2018-19 Trainee Profile: Juliana Kuhn

2018-2019 KC Ballet Trainee and Second Company Member Julia Kuhn. Photography by Savanna Daniels.

Trainee and member of Kansas City Ballet’s Second CompanyJuliana Kuhn is from Lenexa, Kan. This is her first year with Kansas City Ballet’s Second Company.

Q: TELL US WHY YOU BECAME A DANCEr.

A: At first it was my mom taking me to ballet classes. But once I began to understand the incredible athleticism and the beauty in dance, I knew there was nothing else I would rather do. I love being able to express myself and grow in artistry while pushing the limit of what my body can do.

Juliana Kuhn (pictured third from left) dances during the snow scene in "The Nutcracker" (2018). Photo by Elizabeth Stehling.
Juliana Kuhn (pictured third from left) dances during the snow scene in “The Nutcracker” (2018). Photo by Elizabeth Stehling.

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

A: I love hanging out with my friends but I also love to read. It is such a good way to keep my brain engaged and I just love being sucked into another world found in a good book.

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

A: I had the opportunity to visit Japan last summer (2017). It was amazing and definitely a highlight of my life so far.

Q: WHAT DO YOU LOVE MOST ABOUT BALLET?

A: I love how meticulous and expressive it is. How you can say so much with such delicate and beautiful movement. I also love how it can affect people in such unique and diverse yet equally beautiful ways.

Q: WHAT WAS THE BEST ADVICE YOU EVER RECEIVED?

A: I think just to be present, in dancing and life. Often as dancers we go on autopilot and are always dreaming of the next goal. So it really struck me when I was told to always be present for the journey because otherwise you miss out on so much of the unexpected good.

 

Top Photo by Savanna Daniels.

2018-19 Trainee Profile: Grace Reed

2018-2019 KC Ballet Trainee and Second Company Member Grace Reed. Photography by Savanna Daniels.

Trainee and member of Kansas City Ballet’s Second CompanyGrace Reed was born in New Mexico but grew up in Texas and Kansas City. She was invited to become a KCB Trainee while attending Kansas City Ballet School. 

Q: TELL US WHY YOU BECAME A DANCEr.

A: Growing up, my brother (who now has a major in Piano Performance) was constantly practicing his piano pieces. You could always find me dancing around behind him as he played. Because my mom saw how inspired I was by my brother’s music, she decided to enroll me in ballet classes. Since then, I am still finding inspiration to dance.

Trainee Grace Reed front left with Kansas City Ballet Dancer Courtney Nitting front right in "The Nutcracker". Photography: Brett Pruitt & East Market Studios.
Trainee Grace Reed front left with Kansas City Ballet Dancer Courtney Nitting front right in “The Nutcracker”. Photography: Brett Pruitt & East Market Studios.

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

A: When I am not dancing, I love to spend my time reading, knitting, exploring nature, or watching movies with my family. I love getting to dance, but sometimes you have to do “normal people” things to help you enrich what you get to do in the studio.

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

A: A current FBI agent once recommended that I look into pursing a career as an agent after viewing my marksmanship at the shooting range.

Q: WHAT DO YOU LOVE MOST ABOUT BALLET?

A: I always find new things to enjoy about ballet, even if I have seen a certain piece a hundred times. Ballet itself is always challenging me to accomplish things I never thought I could.

Q: WHAT WAS THE BEST ADVICE YOU EVER RECEIVED?

A: The best dancing advice I have ever received is from one of my teachers, Claudio Munoz. He once told me to “Dance like you’re wearing a Versace or Oscar de la Renta gown.” Because I love looking at gowns from those designers, it immediately made sense to me how I should carry myself during the certain piece he was coaching me on at the time. Since then, I have reminded myself of those words whenever I have felt unsure of myself while dancing.

 

Top Photo by Savanna Daniels.

