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.

2018-19 Trainee Profile: Sidney Haefs

2018-2019 KC Ballet Trainee and Second Company Member Sidney Haefs. Photography by Savanna Daniels.

Trainee and member of Kansas City Ballet’s Second CompanySidney Haefs grew up in Santa Clarita, Calif. Sidney is a graduate of the University of Utah School of Dance where, in three years, she earned a B.F.A. in Ballet as well as a minor in Human Development and Family Studies. She performs as a snowflake, a flower and more during The Nutcracker performances through Dec. 23, 2018.

Q: TELL US WHY YOU BECAME A DANCEr.

A: I started dancing when I was 3 ½ years old and then moved on to ice-skating! After a few years of skating, my mother, who had studied ballet through her young adult years, thought it best to transition me towards that path. At first I didn’t really enjoy it. I continued with it because I felt like there was something keeping me connected to the art form. After a while I started to enjoy the structure and self-discipline required to strengthen ones technique. After getting to perform in many productions with my home studio, I fell in love with how, as dancers, we are able to tell a story through movement. Then, when I attended Boston Ballet’s Summer Dance Program, I knew I wanted to pursue dance as a professional career!

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

A: I think the most common questions I get asked are: “Are your feet really ugly?” and “Doesn’t it hurt to dance on your toes?” Everyone always wants to see how my feet are holding up! I usually end up explaining how my toes have become so accustomed to the discomfort that after so long, pointe shoes just feel normal. It just takes time to find what works for you when it comes to the correct padding!

Q: WHAT IS YOUR GUILTY PLEASURE?

A: Vanilla milkshakes seem to be my go to! These are definitely not that great for you, but they always seem to make me feel better.

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

A: Some of the ways that I cross train outside of the studio would be Pilates, cycling, and weight training! I try to stick with these modes of exercise because I really enjoy them which, in turn, keeps me motivated to actually do them after dancing so many hours a day!

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

A: One of my professors at the University of Utah told me to never let a bad performance get you down. I had fallen during a show and it was really devastating. You put in so much work to prepare for performances and the hardest part about live theatre is that anything can happen. She explained to me that I couldn’t let that moment onstage affect my work in the classes or rehearsals that followed. I just needed to pick my self up and keep moving forward. This was great advice because it really showed me that there is something to learn from both success and failure and without those experiences we cannot continue to grow as dancers and artists.

 

Top Photo by Savanna Daniels.

2018-19 Dancer Profile: Lilliana Hagerman

Lilliana Hagerman was born in Pordenone, Italy, and started dancing at the age of 6. She joined Kansas City Ballet in 2014 as a member of KCB II and climbed the ranks from there. She will dance the role of the “Sugar Plum Fairy” along with her husband Lamin Pereira dos Santos as “Her Cavalier” Dec. 9th at 5 p.m. and Dec. 16th at 1 p.m.

Kansas City Ballet Dancers Lilliana Hagerman and Lamin Pereira dos Santos rehearse the Sugar Plum Fairy and her Cavalier for The Nutcracker. Photo by Elizabeth Stehling.
Kansas City Ballet Dancers Lilliana Hagerman and Lamin Pereira dos Santos rehearse the Sugar Plum Fairy and her Cavalier for The Nutcracker. Photo by Elizabeth Stehling.

Q: TELL US WHY YOU BECAME A DANCEr.

A: When I was young and before I even knew what ballet or dance was, I used to “dance” around the house all the time my parents told me. So, when we moved to the States my parents enrolled me in ballet class. The rest is history.

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

A: I love swimming. It’s the only other kind of work out besides dancing that I find fun.

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

A: I was born in Italy because both of my parents were in the military and I lived there for four years.

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

A: It’s surreal. Not many people can say their dream came true, but I can and that is something I am thankful for everyday.

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

A: To always stay humble. If you get to the top by stepping on other people, it’s because you couldn’t do it with your own talent. So, it’s not worth it.

PAST PROFILES

Dancer Profile: Lilliana Hagerman

Top Photo by Brett Pruitt & East Market Studios

2018-19 KCBII Dancer Profile: Wojciech Ogloza

Wojciech Ogloza is originally from Ridgefest, California. He started dancing at age 15. This is his first season dancing with KCB II, part of Kansas City Ballet’s Second Company.

Q: TELL US WHY YOU BECAME A DANCEr.

A: I started out dancing because a studio needed assistance with some performances. After I experienced life on stage, I found a love for inspiring and invoking a change of emotion from an audience. I wanted to fly and have others feel something they haven’t ever felt while watching a ballet. It’s a hard goal to see progress in, but when you do, it’s the most rewarding part of the job.

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

A: To be honest, what I love to do more than anything is to just get away from people. It sounds terrible but just being on a walk alone in the wilderness is amazing, or being with friends and family. We have to be around so many people on a day-to-day basis in our work environment, so getting away from it every now and again can be very pleasant. Just enjoying some good old-fashioned TLC.

