Former KCB School Student Shines in Canada

Poppy Trettel as "Clara" in Kansas City Ballet's "The Nutcracker" in 2017.
Poppy Trettel as Clara in Kansas City Ballet’s “The Nutcracker” in 2017.

Poppy Trettel has been in love with ballet ever since her mom—a former KCBS dancer—signed her up for a class when she was 2 years old. Poppy trained at Kansas City Ballet School with hopes of becoming a professional dancer, or being cast in a dance movie. “My mom selected Kansas City Ballet School because she attended KCBS when she was young, and she wanted the best teachers for me. She also wanted a live pianist for my classes and great opportunities for me to perform,” Poppy said.

Now age 12, Poppy’s ballet star is quickly rising.

Poppy Trettel (11) and Grady George (12) in Bluebird Pas De Deux from The Sleeping Beauty. First Place winners in Pas De Deux YAGP 2017 Indianapolis, IN

YAGP OPENS A DOOR

One of the inaugural students in KCBS’s Daytime Program which started in 2016, Poppy has worked very hard on her clean classical ballet style and technique. She has participated and ranked in the Youth America Grand Prix competitions for the past few years. This past winter, she did so well she was offered a chance to attend Canada’s National Ballet School (NBS) summer intensive.

NBS is the top ballet company in Canada’s school which is comfortably in the upper echelon of worldwide status. Getting to know her over the summer, they saw her potential and invited her to attend for the school year. That meant making a big move to Canada and living in the school’s dormitory.

Happily, she wasn’t alone. Her former KCBS classmate and dance partner, Grady George, also attends NBS.

“We are SO proud of Poppy.  Her work ethic and grace have taken her so far in her young career,” says School Director Grace Holmes. “She has been able to fully embrace all of the training and support our faculty have given her, and has taken it to a whole new level. We look forward to seeing where her talent and hard work takes her!”

NUTCRACKER ROLES

Poppy Trettel (12) performs as Marie in Canada's National Ballet 2018 production of "The Nutcracker".
Poppy Trettel (12) performs as Marie in Canada’s National Ballet 2018 production of “The Nutcracker”.

In 2017, Poppy danced the role of “Clara” in Kansas City Ballet’s The Nutcracker along with two others. Of course she’d grown up dancing roles in The Nutcracker including Bunny, polichinelle, party scene and more.

This year, she was selected to be one of three girls dancing the role of “Marie” (similar to our “Clara”) in The National Ballet of Canada’s production of The Nutcracker Dec. 8-30 and was awarded opening night.

“Watching Poppy grow up while training under the skilled faculty of Kansas City Ballet Academy has been a very rewarding experience,” says KCB Artistic Director Devon Carney.

“Her participation in several of our productions over the years, especially as Clara in Kansas City Ballet’s The Nutcracker, has proven to be quite formative for her. It is not surprising that her advancement beyond her years is now being recognized by The National Ballet of Canada. I believe she has a great potential to go far in her future in the dance world. We wish her all the best.”

MORE PHOTOS

Poppy Trettel (12) as Marie in Canada's National Ballet 2018 production of "The Nutcracker".
Poppy Trettel (12) as Marie in Canada’s National Ballet 2018 production of “The Nutcracker”.
Poppy Trettel and Simo Atanasov performing a pas de deux at the 2018 YAGP Finals.
Poppy Trettel and Simo Atanasov performing a pas de deux at the 2018 YAGP Finals.
Poppy Trettel and Simo Atanasov performing a pas de deux at the 2018 YAGP Finals.
Poppy Trettel and Simo Atanasov performing a pas de deux at the 2018 YAGP Finals.
KCB School Marketing Ad from 2014-15 Season featuring a young Poppy Trettel. Photography by Brett Pruitt & East Market Studios.
KCB School Marketing Ad from 2014-15 Season featuring a young Poppy Trettel. Photography by Brett Pruitt & East Market Studios.
Poppy Trettel as Bunny in KC Ballet's "The Nutcracker" in 2014. Photography by Steve Wilson.
Poppy Trettel as Bunny in KC Ballet’s “The Nutcracker” in 2014. Photography by Steve Wilson.

