Getting to Know KCB II: Lark Commanday

This year marks the inaugural season for Kansas City Ballet’s second company, KCB II. Lark Commanday is one of five dancers in this new ensemble. At just 17 years old and from Peoria, Illinois, he’s the only male dancer in this group. Read below to learn more about Lark, his hobbies and what he enjoys most about being part of KCB II.

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Q: How did you become involved in dance?
A: I come from a very artistic family and was encouraged to take a few ballet classes to try it out. My appreciation for dance grew as I aged, (still it grows as I age) and here I am.

Q: What attracted you to Kansas City Ballet?
A: I gained interest in KCB when I heard Devon Carney would be taking up the position of Artistic Director, because I had long been aware of his successful career.

Q: How has KCB II affected your dance career so far?
A: KCB II has given me an outstanding opportunity to cultivate my talents in a program which allows me to learn not only from teachers and choreographers, but from my peers in KCB II and mentors in the company.

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2013-2014 KCB II Dancers

Q: What is your favorite thing about Kansas City and Kansas City Ballet?
A: My favorite thing about Kansas City is KCB. My favorite thing about KCB is that the men in the company are always ready and glad to help a rookie out.

Q: What is one thing most people don’t know about you?
A: I know how to build a cedar-shake roof. Last year my father and I redid a section of our home’s roof which was leaking.

Q: What do you enjoy doing when you’re not dancing?
Reading, cooking, playing chess with my father, or splitting firewood.

Q: What are you most looking forward to this season?
Working and growing as a dancer alongside a world-class company that has greeted me warmly. I am also looking forward to being a part of KCB’s main-stage performances, since I have never been a part of such professional productions before.

KCB Student Apprentice: Maggie Andriani

This week we had a chance to catch up with our new student apprentice, Maggie Andriani! Between classes, Maggie gave us a glimpse of what it has been like to dance with the company so far and what she is most looking forward to this season.

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Maggie has been a student at the Kansas City Ballet School for ten years, and is thrilled to have the opportunity to work with the company this year. When she first found out that she had been chosen as student apprentice, she said, “I was shaking I was so excited!”

Since then she has been taking classes with the company in addition to school, part-time work, regular dance classes and performing with the Kansas City Youth Ballet. Beginning this season Maggie will also be rehearsing and performing with the KCB! She loves the Nutcracker season and is looking forward to learning Dracula, but says she is most excited about the production of Cinderella.

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Until rehearsals start, Maggie is enjoying the opportunity to take class with the company throughout the week. On Saturday mornings, when most teenagers might sleep in, she is at the studio striving to learn everything she can from the artistic staff and company dancers. She looks up to all the company members and is inspired by the qualities that they each possess. She hopes “that by watching them that somehow their special talents will transfer over to (her)!”

We are excited to watch Maggie grow in both technique and artistry as she dances alongside the company this year, and we are eager to see where her passion for dance takes her in the years to come!

Announcing KCB II

Beginning this season, Community Outreach and Education will see significant expansion. Driving it is the creation of the first-ever Second Company in the Ballet’s 56-year history – a strategic initiative of new Artistic Director Devon Carney.

Known as KCB II, it will be comprised initially of six aspiring dancers from across the US. Because of the formation of KCB II – and members’ role as ambassadors for dance and KCB – we will reach into communities throughout the region in ways never before possible. Additionally KCB II will perform with KCB’s professional company.  Learning the essentials of the art form in a professional environment is an invaluable experience.

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Here’s a quote from Artistic Director Devon Carney:

“One of my primary goals as I begin my tenure with Kansas City Ballet is the creation of this second company. In keeping with the successful history and growth of the Company in recent years it seemed the natural next stage of development. This will enable us to expand our outreach beyond the remarkable Todd Bolender Center for Dance and Creativity into schools, community centers, public parks and more. KCB II will serve Kansas City Ballet well as it continues to move forward as a national force in dance.”

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Be on the lookout this year for performances by KCB II. We’ll be sure to post updates, photos and performance dates as soon as they become available.
If you’d like to learn more about the members of KCB II, please visit our website.

Dancer Spotlight: Molly Wagner

This week we place the spotlight on Company Dancer Molly Wagner, who has just finished her first season with Kansas City Ballet.

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Dancer Molly Wagner. Photography Ken Coit.

Molly is originally from Denver, Colorado, where she began her ballet training. She spent summers with Jillana, Joffrey Ballet South, Kansas City Ballet and Ballet Austin. She graduated cum laude from the University of Missouri-Kansas City with a B.F.A, and went on to dance professionally with Missouri Contemporary Ballet, Montgomery Ballet, and Charleston Ballet Theatre, and now here at Kansas City Ballet.