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

A: I guess something that people figure out over time from me is that I come from a pretty large family. I have five blood brothers, and a bunch more we kinda took in over time. (Family friends have been with us so long they are now brothers.) In total it’s six boys from mom and dad, and a couple more adopted. Out of all of us, only two of us ever sought out to do ballet. So far it’s been quite a ride.

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

A: Being a professional dancer isn’t all sunshine and rainbows, it is a lot of hard work and a lot of time, sweat and blood put into an art form. While it might seem very glamorous from an onlooking perspective, it is one of the most challenging adventures one person can embark on. In a professional environment, you’ll meet amazing people and have wonderful opportunities. The hard part about it is getting past all of the bumps in the road that come with being a dancer. We work long days all week, and you are always striving to be better in a professional environment.

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

A: The best tips I ever got about my career would be from two teachers at PNB. Both had some pretty influential things to say. One said you need to train and work on yourself so much that you know you can sell it for what you’re worth. The other teacher told me that no matter what happens, try and carry as much positive energy with you as you can. You’ll need it for later in your career. The reason this was so influential was that it made me realize how I needed to do things instead of letting things happen on a whim.

 

Top Photo by Brett Pruitt & East Market Studios

2018-19 Dancer Profile: Nicholas Keeperman

In his first season with Kansas City Ballet, meet Company Apprentice, Nicholas Keeperman. This Illinois native is getting to know KC.

Q: TELL US WHY YOU BeCAME A DANCEr.

A: I got started by watching my sister dancing in the studio when I was little. I was attracted to how hard it was and enchanted by the feeling of performing.

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

A: I like to relax and read books and unwind from the day as best I can. I feel it is important to get a clear head space before everyday at work.

KC Ballet Dancers in the recent "The Wizard of Oz". Nicholas Keeperman on the far left. Photography by Brett Pruitt & East Market Studios.
KC Ballet Dancers in the recent “The Wizard of Oz”. Nicholas Keeperman on the far left. Photography by Brett Pruitt & East Market Studios.

Q: WHAT WOULD MOST PEOPLE NOT KNOW ABOUT YOU?

A: I’m very good at puzzles and I have three older siblings and have lived away from home since I was 13.

Q: WHAT IS YOUR FAVORITE STRETCH?

A: I love rolling out my muscles before class. It’s important for me to stay loose for my dancing.

Q: WHAT IS THE BEST DANCING ADVICE YOU RECEIVED AND WHY?

A: To keep my head up and never doubt myself. It’s important to believe in yourself because you’re the only person that can decide your future.

 

Top Photo by Brett Pruitt & East Market Studios

2018-19 Dancer Profile: Angelin Carrant

Originally from Paris, meet Company Apprentice, Angelin Carrant. Angelin danced with KCB II last season but this is his first season as a member of Kansas City Ballet.

Q: TELL US WHY YOU BECAME A DANCEr.

A: My mother actually made me take my first few ballet classes. I started to really enjoy it when I took classes with more male dancers. From then on I knew I wanted to be a ballet dancer.

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 DO YOU LIKE TO DO WHEN YOU ARE NOT DANCING? 

A: I like to relax and listen to music. Music is a little therapeutic for me, or I’ll play video games.

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

A: That I’m French and Taiwanese.

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

A: It’s pretty incredible. This is my first year as an actual ballet dancer in a company and I’m thrilled to be able to call myself a professional dancer.

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

A: Some of the best advice I’ve gotten is to simply breath and relax a little. I’m very uptight and stiff when I dance.

PAST PROFILE

KCB II Profile: Angelin Carrant

 

Top Photo by Brett Pruitt & East Market Studios

2018-19 Dancer Profile: Christopher Costantini

Originally from Milan, Italy, and now in his fifth season with Kansas City Ballet, meet Company Dancer, Christopher Costantini.

Q: TELL US WHY YOU BECAME A DANCEr.

A: My mom, having always been a huge fan of the ballet, introduced me to dance when I was very young. Growing up in Milan, I would regularly go to performances at La Scala, one of the premier opera houses in Europe. One of my first memories of ballet was watching a performance of Cinderella with Alessandra Ferri in the title role.

It took quite a bit of prodding on my mom’s part for me to finally agree to take a ballet class. I instantly fell in love with it: the discipline and the physical progress you can see when improving your technique. Most of all, I enjoyed being able to assume a character on stage. The opportunity to express my ebullient personality on stage is magical. I quickly realized that ballet was a calling and I did everything to make my aspirations of a professional career a reality.

KC Ballet Dancers Amaya Rodriguez and Christopher Costantini. Photography by Elizabeth Stehling.
KC Ballet Dancers Amaya Rodriguez and Christopher Costantini. Photography by Elizabeth Stehling.