PAST YOUTH AMERICA GRAND PRIX POSTS WITH POPPY TRETTEL

2018 YAGP NY Finals Results

2018 YAGP Results for KCBS

KC Hosts Youth American Grand Prix

KCBS Competes: 2017 YAGP Finals in NY

KC Ballet School has Historic Showing at Youth American Grand Prix

 

 

Student Profile: Joanna Marsh

Joanna Marsh (pictured front-right above) is an avid Kansas City Ballet School Studio Class Student as well as the author of Cantique, a novel following novice dancer Colette Larsen as she is thrust into the world of professional ballet.

What do you enjoy about ballet?

There are so many things I enjoy about ballet. I love how it combines art and athleticism—beauty and strength. I love the music itself and the creative energy and camaraderie that builds up in the studio. And I enjoy taking part in a tradition that has survived for so long; ballet has such a fascinating history.

The way I started as a teen was rather unconventional. Ballet wasn’t on my radar until I saw Robert Altman’s movie The Company. It opened my eyes to what ballet really is, and I was completely enthralled by it, though it never occurred to me to ask my parents for classes. Not long after that, I went to a party on a whim, and some friends there invited me to take a summer session with them at Legacy School of the Arts. Thanks to The Company, I was primed to accept the invitation, though I had no idea how important ballet would become to me.

What would you tell someone considering taking adult studio ballet classes?

I would tell them that it’s never too late to learn how to dance! And also to remember that it’s okay for adults to be beginners. Ballet is challenging, and it takes a while to catch on—just be patient with yourself. Keep things light, enjoy the music, and you will be surprised by how much you can progress. And don’t worry about other students watching you; we are all busy focusing on our own dancing!

In your book, Cantique, your main character begins taking ballet classes as an adult. According to your website you took ballet at 16 and then came back to it as an adult. What inspired you to return to ballet? 

I returned because I missed it terribly! My ballet training as a teen was very short–only about a year, which was long enough to fall in love with it. I gave it up for various reasons (none of which were very good) and always regretted that decision.

I continued to think about ballet quite often. After taking a couple of dance courses in college, I promised myself I would find some classes once I graduated. Eventually, I found KCB and knew that I wouldn’t let ballet go this time! That was over seven years ago.

How did you go about researching the book?

I didn’t need to do much research because I had already spent years immersing myself in ballet. I had a lot of experience to draw from. I did interview Taryn (Layne-Mulhern) Ouellette, one of my teachers, after my first draft was written. I wanted to gain a little insight from a teacher’s perspective to evaluate what I had already written into Marianne’s character. It was fun to hear about what drives Taryn’s love of ballet, and she is an excellent teacher for adult beginners.

Are there similarities between yourself and your main character Colette Larsen?

Colette and I definitely have some similarities. Obviously, our shared love of ballet is one. She and I are also both creative introverts who love our cats. Otherwise, we have completely different family lives and careers, and I’d like to think that I’m more confident and less neurotic than Colette can be sometimes! Oh, and I’m a terrible seamstress; you will never find me making my own dancewear.

In your book, you describe the Westmoreland Ballet, and it sounds a lot like Kansas City Ballet including the layout of the building. How much did you base this fictional company on KCB?

I actually tried to avoid basing Westmoreland on the Bolender Center, but I’m sure there are some similarities—the “little theater” studio being an obvious one. In the book, Westmoreland is described as a “sprawling, Prairie School building,” “rather plain,” and “subject to several half-hearted renovations.” This is not at all how I would describe the sleek and beautifully restored Bolender Center! Besides this brief passage, I intentionally left the descriptions and setting vague, so readers seem to picture whichever ballet school they are most familiar with.

