Student Profile: Leah Reiter

After auditioning during last year’s three-week summer intensive at the Dutch National Ballet Academy, Kansas City Ballet School Student Leah Reiter was invited to attend NBA year round. It is the only ballet school in The Netherlands affiliated with the internationally acclaimed Dutch National Ballet.

“I don’t think anyone in my family was prepared for me to move away at 15 years old,” former KCBS student Leah Reiter says.

Reiter, currently a student at NBA in The Netherlands, started ballet classes in Omaha, Neb., when she was 8 years old. At age 11 she moved to Kansas City and began attending Kansas City Ballet School.

Reiter says attending Kansas City Ballet School—a school she’d heard a lot of good things about while living in Omaha—is where her passion for ballet began.

“Of course I hope to make a career dancing! I think I knew from the start that it [ballet] is what I was meant to do. There was never really a moment when I thought about stopping,” Reiter says. “I wouldn’t be working as hard as I am or sacrificing the things I am if I just wanted to dance for fun. I feel so fortunate to have the possibility to do something I love so much for a living. That would be my ultimate reward for all the blood sweat and tears that I’m putting into this beautiful art form.”

She enjoys being able to channel all her stress from the day and all of her thoughts and feelings into class or rehearsal. Taking negative energy and putting it to good use, like a grand allegro combination has helped her achieve quite a bit of height at times. Finding the positivity wherever she can allows her to improve not only her state of mind but also her dancing.

A MAJOR CHANGE

Moving to Europe has affected her, of course. She talks about the obvious major changes like living so far from her family and friends but also the extreme rewards. She says the teachers and staff work with the academy and are all incredibly talented, along with the other students. Another huge factor that plays a part in the experience at the NBA is the amount of exposure she gets to other cultures. There are students from all corners of the world; including Italy, Japan, Switzerland, Canada, Spain, Australia, America, and of course, The Netherlands. She describes the learning atmosphere as quite inviting as well. “Because everyone has moved to a different country, we are all very supportive and welcoming of each other,” she says.

STAYING HEALTHY

There are countless things she has learned as a dancer. Two of the most important things: how to stay humble and how to take care of herself.

Both are crucial for a healthy mind and body. Reiter quotes one of her best friends, Anna Hughlett. “When you walk into class, forget everything you might’ve been stressing about and focus on dancing. That’s the beauty of dance—it’s in the moment.” She thinks all dancers of all ages could learn something from this outlook. Another of her own would be: Looking at other dancers and wishing you looked like them is good in small amounts, but if you do it too much, it can get ugly. It’s a fantastic thing to have goals, but if you try to reach them in an unhealthy and neurotic way, it only hurts you,” Reiter says. “Be healthy!” Such wisdom beyond her years.

GREAT KCBS MEMORIES

As a KCBS student, Reiter had the opportunity to audition for Kansas City Ballet company performances as well. “I have been so fortunate to dance in some of Kansas City Ballet’s productions including: Todd Bolender’s Nutcracker, as well as Devon Carney’s Nutcracker, Victoria Morgan’s Cinderella, Septime Webre’s Alice (in wonderland), and Devon Carney’s The Sleeping Beauty. Being able to see behind the scenes what goes into making a company production so great is an amazing experience. Dancing alongside the gorgeous dancers of KCB is also very inspiring,” Reiter says.

Her absolute favorite part of dancing as a member of Kansas City Youth Ballet, the performing ensemble of the KCBS, was the performing. “It’s so rewarding to see everyone’s hard work pay off with an exciting performance. It’s also awesome to dance such fun choreography alongside some of your best friends,” Reiter says.

THE COMFORTS OF HOME

Being across the pond, it’s natural that Reiter would long for many of the comforts of home. “Of course I miss the obvious like my family, friends, and pets, but I also miss some very specific things,” Reiter says. “Spending hours in the many expansive parks of Kansas City, the amazing barbecue, and Bella Patina are just a few of the ones that come to my mind the quickest.”

She also misses her KCBS teachers Racheal Nye and Grace Holmes. “They have been there for me through this journey of becoming the best dancer I can be and I can’t thank them enough,” Reiter says.

She also craves the variety of classes the KCBS Academy’s Daytime Program offers. “I miss being able to really let go in an improv class or have a blast dancing with my friends in hip-hop. All the classes were a lot of fun, and the training is fantastic,” she says.

“KCBS helped me develop my style as a dancer, and it helped me get where I am today. I can’t thank them enough.”

Student Profile: Timothy TV Cao

Timothy TV Cao began dancing at age 3. His mother encouraged him and his sister to dance and they took jazz and tap. When Timothy got a little older he began auditioning for TV roles in California and later tried in New York for Broadway roles. He landed a role in the show “Matilda” and danced in the cast until he grew too tall. Around that time, at age 13, he started taking private ballet lessons at the Broadway Dance Center from an American Ballet Theatre (ABT) certified instructor. But once he stopped dancing in “Matilda” it was time to move back to the Midwest.

On the Path to Dance

He learned that David Justin was a teacher at Kansas City Ballet School and also ABT certified. “My mom and I started driving here one to two times a week from Wichita for private lessons from him,” Timothy said. “Eventually it just made sense for us to move here. And now I’m part of the Daytime Program.”

Timothy admits that training is hard but he really enjoys it and has fun with it. “You accept that you’re human, that you make mistakes,” he says. “You have to appreciate that you get to train with such talent. It pushes me even more.” Ballet is demanding and perfection, while the goal, can seem impossible at times. So, Timothy says he likes to pick a couple of things to keep focused on. Right now it’s his hands and his back—standing tall. “You just have to take it one thing at a time,” he says.

Mental preparation

When he performs, whether for a Kansas City Youth Ballet show or for a Youth America Grand Prix competitions, he spends time mentally preparing and trying to calm his nerves with music before he goes on stage. Once he’s out there, he says, “I try to enjoy the moment and do the best I can. I like putting my heart into my work and knowing I’m in character makes me happy. The audience wants me to succeed. It helps me to know that and I give everything I’ve got. I try not to disappoint.”

Timothy enjoys KCBS because the facilities are amazing, the professional company is in the building and they are so inspiring to watch, and the teachers want you to succeed and are so friendly—like family. He’s felt like his instructors David, Dmitry Trubchanov, and Ryan Jolicoeur-Nye have pulled him under their wings and really supported his learning.

His advice for younger students? “Just enjoy it! It takes time and time isn’t always on your side but if you can work hard, doors will open.” He hopes to join a professional company someday.

Photography for dance photos by Brett Pruitt & East Market Studios.