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

A: Most people ask how often we rehearse for performance. They are almost universally shocked to find out that the we have a full 9:15 a.m.-6:00 p.m. work schedule. More impressive to them is that we are pushing our bodies to their physical limits for 40+ hours per week.

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

A: I have a passionate love for reading. It’s hard to find time to do so during the season (I usually spend my commute and free time keeping up with my favorite podcasts), but I indulge over the summer months. I usually spend the summer with five or six good books. Over the past summer I read a fantastic four-part biography series on Lyndon Johnson by Robert Caro that I highly recommend.

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

A: It’s absolutely fantastic. You’re sharing a storied art form with the public and hopefully instilling an appreciation for ballet and creativity more generally. It’s particularly special for me when we perform student matinees. The theatre is filled with excited school children and their energy is infectious. They are the most genuine in their reactions to our performance and it’s poignant that the future of our art form is being cultivated in that audience.

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

A: “Just say yes.” I think my parents instilled that in me. If an opportunity presents itself, don’t hem and haw too much. Say yes and make it work. Over the long run, that will build up the depth of experience you have and serve you well.

PAST PROFILE

KCB Dancer Profile: Christopher Costantini

Top Photo by Brett Pruitt & East Market Studios

2018-19 Dancer Profile: Kaleena Burks

Meet Kansas City Ballet Company Dancer, Kaleena Burks. She’s danced with KCB since the 2010-11 season and recently danced the role of Glinda the Good Witch 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.

A: My mother put me in ballet classes when I was young, and I fell in love with dance from there.

KC Ballet Dancers Kaleena Burks and Amanda DeVenuta. Photography by Brett Pruitt & East Market Studios.
KC Ballet Dancers Kaleena Burks and Amanda DeVenuta. Photography by Brett Pruitt & East Market Studios.

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

A: When I’m not dancing I very much enjoy relaxing at home and reading a good book.

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

A: Most people probably don’t know that I’m an avid crocheter.

Q: WHAT IS YOUR FAVORITE SNACK?

A: My go to snack while dancing will always be a banana. It’s the perfect food to nourish you and give you energy.

Q: WHAT IS THE BEST DANCING ADVICE YOU RECEIVED AND WHY?

A: Someone once told me when I was having a bad day, “Kaleena, everyday can’t be Christmas.” That has really stuck with me throughout my career. As much as we all want to be at our best every single day, sometimes our body fights against us. The key to being a successful ballerina is learning how to make the days special and worthwhile that aren’t Christmas.

PAST PROFILE POSTS

Dancer Profile: Kaleena Burks

Dancer Spotlight: Kaleena Burks

 

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.

2018-19 Trainee Dancer Profile: Jeremy Hanson

Meet Kansas City Ballet Trainee and Second Company Dancer, Jeremy Hanson. Jeremy attended Kansas City Ballet School and graduated last spring. He was offered a position as a Trainee for the 2018-19 Season. Trainees and KCB II Dancers make up Kansas City Ballet’s Second Company.

Jeremy is the puppeteer for Toto in Kansas City Ballet’s performances of The Wizard of Oz at the Kauffman Center now through Sunday, Oct. 21st.

Q: TELL US WHY YOU BeCAME A DANCEr.

A: My mom is the owner of my dance studio back home, so naturally, she made me take a variety of dance classes from a very young age. At first I hated the idea of dancing to the point where she had to bribe me with snacks if I was able to complete a full dance class, but eventually, my passion and love for the art form grew into what it is today.

Company Dancer Amanda DeVenuta and Second Company Dancer Jeremy Hanson in The Wizard of Oz. Photography by Brett Pruitt & East Market Studios.
Company Dancer Amanda DeVenuta and Second Company Dancer Jeremy Hanson in The Wizard of Oz. Photography by Brett Pruitt & East Market Studios.

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

A: I love taking photos and videos and especially love editing them and making them into something that shows off my creativity. It’s another way I love to express myself and try to do it as often as I can when I’m not dancing.

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

A: The umbilical cord was wrapped around my neck twice when I was born. My mom had to go off sugar completely because the doctors were very worried I wouldn’t be able to slip through when I was finally born. I’m very fortunate to be alive today, much less being as fortunate as I am to be doing what I love every day.

Q: WHAT IS YOUR GUILTY PLEASURE?

A: Hip-Hop. I started out my passion for dancing in a completely different genre than Ballet. When I can I try to go take Hip-Hop classes or try to teach classes because I do miss it. I found my love for Ballet specifically only a couple of years ago. Although my love for it continues to grow more and more each day, I do still miss my roots and my first love when it comes to dancing.

Q: WHAT IS THE BEST LIFE ADVICE YOU’VE RECEIVED AND WHY?

A: “Everything happens for a reason.” This is something I live by. It really helps me get through the tough times and makes me see the positive in almost every situation.

 

Top Photo by Savanna Daniels