As for the company itself—I wanted it to pass for any mid-sized, Midwestern ballet company. None of the characters in the book are based on actual KCB dancers or staff members.

The hardware store is called Tempe’s. We have a certain ballerina named Tempe Ostergren… coincidence?

Ha,ha! I knew someone would ask me about that one day! Honestly, it was not intentional, although her name was likely floating around in my subconscious at the time. (I finished the first draft in 2015, after I was a supernumerary in Giselle, so I had watched her perform several times.) In the book, the store is named after the original owner, Walter Tempe, but it didn’t take me long to realize the KCB connection. I decided to keep the name anyway. We can go ahead and say it’s a nod to Tempe Ostergren—she’s an incredible dancer!

Where did you get your inspiration for the plot of the ballet?

The plot of the ballet came straight out of Song of Solomon and its various interpretations. I basically read through the book and tried to imagine how Colette might structure a ballet from it. Originally, the music was going to be based on Milton’s Paradise Lost, and the plot of the novel was more about Colette searching through archives to discover the origin of the music. (I’m an archivist and mistakenly thought this was a good idea at the time.) Eventually, the novel morphed into a love story and Song of Solomon seemed like a better pairing.

Was there a piece of music you heard in class?

Not specifically. The first scene I wrote is the one where Colette hears a mysterious song in class during rond de jambe and closes her eyes, overcome by the beauty of the music. Her friend Sammy, who is watching her through the mirror, sees this and gently mocks Colette for being overly romantic. This scene just came to me in a flash one day in 2013, and I felt compelled to write it down. So, there was never one piece in class that inspired it. I will say that I’ve had similar moments during rond de jambe before, though. Probably to Chopin’s Waltz no. 7 in C-sharp minor. That one gets me every time!

How long did it take you to write Cantique?

I’d say at least two and a half years. I wrote sporadic scenes as early as 2013 but wrote the bulk of the manuscript in about six months during 2015. It took another year and a half of editing before I published in June 2017.

What was the biggest challenge?

The biggest challenge was releasing Cantique to the public. I’m a perfectionist and could have kept polishing it for another ten years before I’d let anyone else see it. But I needed it to be done. It’s still difficult knowing that it’s out there and people can interpret it however they want. Understandably, readers have a hard time separating me from the story, which can be a bit mortifying at times. I often have to remind people that it’s a work of fiction!

Tell me more about your blog? How did that come about? Where do you find your subjects to interview?

My blog was a way to connect with fellow dancers and readers. Thanks to Instagram, I realized that there is an ever-growing community of adult ballet students all over the world. I found this really fascinating and chose to interview a variety of people whose stories caught my attention. Adult beginners often feel out-of-place or even embarrassed about their interest in ballet; I wanted the blog to celebrate their efforts and to show people that they’re far from alone. Ballet can be for anyone.

Any plans for more books?

I would love to write more books. I promised my readers a sequel but am working on it at a snail’s pace. I work full time and dance 3-4 nights a week, so finding the time is a struggle!

Does your husband enjoy ballet?

He does! He is nowhere near as obsessed as I am, but he has taken class with me twice and enjoys watching performances. He is a musician and is very understanding of my need for time in the studio. If I’m having an off night and dragging my feet about going to class, he’ll tell me, “You’ll feel better if you go.” And he’s always right.

Top Photo by Brett Pruitt & East Market Studios

Cameron Thomas Benched

Kansas City Ballet company dancer Cameron Thomas started playing the piano around 6 or 7 years old. Encouraged by his parents, he took lessons until ninth grade and then continued studying music through school orchestra, music theory classes, and even independently.  Playing music has since evolved into a sort of hobby/passion project. In September, Kansas City Ballet Music Director Ramona Pansegrau hired him as a part-time accompanist for Kansas City Ballet School.

We asked Cameron about his experience on the piano bench and he had plenty to say.

Q: WHAT DO YOU ENJOY ABOUT PLAYING MUSIC?

