2018-19 Dancer Profile: Daniel Rodriguez

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

Q: TELL US WHY YOU BeCAME A DANCEr.

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

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

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

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

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

Q: WHAT HAVE YOU ENJOYED DOING IN KC?

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

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

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

 

Photography by Brett Pruitt & East Market Studios

2018-19 Dancer Profile: Courtney Nitting

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

Q: WHAT DOES JOINING kcb MEAN TO YOU?

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

Q: TELL US WHY YOU BECAME A DANCER.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

Photography by Brett Pruitt & East Market Studios

2018-19 Dancer Profile: Whitney Huell

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

Q: TELL US WHY YOU BeCAME A DANCEr.

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

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

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

KC Ballet Dancer Whitney Huell

Q: WHAT IS YOUR GUILTY PLEASURE?

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

Q: WHAT IS YOUR FAVORITE SNACK?

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

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

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

 

Other blog posts about Whitney Huell:

Dancer Profile: Whitney Huell

Dancer Spotlight: Whitney Huell

 

 

Trainee Profile: Emelia Perkins

KCB Trainee Emelia Perkins. Photography by Savanna Daniels.
KCB Trainee Emelia Perkins. Photography by Savanna Daniels.

Originally from Baton Rouge, La., Emelia Perkins joined Kansas City Ballet as a Trainee for the 2017-2018 season. 

Q: how did you become a dancer?

A: My mother was a dancer and she still teaches. So, as a young child, I was hanging around the studios and she put me into dance classes at age 4 to keep me busy.

Q: DO YOU HAVE ANY HOBBIES OR SPECIAL INTERESTS?

A: I like to do a lot of tactile or physical activities, meaning I enjoy building things and crafting. I used to play a lot of sports. I still enjoy sports, but it’s rare for me to have the energy for them anymore.

Q: WHAT DO YOU ENJOY MOST ABOUT BEING A DANCER?

A: This is a hard question, you know, because I would want to say all aspects of being a dancer. I enjoy the athleticism, the artistry, the elegance, the confidence, I enjoy the routine, the long days of rehearsals, the ongoing battle for refinement and nuance; and I enjoy the sore muscles, the blistered feet, and going home exhausted at the end of the day. But, if you want the short answer, I guess I’d have to say performing is the most enjoyable and rewarding part of being a dancer.

Q: DO YOU HAVE A PERSONAL MANTRA OR AFFIRMATION THAT YOU SWEAR BY?

A: If you keep doing what you’re doing, you’ll keep getting what you’ve got.

Trainee Profile: Madeline Wittmann

KCB Trainee Madeline Wittmann. Photography by Savanna Daniels.
KCB Trainee Madeline Wittmann. Photography by Savanna Daniels.

Originally from Little Silver, N.J., Madeline Wittmann joined Kansas City Ballet as a Trainee for the 2017-2018 season. 

Q: how did you become a dancer?

A: I started when I was 6 years old. My best friend from childhood was going, so I wanted to go, too. Ever since my first class, I have been in love with dancing.

Q: DO YOU HAVE ANY HOBBIES OR SPECIAL INTERESTS?

A: I live on the beach in New Jersey. During the summer I enjoy surfing and stand-up paddling. I love any opportunity to be outdoors, immersed in nature. I always feel refreshed and recharged. It’s very calming and fun.

Q: WHAT MAKES UP YOUR FITNESS ROUTINE?

A: I try to take really good care of my body because it is my instrument. I listen to it. Everything in moderation and making sure I take time for myself everyday. I love to do gyrotonics, Pilates, yoga and go to the gym to keep strong.

Q: DO YOU HAVE A PERSONAL MANTRA OR AFFIRMATION THAT YOU SWEAR BY?

A: Yes. One of my mentors from UNCSA, Helen Pickett, told me to stay in the present moment. The future and past have far less power. The only real life is the present. I am the most present when I am onstage.

Trainee Profile: Tyler Ferraro

KCB Trainee Tyler Ferraro. Photography by Savanna Daniels.
KCB Trainee Tyler Ferraro. Photography by Savanna Daniels.

Originally from Huntington Beach, Calif., Tyler Ferraro joined Kansas City Ballet as a Trainee for the 2017-2018 season. 

Q: how did you become a dancer?

A: I became interested in dance after taking a musical theater class. So, I started taking dance classes when I was 10 and soon focused on classical ballet.

Q: what do you enjoy most about being a dancer?

A: I have always enjoyed the combination of structure and creativity in dance. There are rules in technique that appeal to my methodical side but it is also important to express myself and make movements my own.

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

A: When I was younger, I spent a lot of time snowboarding and surfing.

Q: DO YOU HAVE A PERSONAL MANTRA OR AFFIRMATION THAT YOU SWEAR BY?

A: You are enough.

Trainee Profile: Madison Mackenzy Braaksma

KCB Trainee Madison Braaksma. Photography by Savanna Daniels.
KCB Trainee Madison Braaksma. Photography by Savanna Daniels.