Check out the video below to hear Molly tell us about how she began ballet and why she loves to dance. You can also read an article written by Molly herself in Dance Magazine.

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To learn more about Molly and other KCB Company Dancers, you can visit our website at kcballet.org. Keep checking our blog as well for other dancer spotlights!

A Dancer’s View: Company Apprentice Eric Mazzie

Our guest post today comes from Kansas City Ballet Company Apprentice, Eric Mazzie. Eric, originally from Albuquerque, New Mexico, just completed his first season at KCB. He has agreed to share the knowledge he has gained during his first experience immersed in the professional dance world, hoping to provide advice to younger dancers aspiring to dance with a professional company.

Learning is a process that never ends; no matter how “high up” you climb on the latter in the dance world. Reflecting on my apprenticeship this past year, I have learned some important things about how to behave professionally in a company. Before coming to Kansas City Ballet, I had never experienced company life firsthand so I had no clue what I was actually doing!

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Company Apprentice Eric Mazzie

First, I learned that sitting on the floor is not a good idea if you are trying to show you care. This comes across as indifferent especially when others are standing up and working hard! Likewise, being on your phone during rehearsals can come across as indolent as well (no matter if you are watching dance videos on YouTube or looking at your twitter feed to see if your best friend has any new tweets).  As a rule of thumb, it is best to just stand and watch what is going on in the moment, nurture yourself with Yoga, or Pilates, or both watching and stretching at the same time! (Just make sure to stay attuned to anything that pertains to the roles you are learning, especially the ones you are understudying).

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Photo by Eric Mazzie

Most importantly, over the past year I learned that intrinsic motivation is the true key to healthy development as an artist. This type of motivation refers to an individual’s inner desire to do his or her personal best – not in hopes of receiving praise from fellow dancers or instructors – but instead in order to grow and develop as an artist. For instance, when the instructor gives the ok to just mark the steps (to just do arm movements), instead of marking, one can take advantage of the opportunity to work on technical and emotional aspects of the piece. That means doing the steps as full out as possible for internal reasons rather than because you want others to view you as being more “dedicated” or “disciplined”. In general, this type of intrinsic motivation is important because so often, dancers are conditioned to scan the room for external approval and when they do not receive it, they are easily discouraged.

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Photo by Eric Mazzie

All in all, I learned some crucial things to thriving in a professional company. Hopefully this can help other dancers who are just starting to do the best they can do for the sole reason of bettering themselves! I am looking forward to applying all that I have learned this past year to next year, and throughout my career. To everyone reading this, have a great summer! 🙂

Sincerely, Eric Mazzie

Guest Post: ‘Dance Healthier’ Author Jill Marlow

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Hi everyone.  This is Jill Marlow Krutzkamp from dancehealthier. I’m also a Company Dancer with Kansas City Ballet. I’m super psyched to be guest posting for Kansas City Ballet’s blog this week!  I hope you enjoy my shares, tips and helpful facts pertaining to a topic that’s gaining momentum in the awesome world of dance –  Dancer wellness!  I mean it even sounds pretty trendy, huh?

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Did you know that a dancer typically puts in 40 hours per week training in the studio?  That’s 2080 hours per year, and as the years continue to add up, that’s a lot of hours!  Due to this phenomenon (I mean let’s be real, making it as a dancer is impressive), a non-dancer looking at a dancer will say that dancers are healthy because we are physically fit.  That is, without hesitation, absolutely true.  But, what about the other portions? Can we as dancers become more balanced? 

That is dancehealthier’s mission.  To advocate for a more balanced health system that dancers can follow.  So let’s get to it!  Here are a few tips on three major dancehealthier topics including Love EatsExercise Show and Tell and Stress Check.

Love Eats – Be sure to treat food as fuel for your body.  Food is there not only to taste good, but it’s also there to sustain energy and encourage strength building.  For a great spring/summer inspired recipe be sure to click here.  Want to add animal protein to the recipe? No problem.

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Why did dancehealthier pick this recipe?  It’s important to choose recipes that include all the major macronutrient groups (proteins, carbohydrates and healthy fats) to get the most out of the food that you put into your body.

Exercise Show and Tell – Unfortunately, studio time is not the only thing needed for a dancer to reach their peak level of physical health.  Pilates, whether it be on the reformer or on the mat, is a great way for dancers to warm up, by slowly waking up the muscles in various ranges of motion (smaller to larger).  Pilates is also a super important way to help prevent injuries from occurring, as well as increasing both flexibility and strength.  Be sure to find an instructor that knows dance so they can tailor exercises specifically to your individual needs.

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If you have any questions in regards to more information pertaining to Pilates, I am more than happy to answer them either on here or via email at, dancehealthier@gmail.com.