A: It has always been something I do just for me without pressure or obligation.  Ballet is my passion for sure, but it is also a very demanding and often stressful job.  Don’t get me wrong—dance is well worth it, especially at a place like Kansas City Ballet, but it’s also nice to have music as both an escape and a means to make myself and others smile once in a while…  It’s fun!

Q: MUSIC AND DANCE JUST GO TOGETHER. DOES BEING TALENTED AT BOTH MAKE IT DIFFICULT TO FOCUS ON ONE OR THE OTHER?

A: If I were seriously pursuing music, it would be very difficult to balance it with ballet. Any discipline like ballet demands a fairly exclusive commitment at the professional level.  However, I was fortunate enough to build at least a decent understanding of music from a relatively early age, which has allowed me to more passively improve my own skills at the piano over a longer period of time. I have had stretches where I play often and see improvements, but also times when my workload demands I stop playing for a while. Over several years, I felt I had built a small repertoire of music I could use to play for ballet class, and our music director Ramona Pansegrau was kind enough to give me a shot. So far, so good.

Q: PLAYING PIANO FOR BALLET CLASS IS NOT AS EASY AS IT SOUNDS. WHAT HAS BEEN THE BIGGEST CHALLENGE FOR YOU? WHAT HAVE YOU ENJOYED MOST ABOUT PLAYING FOR CLASSES?

A: Playing for ballet class is definitely not easy for a number of reasons beyond just knowing how to play the piano. Coming from a background of ballet, my challenge is probably different than that of most accompanists.  Often, the challenging part for a pianist is identifying what the appropriate time signature, tempo, quality, duration, or phrasing of a piece of music should be so that it actually works with a given combination.  Of course, good accompanists do this easily, but I would imagine it is a steep learning curve for those who are new to the vocabulary and structure of a ballet class.  Conveniently for me, I am very familiar with ballet, so that part has come fairly easily!  My challenge is the opposite.  Finding new music or tailoring music I already know to fit the needs of ballet combinations was harder for me as I have far less repertoire than a professional pianist.  Also I’ll openly admit, I have some limitations with how well I can actually play difficult music.  Luckily I listen and learn from the best every single day in class! Ramona has also been very helpful in providing me resources to help me out.

Q: HOW DOES BEING A BALLET DANCER HELP WHEN PLAYING FOR BALLET CLASS?

A: Huge yes, as I said in the last answer.  It’s way easier to figure out what to play for a given combination when you know the dancer’s perspective.  I find I can often anticipate what exercise is coming next, what tempo is appropriate, or how to phrase the music much more easily because I’ve taken so many ballet classes as a dancer.

Q: WHEN YOU HEAR A GORGEOUS PIECE OF MUSIC, WHAT COMES FIRST FOR YOU, IMAGINING DANCING TO IT OR PLAYING IT?

A: That’s such an interesting question.  Definitely playing it, or at least listening to it in an active, constructive way. Though music is probably the single most significant inspiration for movement, I am usually just listening, not creating original movement.  Maybe that’s why I don’t have the choreographic bug.  Interpreting a choreographer’s vision of that music through movement is the really amazing part for me, but it is often the most challenging.  The way choreographers interpret music is often remarkably dissimilar from the way the music itself is written.  Sometimes it is challenging to hear more complicated music one way and have it set to movement in a contradictory way, but that is the case for all dancers.  Having a deep understanding of music really helps that process.

Q: FOR WHICH CLASSES DO YOU PLAY? HOW DO STUDENTS RESPOND WHEN THEY REALIZE YOU ARE A PROFESSIONAL COMPANY DANCER?

A: I play for our community engagement students from the R.O.A.D. (Reach out and Dance) program on Wednesdays and the adult beginner open class on Thursdays.  The R.O.A.D. kids are young (9-10 years old) so honestly they’re not always the most aware of the fact that I’m a professional dancer and what that might mean besides the fact that I dance a lot.  They do love the music though, it does not go unnoticed. The adults really enjoy it; they often ask about how I am doing or what the company is working on. They also know that I am relatively new to accompaniment as they are to ballet, and so it creates a light, fun environment.