2018-19 Dancer Profile: Taryn Mejia

Kansas City native, Taryn Mejia, began taking lessons at Kansas City Ballet School at age 3. She studied ballet at KCBS and The School of American Ballet before joining New York City Ballet. She joined Kansas City Ballet in 2012

Q: WHY DID YOU BECOME A DANCER?

A: I was always dancing around my house as a kid.

JCCC’s New Dance Partners September 2017 – Kansas City Ballet performing “The Uneven” choreographed by Matthew Neenan. Photo, Copyright 2017 Mike Strong, kcdance.com with full usage permissions for the companies and dancers

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

A: My foam roller. So many little aches and pains are from tight muscles that can be easily rolled out.

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

A: I took six years off dancing to go to college and have children.

Q: WHAT DO YOU LIKE TO DO WHEN YOU ARE NOT DANCING?

A: I like to go on outings with my children. We love Science City, Deanna Rose Farmstead, Powell Gardens, the Kansas City Zoo, The Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art, and Kaleidoscope to name a few. There is so much to do in this city and it’s a way to connect with my kids and the community.

 

Top Photo by Brett Pruitt & East Market Studios

2018-19 Dancer Profile: Emily Mistretta

Kansas City Ballet Dancer, Emily Mistretta, joined the company in 2016. She is thrilled to debut as the ravishing courtesan, Marguerite, in Val Caniparoli’s Lady of the Camellias Feb. 15-24, 2019 at the Kauffman Center for the Performing Arts.

Dancers: Emily Mistretta & Lamin Pereira dos Santos. Photography: Kenny Johnson.
Dancers: Emily Mistretta & Lamin Pereira dos Santos. Photography: Kenny Johnson.

Q: WHAT WERE YOU FEELING/THINKING WHEN YOU FOUND OUT YOU’D BE DANCING THE ROLE OF MARGUERITE? 

A: I was so excited  when I heard I was being considered for the role of Marguerite. I performed in Val Caniparoli’s Lady of the Camellias when I was still dancing with Boston Ballet and fell in love with the ballet and especially her character. I would watch every night from the wings the end scene of Marguerite in her room alone. It’s so transporting.

Q: WHAT ARE YOU MOST LOOKING FORWARD TO WITH REGARDS TO LADY OF THE CAMELLIAS?

A: I’m most looking forward to the acting aspect of the ballet. I have always loved the side of ballet that tells a story and lets you really become somebody or something else. It’s exciting getting into her character and persona, trying to find the different layers of her and attempting to portray that to the audience.

Dancers Emily Mistretta and Lamin Pereira dos Santos. Photography by Elizabeth Stehling.
Dancers Emily Mistretta and Lamin Pereira dos Santos. Photography by Elizabeth Stehling.

Q: HAVE YOU EVER DANCED IN ANY OF vAL cANIPAROLI’S BALLETS?

A: I danced in Val Caniparoli’s The Lottery during my first season with KCB. I played the role of Mrs. Summers who struggles to go against the grain of the rest of society. It was a somewhat dark ballet to dance. I really enjoyed that intensity.

Q: WHAT DO YOU ENJOY MOST ABOUT REHEARSALS?

A: I enjoy the work itself. Getting into the gritty details and figuring out what works best for me. It’s a discussion and a discovery that kind of unfolds. I kind of have to go through the muck and figure it out, but when I do it feels so rewarding.

 

Top Photo by Brett Pruitt & East Market Studios

2018-19 Dancer Profile: Lamin Pereira dos Santos

Kansas City Ballet Dancer, Lamin Pereira dos Santos, joined the company in 2014. Since then, he’s performed a number of principal roles in ballets from Albrecht in Giselle to Prince Desire in The Sleeping Beauty. This will be his second time performing in a ballet by choreographer Val Caniparoli. In 2017, he performed in Caniparoli’s The Lottery, based Shirley Jackson’s short story by the same name. He is thrilled to debut as Armand in this production of Lady of the Camellias Feb. 15-24, 2019 at the Kauffman Center for the Performing Arts.

