Meet Two of Our ROAD Teaching Artists

Left–R.O.A.D. Teaching Artist Olivia Shaw at Crossroads Academy | Photography by Andrea Wilson. Right–R.O.A.D. Teaching Artist Jenna Wurtzberger at a R.O.A.D. Rally at Hartman Elementary School | Photography by Elizabeth Stehling
Left–R.O.A.D. Teaching Artist Olivia Shaw at Crossroads Academy | Photography by Andrea Wilson. Right–R.O.A.D. Teaching Artist Jenna Wurtzberger at a R.O.A.D. Rally at Hartman Elementary School | Photography by Elizabeth Stehling

Kansas City Ballet’s Reach Out And Dance (R.O.A.D.) Residency Program has been in community schools since the year 2000. But under April Berry, KCB’s Director of Community Engagement and Education, this program has expanded considerably over the last two years.

WHAT IS R.O.A.D AND ITS GOALS?

R.O.A.D. Residency programs use movement/dance to support the academic curriculum taught in many 3rd and 4th grade classrooms throughout the metro. The program currently serves over 20 schools in urban, suburban, and rural school districts in Missouri and Kansas.

Teaching artists from Kansas City Ballet’s Community Engagement and Education department teach weekly movement classes to hundreds of local 3rd and 4th grade students in their schools. Live music is provided in these classes by pianists from KC Ballet. The result is that students learn and retain new information and a different learning paradigm is created to support academic instruction.

The program has many goals. The introduction of various styles of movement and music is one goal; another is to incorporate basic principles found in dance such as: space, time, effort, cooperative learning, and self-discipline into the learning environment. Yet another is to incorporate exercises and games that support Language Arts, Social Studies, Math and Science curriculum.

WHAT IS A TEACHING ARTIST?

A Teaching Artist is different from a dance instructor. KCB Teaching Artists, also called artist educators or community artists, are responsible for teaching students in a wide range of community settings, the fundamentals of dance, and integrating dance concepts and principles related to movement with National and State Education Standards.

Two of our four R.O.A.D. Teaching Artists, Jenna Wurtzberger and Janie Olivia Shaw,  have been working in KCB’s R.O.A.D. Residency program for the past two years. Jenna and Olivia collaborate with KCB’s R.O.A.D. director and with classroom teachers to advance learning for their students. Both use the art of dance to reinforce academic studies within the classroom. They also stress the importance of creativity, critical thinking, improvisation, and communication.

Jenna is a dancer, choreographer, and dance educator. She has an undergraduate degree in dance and psychology from the University of Nevada and a master’s degree in dance from Temple University in Philadelphia.  Olivia has a degree in performance and choreography from Coker College in South Carolina. They have both studied dance and performed.

ON THE JOB

We asked them to talk about why they love their jobs as teaching artists at Kansas City Ballet.

Jenna has taught dance in many different settings; in dance studios, community centers, other dance residency programs in schools, and college dance programs. But she has never encountered a program like R.O.A.D. “The unique structure and approach to dance education are what makes this job at KC Ballet so wonderful. The curriculum is flexible enough to be able to incorporate my teaching philosophy while also valuing what the students have to offer. I get to share a room with expressive, talented, funny and loving students each and every day. I am beyond humbled to be able to share my knowledge and love of dance with this community,” she says.

“There are so many rewarding aspects of this job,” Jenna continues. “Some are small, such as a student with a huge smile walking into the room and telling you that they ‘love to dance!’ or telling you that they have been practicing the R.O.A.D. Chapter Dance in their backyard while their parents are watching. Some are much bigger, such as working with students who are non-verbal and they are communicating with their body just as effectively as their verbal peers or seeing the transformation of a student who is extremely shy and self-conscious to being the center of attention with confidence.”

R.O.A.D. Teaching Artist Olivia Shaw at Crossroads Academy | Photography by Andrea Wilson
R.O.A.D. Teaching Artist Olivia Shaw at Crossroads Academy | Photography by Andrea Wilson

Olivia notes that for her the most rewarding part about being a teaching artist is being able to give back to the community. “I am able to share my experience, training, and passion for dance with a diverse range of students and create relationships with the children I teach. The R.O.A.D. program provides an outlet for these kids through dance and helps them build confidence.”

Jenna admits there can be challenges. Keeping students interested in class and particularly students who think they do not like to dance are examples. “However,” Jenna notes, “these challenges of the job have pushed me to become a more creative and effective educator.”

Olivia feels this position has provided her an opportunity “to do what I love.”

