reiter says.
She also craves the variety of classes the KCBS Academy’s Daytime Program offers. “I miss being able to really let go in an improv class or have a blast dancing with my friends in hip-hop. All the classes were a lot of fun, and the training is fantastic,” she says.
“KCBS helped me develop my style as a dancer, and it helped me get where I am today. I can’t thank them enough.”
With temperatures stuck below freezing in KC, what better time to begin auditions for Kansas City Ballet School’s 2018 Summer Intensive program. Nothing shakes off the chill like gearing up for summer!
Admission to Kansas City Ballet School Summer Intensive is by audition only. The five-week program is for students 11-22 years of age (females who have had a minimum of one school year of pointe work). Auditions kick off this Friday, Jan. 5 in Chicago and continue to 23 other cities throughout January and into February. Here is the complete list. KCBS will host two auditions: the first is on Saturday, Jan. 13 and the the second on Saturday, Feb. 24—the final audition.