Q: WHAT ARE YOU MOST LOOKING FORWARD TO WITH REGARDS TO LADY OF THE CAMELLIAS?

A: I am definitely looking forward to performing this beautiful ballet with the most amazing piece of music composed by Chopin. Really, it’s a dream come true and I could not ask for better.

After being a super in ABT’s Lady of The Camellias back in 2010 and being fortunate enough to watch the company rehearsals performed by super stars Julie Kent, Marcelo Gomes, Roberto Bolle and Diana Vishneva in the principal roles of Marguerite and Armand I completely fell in love with the ballet and its story. But overall the acting and drama play a big part in it. And that’s why I love it so much.

During those rehearsals I witnessed so much emotion, love, drama and sadness. It helped me see ballet in a different way. At the end of rehearsals fellow dancers were in tears because the were touched by what they saw and felt. Right away I wanted to do the same and touch people’s heart and inspire them.

Dancers Emily Mistretta and Lamin Pereira dos Santos. Photography by Elizabeth Stehling.
Dancers Emily Mistretta and Lamin Pereira dos Santos. Photography by Elizabeth Stehling.

Q: HOW WILL THIS ROLE STRETCH YOU AND HELP YOU GROW AS A DANCER? 

A: This role will help me grow in many different ways. This time the challenge is a bit different and it goes beyond pirouettes and double tours. We all have technique, we all can do those things. But can you do that and act at the same time? I am so looking forward to performing a role different from the ones in classical ballet.

Q: HOW DO YOU GET INTO CHARACTER FOR THESE PRINCIPAL ROLES?

A: I get into character for these principals roles by listening to what the stager is passing on to me throughout the rehearsal process. I also do my own research by watching videos of dancers that I look up to and by recording my rehearsals whenever is possible so I can look for mistakes and for details that can add to telling the story perfectly. Finding the right resource is crucial to expending my knowledge.

Q: WHAT GOES THROUGH YOUR HEAD WHEN YOU ARE PARTNERING?

A: To be honest, I think about what is happening exactly at that moment in the drama. It helps to not think about what’s going to come up next in the ballet such as the next scene or next act. It will all happen naturally.

Dancers Emily Mistretta & Lamin Pereira dos Santos. Photography: Kenny Johnson.
Dancers Emily Mistretta & Lamin Pereira dos Santos. Photography: Kenny Johnson.

Q: WHAT HAVE YOU DONE OUTSIDE OF THE STUDIO TO PREPARE FOR THIS ROLE?

A: As part of my physical training for this role, I am at the gym at 6:00 a.m. for a workout designed to improve my strength and stamina. When the show opens, I’ll perform a ten-minute pas de deux with lots of lifts, so I have added more to my routine in the gym to prepare. A lot of times people don’t realize what it takes to be a male ballet dancer and make everything look graceful, effortless and lift ballerinas over our heads.

Q: WHAT NEEDS TO HAPPEN FOR YOU TO BE SATISFIED WITH YOUR PERFORMANCE?

A: It is hard to be completely satisfied because every performance will be different. It’s never going to be perfect every time! But going on stage with confidence, commitment and passion will make me satisfied. You just have to embrace the role 100% for sure and let your experience and artistry take over the stage and the moment. Everything will fall into the right place.

 

Top Photo by Brett Pruitt & East Market Studios

2018-19 KCB II Dancer Profile: Divya Rea

Divya Rea is in her second season as a member of KCB II, part of Kansas City Ballet’s Second Company.  Originally from Wheaton, Ill., Divya has enjoyed getting to know KC. When she’s not in the ballet studio, you might find her at the River Market shopping for produce or perusing art during First Fridays.

Q: TELL US WHY YOU BECAME A DANCEr.

A: When I was three years old, my mom enrolled me in a beginner’s ballet class. I loved (and still love) the freedom of dancing. I am able to express emotions I otherwise couldn’t describe, and in the studio, I can escape my worries and focus solely on my craft.

Q: WHAT DO YOU LIKE TO DO WHEN YOU ARE NOT DANCING? 