Stress Check – A key to decreasing performance anxiety is to learn and apply stress management techniques that apply to your unique personality.  Check out this dancehealthier post titled, Stress Management with a focus on Biofeedback and Visual Imagery, to learn more about these specific techniques.

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That’s all for now folks!  I want to thank you for reading and please feel free to follow along with me at dancehealthier, where I post each and every Wednesday.  You can also follow me on my FacebookTwitter, and Pinterest pages.

Creating Music & Dance

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Company Dancer Travis Guerin

We have just ONE MORE performance of Dancers Making Dances this Friday, March 1 at 6 p.m. We wanted to share with you an interesting fact about one of the choreographers. Not only did KCB Company Dancer Travis Guerin choreograph his piece, but he created the music he used as well!

Watch the video below to hear about his process of choreographing and composing.


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If you are interested in attending Dancers Making Dances, there are still a few tickets left for this Friday’s performance! Visit our website to purchase tickets.

Company Dancers Turned Choreographers

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Company Dancer Ian Poulis

Here in a few weeks, KCB will be having its first performances of Dancers Making Dances, a choreographic showcase featuring new works created by company dancers of Kansas City Ballet and other guest artists. This year features 8 new works, including pieces choreographed by Artistic Director William Whitener, and Mary Pat Henry of Wylliams/Henry Contemporary Dance Company.

Company Dancer Ian Poulis is one of the KCB dancers who will debut a piece in the showcase. In the video below, he talks about his work, where he found the music, and why no one in the US has ever heard it!

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If you’re interested in attending Dancers Making Dances, visit our website for ticket information.

Dance Healthier

For dancers, staying fit and healthy is a necessity. Being smart about how you maintain that lifestyle is even more important. Whether it’s managing the stress on your body, maintaining your flexibility, or choosing the right foods to boost your energy, knowing the healthy ways to keep your body in check is essential.

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One of our company dancers, Jill Marlow, has a blog dedicated to sharing with other dancers ways to maintain that healthy lifestyle. Dancehealtheir.com covers a wide range of topics, including healthy foods, how to listen to your body, dancer profiles, and other topics that help educate dancers about their health.

Apart from being a company dancer here at KCB, Jill is also a Pilates Reformer Instructor and received a bachelor’s degree in Health Education from the University of Cincinnati.

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In Jill’s words, “I dedicate dancehealthier to all those “hungry” dancers who are in constant reach for more (we can’t help that we are perfectionists).  Whether you read and never look back, or become an avid reader, my hope is to educate, motivate and inspire you in some way throughout your own personal quest for “that more” – whatever it may be.”

Click HERE to visit Jill’s blog!

Dancer Spotlight: Josh Spell

Q: How did you get involved in dance? 
A: In the summers I would stay with my grandmother.  She belonged to a Senior Citizens Group called the Happy Steppers.  I would go along with her to practice and watch.  When ladies were absent I would step into their places.  It became evident that I had a natural ability to pick up choreography and musicality.  Eventually, I began formal tap lessons at the age of 10. Being a boy in a small dance school meant that the teachers were always trying to convince me to do more.  I eventually gave in and started taking ballet at the age of 12.  The rest is history…

Q: What do you enjoy most about being with Kansas City Ballet?
A: I enjoy my fellow colleagues here at KCB.  There is such a strong sense of community that allows me to push myself but also not to take ballet too seriously.  We work hard, but we also form very genuine relationships.  In the three months I have been here, I already feel like part of the KCB family.

Q: What is one thing most people don’t know about you?
A: Most people don’t know that I retired from dance when I was 29 and truly thought I was finished.  I closed the door on ballet and went to school full time for Interior Design.  The universe works in mysterious ways and did not think I was finished, so here I am again dancing professionally.

Q: What is your favorite thing to do outside of dancing? 
A: I love to cook and travel.  After living in Seattle for almost 12 years I miss that family dearly.  Since I can’t travel every weekend I have gotten creative.  I often Skype with friends back home in Seattle, and we choose a dinner menu and then cook it together on Skype.

Q: I understand you’re a Pilates Reformer instructor. How did you get involved in that? 
A: As a dancer I’ve done Pilates my entire career.  It has kept me very balanced both physically and mentally and I truly believe in it.  Last year when I took the year off from ballet, I decided to get certified so I could share my knowledge about the body with others.  I also wanted to contribute to making people healthy, strong and balanced.

Q: What are you thankful for this Thanksgiving? Do you have any traditions? 
A: This is probably the first year since I was 19 that I have been able to go home for Thanksgiving, so I am very grateful to get to see my family in Texas.  My Thanksgiving traditions have always included dancing “The Nutcracker” the next day.  I always manage to eat some good food on turkey day, but it is never easy dancing with all the extra pie I have consumed.