EXCITING MOMENT

Engaging community schools, teachers, students, and their families, and igniting a passion for dance are other benefits of this program. This past December Jenna attended KC Ballet’s The Nutcracker and had an emotional experience. “I saw some of my R.O.A.D. students on stage at the Kauffman Center,” she said. “To see them sharing the stage with other talented dancers from Kansas City Ballet made my heart melt and was something I will never forget.”

Kansas City Ballet Completes First Year of New ROAD Scholarship Program 

R.O.A.D. Scholars taking class. Photography by Elizabeth Stehling.
R.O.A.D. Scholars taking class. Photography by Elizabeth Stehling.

Since 2000 Kansas City Ballet has provided an educational outreach program called Reach Out And Dance (R.O.A.D.) to elementary students using movement to enhance learning. The program has grown to become the centerpiece of KCB’s Community Engagement and Education.

WHAT IS R.O.A.D.?

Each week R.O.A.D. provides movement classes to hundreds of 3rd and 4th grade students in Missouri and Kansas elementary schools introducing children to the fundamentals of dance and integrating 21st century learning skills and curriculum. The program provides under-served and at-risk youth with a different learning paradigm through which they can experience success, develop self-discipline, and strive for personal excellence within and outside the school environment, all of which is demonstrated by post-program survey assessments.

THE R.O.A.D. SCHOLARSHIP PROGRAM

R.O.A.D. Scholars performance at the Bolender Center. Photography by Elizabeth Stehling.
R.O.A.D. Scholars performance at the Bolender Center. Photography by Elizabeth Stehling.

This year brought the introduction of the R.O.A.D. Scholarship Program. Its goal is to enhance cultural awareness, foster creativity, strengthen critical thinking and problem solving skills, expose students to potential careers in dance, and to cultivate an appreciation for the art form.

The first phase of the program began in September 2017. Teaching artists impart different movement styles to students weekly and gauge their interest and ability. In the second phase, select students enter a tuition-free Dance Discovery program at Kansas City Ballet School from January  through April. Transportation to and from KCBS, Ballet Fundamentals class plus Modern and Jazz classes, and necessary dance attire is provided at no cost to the student’s family. The third phase is planned for summer when these same students will be provided tuition-free summer classes at KCBS.

“We are so excited to offer this new comprehensive program that will create a broader reach and make dance even more accessible to students who might not have had the opportunity to participate in this way before,” KCB Community Engagement and Education Manager April Berry said. “Our research shows this program not only helps students with their school curriculum, like geography, math and social studies, but it leaves many with a boost in confidence to help them succeed. Principals and teachers have raved about the effects of this new program and we are thrilled to have  80+ students who have completed their fist year of the program. R.O.A.D. Scholars will attend KCB’s Peter Pan performance this weekend as part of the program.”

A DONOR WITH HEART

Dance Shoppe Owner Susan Bibbs. Photography by Andrea Wilson.
Dance Shoppe Owner Susan Bibbs. Photography by Andrea Wilson.

For more than 32 years, Dance Shoppe, Inc. has served as the number one supplier of dance wear in Kansas City, Mo. Opened in 1985, they have always stayed true to their commitment to high quality dance apparel and, because of this, they have had the distinct honor of serving dancers throughout their careers.

This season Susan Bibbs, Owner of Dance Shoppe, donated all of the dance wear for KCB’s new R.O.A.D. Scholarship Program.

Maybe it’s because she grew up in a small town in Western Kansas where community is second nature, where people help one another however they can.  Or, maybe it’s from all the support that Bibbs and her business have received throughout the last three decades. Now she feels it’s her time to ‘Pay It Forward’.  She is thankful she is in a position where she can give back and make a difference.

R.O.A.D. Scholarship students in ballet attire courtesy of Dance Shoppe. Photography by Elizabeth Stehling.
R.O.A.D. Scholarship students in ballet attire courtesy of Dance Shoppe. Photography by Elizabeth Stehling.

“The right outfit is everything…  Like a baseball player needs a glove, so does a dancer need the proper dance attire. Not just for ease and freedom in movement that dance wear provides but for the total picture, it’s the completion, a mind-set,” Bibbs said. “After all these years, it still amazes me to see the excitement on the faces of kids when they get their first pair of dance shoes.”

Bibbs was excited to offer assistance to the program. “I feel our part is simple compared to what all is entailed in the organization of this project.  The coordination of the students, the schools, the transportation, etc. is mind boggling,” she said.

April Berry couldn’t be happier to be part of this partnership: “A generous gift of this nature is invaluable to our ROAD scholarship program. Providing these deserving and talented children with these outfits not only serves them physically but helps improve self-esteem by showing they belong and that their community cares about them.”