A: When I have free time, I enjoy playing the piano, writing, or watching TV—essentially anything relaxing after a day of rehearsals! On the weekends, I enjoy walking around Kansas City. I’ve happened upon multiple festivals and fairs by simply taking a walk.

From 2017-18 as KCB II members, dancers Divya Rea and Angelin Carrant. Photography by Brett Pruitt & East Market Studios.
From 2017-18 as KCB II members, dancers Divya Rea and Angelin Carrant. Photography by Brett Pruitt & East Market Studios.

Q: WHAT QUESTION DO YOU GET ASKED MOST ABOUT YOUR JOB AS A DANCER?

A: I often get asked how I stand on my toes, and I always say practice. Every day I work on perfecting my technique and gaining strength. Ballet is not easy, but through repetition and rehearsal it becomes easier.

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

A: Cross-training is important to me. Outside the studio, I alternate my workouts. Some days I elliptical or power walk, other days I lift weights. I incorporate Pilates to lengthen my muscles. I also cook often. I love trying new, healthy recipes.

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

A: One of my first ballet teachers would always remind me that everything is “90% mental.” While that exact percentage may vary, this phrase has shaped my attitude in life. Before I approach a challenge, I must believe it is possible.

 

Top Photo by Brett Pruitt & East Market Studios

2018-19 Dancer Profile: Amaya Rodriguez

Kansas City Ballet Dancer, Amaya Rodriguez, joined the company in 2015. She is originally from Cuba and danced with National Ballet of Cuba under Alicia Alonso. She’s made Kansas City her home.

Q: TELL US WHY YOU BECAME A DANCEr.

A: I began to study ballet after the first time I saw Swan Lake. I was struck by so much beauty. From that moment, I knew dancing would be my future.

Q: WHAT DO YOU LIKE TO DO WHEN YOU ARE NOT DANCING? 

A: I like to do different things like reading a book, studying to learn new things, listening to music and cooking. This way I can relax after a long and exhausting day of work as a dancer.

KC Ballet Dancer Amaya Rodriguez with Company Dancers. Photography: Brett Pruitt & East Market Studios.
KC Ballet Dancer Amaya Rodriguez with Company Dancers. Photography: Brett Pruitt & East Market Studios.

Q: WHAT IS YOUR GUILTY PLEASURE?

A: I like to sing when I’m at home and pretend I’m very famous singer. I can believe it 100%.

Q: WHAT DO YOU LOVE MOST ABOUT BALLET?

A: I love the passion that has developed in me since I was a child. I love the pleasure I feel when I hear the applause of the audience when I finish a performance and especially that I am able to give my all daily despite the fatigue that my body may feel. When I hear the music and think about the choreography, it makes me forget everything and surrender to the magic of my career … dance.

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

A: As long as you know what you want, you can achieve anything. Effort and discipline will be your best allies.

 

Top Photo by Brett Pruitt & East Market Studios

2018-19 Trainee Profile: Leah Upchurch

2018-2019 KC Ballet Trainee and Second Company Member Leah Upchurch. Photography by Savanna Daniels.
 

Trainee and member of Kansas City Ballet’s Second CompanyLeah Upchurch grew up in Virginia Beach, Va.

Q: TELL US WHY YOU BECAME A DANCEr.

A: I became a dancer because I’ve always loved to perform. I’ve always felt invincible when I was on stage whether I was a character telling a story or dancing as myself for a piece.

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

A: I like to write (observations, thoughts, ideas, dreams, etc.). I find it very therapeutic and easier to express how I feel rather than talking (hence why I dance).

Leah Church (pictured center) dances during the snow scene in "The Nutcracker" (2018). Photo by Elizabeth Stehling.
Leah Church (pictured center) dances during the snow scene in “The Nutcracker” (2018). Photo by Elizabeth Stehling.

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

A: I’m OBSESSED with spicy food, the hotter, the better. Just the extra flavor with a kick makes food that much more delicious!