Originally from Atlanta, Madison Mackenzy Braaksma joined Kansas City Ballet as a Trainee for the 2017-2018 season. This is her first season as a Trainee.

Q: how did you become a dancer? WHEN DID YOU START DANCING?

A: Well, when I was little my mom put me into creative movement class. When I was 7, I got involved with Irish dance. I began competing and got very serious. At 13, I started to take private ballet lessons to help strengthen my Irish dancing and fell in love with ballet.

Q: what do you enjoy most about being a dancer?

A: Performance! Definitely being on the stage and performing in front of people is what I enjoy most.

Q: AS A PROFESSIONAL ATHLETE WHAT MAKES UP YOUR DIET AND FITNESS ROUTINE?

A: I cross train in the mornings before going to rehearsal. As far as diet, I eat low carb, low dairy, lots of fruits, and lots of veggies. But I do have a sweet tooth.

Dancer Profile: Charles Martin

Charles Martin joined Kansas City Ballet in 2007 just in time to celebrate Kansas City Ballet’s 50th Anniversary. He’s now in his 11th season with the company.

Q: WHEN DID YOU START DANCING?

A: My mom owned a dance studio and I was always there dancing around, so I started classes at age 3.

Q: WHAT DO YOU ENJOY MOST ABOUT BEING A DANCER?

A: Getting to express things that words can not.

Dancer: Charles Martin. Photography: Brett Pruitt & East Market Studios.
Dancer: Charles Martin. Photography: Brett Pruitt & East Market Studios.

Q: DO YOU HAVE HOBBIES OR SPECIAL INTERESTS?

A: I love doing hair and makeup!

Q: DO YOU HAVE A PERSONAL MANTRA?

A: Work hard, even when it’s hard work.

Q: IF YOU FIND YOU HAVE AN UNEXPECTED HOUR FREE, WHAT WOULD BE YOUR IDEAL WAY TO SPEND IT AND WHY?

A: Meditating, stretching or taking a nap.

Dancer Profile: Danielle Bausinger

Danielle Bausinger joined Kansas City Ballet at the start of the 2014-2015 season.

Q: WHEN DID YOU START DANCING?

A: My mom loved ballet but never danced professionally. So she helped at a local dance studio. My sister went into lessons and then I followed her lead once I turned 3.

Q: WHAT DO YOU ENJOY MOST ABOUT BEING A DANCER?

A: There is no feeling in the world like performing! Putting your emotions through your movement and to music is something magical in this world that can’t be replicated.

KCB Dancer Danielle Bausinger as evil fairy Carabosse in "The Sleeping Beauty." Photography: Brett Pruitt & East Market Studios.
KCB Dancer Danielle Bausinger evil fairy Carabosse in “The Sleeping Beauty.” Photography: Brett Pruitt & East Market Studios.

Q: DO YOU HAVE HOBBIES OR SPECIAL INTERESTS?

A: I love to go to movies and I enjoy going to the driving range every now and then.

Q: DO YOU HAVE A PERSONAL MANTRA?

A: Work hard, even when it’s hard work.

Q: IF YOU FIND YOU HAVE AN UNEXPECTED HOUR FREE, WHAT WOULD BE YOUR IDEAL WAY TO SPEND IT AND WHY?

A: I rest and recoup. I do better when my body has had some down time. If I keep going and running errands and such, I don’t have the stamina in my legs to push when I get too tired.

Dancer Profile: Kaleena Burks

Kaleena Burks has been a Kansas City Ballet dancer since the 2010-2011 season.

Q: WHEN DID YOU START DANCING?

A: I started ballet when I was 3 years old. My mother enrolled me in dance because she also danced as a child.

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

A: I’m obsessed with all things vintage. I love going to the West Bottoms to antique shop!

Dancer Kaleena Burks in rehearsal of Diamonds for the Anniversary Dance Festival. Photography by Elizabeth Stehling.
Dancer Kaleena Burks in rehearsal of Diamonds for the Anniversary Dance Festival. Photography by Elizabeth Stehling.

Q: WHAT ARE MOST PEOPLE SURPRISED TO LEARN ABOUT YOUR JOB AS A DANCER?

A: That we literally dance all day! We have an atypical 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. (in our case 6 p.m.) job, but we are up and moving for all of those hours.

Q: DO YOU HAVE A PERSONAL MANTRA?

A: I always tell myself when I’m having a rough day or feeling exhausted that I will be out of my funk—a sort of “This too shall pass” mentality.

Q: IF YOU FIND YOU HAVE AN UNEXPECTED HOUR FREE, WHAT WOULD BE YOUR IDEAL WAY TO SPEND IT AND WHY?

A: When I do have the rare hour off, you can usually find me in a studio sewing pointe shoes. I like to watch my colleagues dance, and I always need more sewn shoes.