Q: HAS ANYTHING SURPRISED YOU ABOUT PLAYING FOR CLASSES?

A: What’s most surprising is how gratifying it has been.  Sadly, and I am guilty of this as well, most professional dancers are so accustomed to live music in the classroom that it has become an expectation.  We are far more inclined to notice when there is either something wrong with the music being played or no live accompaniment at all.  That has not been my experience with my classes thus far.  In the classes I play, live accompaniment is a novelty.  They greet me with smiles and positive feedback, sometimes even between combinations. I am grateful to have the opportunity to play for them.

Q: IS THERE ANYTHING ELSE YOU’D LIKE TO SHARE ABOUT YOUR EXPERIENCES?

A: Live music makes ballet class of all skill levels better. If done well, it changes the entire dynamic of a room and can make the class infinitely more productive and enjoyable.  We are lucky to have it here at Kansas City Ballet and I am so excited to learn how to hopefully bring that to a classroom myself.

 

Top photo by Tom Styrkowicz and 53Tom, LLC.

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

KCB School 2018 Spring Performance

Pas de Deux Class students at the 2018 Spring Performance at the Kauffman Center. Photography by Brett Pruitt & East Market Studios.
Pas de Deux Class students at the 2018 Spring Performance at the Kauffman Center. Photography by Brett Pruitt & East Market Studios.

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!”

MORE EVENT PHOTOS

Level 2 students at the 2018 Spring Performance at the Kauffman Center. Photography by Brett Pruitt & East Market Studios.
Level 2 students at the 2018 Spring Performance at the Kauffman Center. Photography by Brett Pruitt & East Market Studios.
Level 3 students at the 2018 Spring Performance at the Kauffman Center. Photography by Brett Pruitt & East Market Studios.
Level 3 students at the 2018 Spring Performance at the Kauffman Center. Photography by Brett Pruitt & East Market Studios.
Daytime Program students at the 2018 Spring Performance at the Kauffman Center. Photography by Brett Pruitt & East Market Studios.
Daytime Program students at the 2018 Spring Performance at the Kauffman Center. Photography by Brett Pruitt & East Market Studios.
Kansas City Youth Ballet students at the 2018 Spring Performance at the Kauffman Center. Photography by Brett Pruitt & East Market Studios.
Kansas City Youth Ballet students at the 2018 Spring Performance at the Kauffman Center. Photography by Brett Pruitt & East Market Studios.
Level 7/8 students at the 2018 Spring Performance at the Kauffman Center. Photography by Brett Pruitt & East Market Studios.
Level 7/8 students at the 2018 Spring Performance at the Kauffman Center. Photography by Brett Pruitt & East Market Studios.
Level 6/7/8 students at the 2018 Spring Performance at the Kauffman Center. Photography by Brett Pruitt & East Market Studios.
Level 6/7/8 students at the 2018 Spring Performance at the Kauffman Center. Photography by Brett Pruitt & East Market Studios.
Level 6/7/8 students at the 2018 Spring Performance at the Kauffman Center. Photography by Brett Pruitt & East Market Studios.
Level 6/7/8 students at the 2018 Spring Performance at the Kauffman Center. Photography by Brett Pruitt & East Market Studios.
Mens' Class students at the 2018 Spring Performance at the Kauffman Center. Photography by Brett Pruitt & East Market Studios.
Mens’ Class students at the 2018 Spring Performance at the Kauffman Center. Photography by Brett Pruitt & East Market Studios.

2018 YAGP NY Finals Results

Poppie Trettle and Simo XXX performing a pas de deux from XXX.
Poppy Trettel and Simo Atanasov performing a pas de deux.

For the third year in a row, Kansas City Ballet School has traveled to New York for the Youth America Grand Prix Finals.