Q: WHAT DO YOU LOVE MOST ABOUT BALLET?

A: I honestly love how hard it is; not a lot of people dance ballet because of how particular and precise it is and I truly think it takes someone who is driven, passionate, and disciplined to be successful in the art form.

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

A: The best life advice I’ve ever received was that you’re not going to be able to please everyone; it stuck with me because I could never understand why I could be working just as hard as the person next to me but would never get recognition as the other girl would. I learned that not everyone will favor you or your dancing.

 

Top Photo by Savanna Daniels.

2018-2019 Dancer Profile: Javier Morales

Javier Morales joined Kansas City Ballet in 2017. He’s originally from Pinar del Río, Cuba. 

Q: TELL US WHY YOU BECAME A DANCEr.

A: For pure fun until I realized I was good at dancing.

Q: WHAT IS IT LIKE TO BE A PROFESSIONAL DANCER? 

A: Now looking back and after having traveled to 18 countries and having danced in more than 200 theaters around the world including many that were prestigious, I can say it is a great experience to participate in a community that brings everyone closer to the most noble and probably ancient art of humanity. The Dance.

Kansas City Ballet Dancers Austin Meiteen and Javier Morales. Photography: Brett Pruitt & East Market Studios.
Kansas City Ballet Dancers Austin Meiteen and Javier Morales. Photography: Brett Pruitt & East Market Studios.

Q: WHAT QUESTION DO YOU GET ASKED MOST ABOUT YOUR JOB AS A DANCER?

A: What they ask the most is whether the work in the ballet is hard. What some do not know is that not only is it hard, but dancers have the highest standards in terms of training, almost at the level, and in some cases more, than many high-risk sports.

Q: WHAT DO YOU LIKE TO DO WHEN YOU ARE NOT DANCING?

A: I write and read since I am conscious with the hope of one day publishing my stories. I am fascinated to investigate the evolution of human consciousness in all its aspects and it is amazing to observe how nothing has changed for a long time.

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

A: There is no magic trick. Go for it and work hard. Learn how to learn. Give up your ego and arrogance that will only lead you to a world of loneliness. Be humble without you coming to pretend

 

Top Photo by Brett Pruitt & East Market Studios.

2018-19 KCB II Profile: Austin Meiteen

KCB II dancer and member of Kansas City Ballet’s Second CompanyAustin Meiteen is from Austin, Tex. He joined Kansas City Ballet last season as a Trainee. Depending on the cast of each show, he performs as the dancing bear, a Trepak, Mother Ginger and more during performances of The Nutcracker through Dec. 23, 2018.

Kansas City Ballet Dancers Austin Meiteen, Javier Morales, and Angelin Carrant. Photography: Brett Pruitt & East Market Studios.
Kansas City Ballet Dancers Austin Meiteen, Javier Morales, and Angelin Carrant. Photography: Brett Pruitt & East Market Studios.

Q: TELL US WHY YOU BECAME A DANCEr.

A: My older sister started dance when we were younger, and for car pool reasons, it was just easiest to take me to the studio with her when she had class. They saw me dancing around the waiting room and asked if I wanted to join classes too. I haven’t stopped since.

Q: WHAT QUESTION DO YOU GET ASKED MOST ABOUT BEING A DANCER? 

A: “Can you do the splits?” And then, depending on how sore I am or what pants I’m wearing, I usually drop and show them.

Q: WHAT IS IT LIKE TO BE DANCING IN PROFESSIONAL COMPANY PERFORMANCES?

A: Kind of surreal. It’s something you work for for so long, and then one day it just happens. It never feels possible to stop growing within a performance either. I want everything to be of the best of its ability for every performance, for every new crowd. Knowing now that people are paying to see me makes me want to be that much more.

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

A: My family had four dogs and two sugar gliders when I was growing up. Animals are highly valued to me.

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

A: Never be afraid to want more.

 

Top Photo by Brett Pruitt & East Market Studios.