A group of KCBS students with YAGP Coordinator Racheal Nye and School Director Grace Holmes.
A group of KCBS students with YAGP Coordinator Racheal Nye and School Director Grace Holmes.

“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

Students warm up before their round of performances.
Students warm up before their round of performances.

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:

KCBS Teacher Profile: Racheal Nye

2018 YAGP Results for KCBS

KC Hosts Youth American Grand Prix

YAGP Competition This Weekend

KC Ballet School has Historic Showing at Youth American Grand Prix

 

2018 KCYB Rose Day Performance

Kansas City Youth Ballet Dancers
Kansas City Youth Ballet Dancers

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.

MORE PHOTOS

Kansas City Youth Ballet Dancers performing "Napoli"
Kansas City Youth Ballet Dancers performing “Napoli”
Kansas City Youth Ballet Dancers performing "Nurali from Fountain of Bakhchisarai"
Kansas City Youth Ballet Dancers performing “Nurali from Fountain of Bakhchisarai”
Kansas City Youth Ballet Dancers performing "Waltz of the Flowers"
Kansas City Youth Ballet Dancers performing “Waltz of the Flowers”
Rose Day 2018 Audiences
Rose Day 2018 Audiences

We Move With You Event June 30

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.

What is We Move with You?

“We Move with You” is a festival that will include visual art exhibits by Imagine That Gallery and The Whole Person and interactive visual activities by No Divide KC in the Ellis Conference room and in studios 2 and 3. Performances both with and without audience participation in the Frost Studio Theater. Performances will include works from Kansas City Ballet School’s Adaptive Dance demonstrations, The Whole Person, Jen Owen from Owen/Cox Dance and more.

“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.

Teacher Profile: Taryn Layne-Mulhern

Taryn Layne-Mulhern found her passion for dance early in life.

Finding Inspiration

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.

Taryn Layne-Mulhern gives corrections to a student. Photograph by Andrea Wilson
Taryn Layne-Mulhern gives corrections to a student. Photograph by Andrea Wilson

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.

2018 YAGP Results for KCBS

2018 YAGP: KCBS students and Racheal Nye prepare for their pieces.
2018 YAGP: KCBS students and Racheal Nye prepare for their pieces.

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.

KCBS HONORS

2018 YAGP: KCBS students on stage.
2018 YAGP: KCBS students on stage.

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).

KC SHINES

“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.

2018 YAGP: KCBS students prepare for their pieces.
2018 YAGP: KCBS students prepare for their pieces.

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.”

APPRECIATION

“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

Special Awards

Outstanding School: Kansas City Ballet School

 

1st Place Pas de Deux Category

2nd Place Ensemble: Coda from Esmeralda (Racheal Nye)

 

Pre-Competetive Category

Hope Award: Aurora Wessel (11)

 

Pre-Competitive Contemporary

Top 12: Penelope Guezuraga (11)

 

Pre-Competitive Classical

3rd Place: Penelope Guezuraga (11)

Top 12: Kathryn Benson (11)

 

JUNIOR CATEGORY

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)

 

Junior Contemporary

Top 12: Poppy Trettel (12)

 

SENIOR CATEGORY

Senior Classical

Top 12: Camryn Potts (17), Grace Reed (18), Hope Wampler (16), Timothy TV Cao (15)

Senior Contemporary

Top 12: Camryn Potts (17), Mina-Vasiliya Stoyanova (17), Timothy TV Cao (15)

 

Read previous post about the 2018 YAGP competition?

https://www.kcballet.org/kc-hosts-youth-american-grand-prix/

 

Interested in learning more about the 2017 YAGP competition?

https://www.kcballet.org/kcbs-competes-2017-yagp-finals-in-ny/

https://www.kcballet.org/yagp-competition-weekend/

 

Learn more about YAGP Coordinator Racheal Nye:

https://www.kcballet.org/school/faculty/#nye

https://www.kcballet.org/kcbs-teacher-profile-racheal-nye/