KC Hosts Youth American Grand Prix

Thirty-seven Kansas City Ballet School students are registered to perform 63 entries at the Youth America Grand Prix (YAGP) Semi-finals in Kansas City March 1-4, 2018. The number has grown each of the last three years that KCBS has started organizing students to compete.

KCBS Principal and YAGP Coordinator Racheal Nye oversees the program for KCBS. “I like the idea of having an end goal all year. It motivates students. Ballet training is the long game and it can be hard to find new ways to motivate yourself to give 150% in every class. But with something like YAGP, there are smaller goals along the way that help motivate my students to continue pushing themselves. They work on these concepts of their performance and bring them into their classwork as well. It changes the way they take class and it opens them up to how lessons fit into the bigger picture.”


Right now Nye and the other coaches are focusing on stamina—running the pieces until the dancers are comfortable. She likens it a bit to the Olympics. “We’re working on last minute polishes like nuances, artistry, and presentation. We’re making sure costumes and headpieces fit and conducting stage make up tutorials.”

With the competition happening here at home, the sheer number of KCBS students and ballet coaches are the highest they’ve been. Besides the chance to perform for a panel of accomplished judges, students have the opportunity to take master classes in ballet and dance from them as well. They also get to meet kids, like them, from all over who are passionate about ballet. And, of the 10,000 students around the US and the world competing at Semi-finals, only about 1,000 will be invited to the Finals in New York City in April. KCBS is hoping to again have students selected.


Poppy Trettel (11) and Grady George (12) in Bluebird Pas De Deux from The Sleeping Beauty. First Place winners in Pas De Deux YAGP 2017 Indianapolis, IN

This year’s KC Semi-finals performances will be held at The Folly Theater, downtown and Kansas City Ballet School is the location for master classes. The latter is very exciting to Grace Holmes, KCBS School’s director: “These master classes bring kids into our facility that have likely never been here before. The Bolender Center is a world-class facility for dance, so that’s a great thing. An added benefit is that the students may have a chance to observe our Kansas City Ballet company dancers at work in rehearsals. These YAGP students are often the most talented students at their own schools, having them in our ‘home’ gives us a chance to woo them with all we have to offer in the way of our Summer Intensive and Trainee programs.”

Nye says: “This year it’s definitely a draw to be here in KC, our students will dance in performances from classical or contemporary solos, to classical or contemporary Pas de Deux (dance for two), to small or large ensembles. It’s a lot to coordinate and it starts in the fall.”

Nye manages a lot of details for the competition including making sure everyone is registered, assisting with music selection and editing, advising on costume selection, providing makeup tutorials, arranging coaches, and providing schedules the week of the competition.

“Once YAGP publishes the order of the performances, I sit down and create schedules for all of my students of where they need to be and when,” Nye says. “It’s time consuming, but it becomes our bible during those four days.”

When asked to describe what it’s like during the competition, Nye says: “It’s hectic and busy and crowded. You kind of feel rushed and then at other times you’re just waiting around. It’s 8:30 a.m. to 9:30 p.m. each day for me. I’ll be rehearsing kids and getting them to the stage and assisting with makeup or costume issues all day. I’m grateful when a parent hands me a sandwich or a coffee… otherwise I’d never know what time it was. The 12 hours goes by really fast for me.”

This year, since the competition happens locally, more students and coaches are able to participate without travel costs.


2018 KCBS Coaches: Dmitry Trubchanov, David Justin, Pamela Carney, Molly Wagner, Dillon Malinski, Sean Duus, Taryn Layne-Mulhern, Racheal Nye, Ryan Jolicoeur-Nye, and Gustavo Ribeiro. Several of these coaches also choreographed solos and ensembles especially for KCBS students. Ribeiro choreographed one solo. Justin choreographed three solos and a pas de deux. And, Joliecoeur-Nye choreographed a whopping 14 solos, one pas de deux, and one ensemble piece.

Holmes says: “I’m really excited to see the progress the students have made with different coaches. It will be interesting to see their influences. Every teacher provides something new, different strengths, different critiques… all working together to achieve better technique, musicality and artistry.”

The students, coaches, and parents have invested so much time and energy preparing for the Semi-finals. It’s time for the fun to begin with performances, master classes and meeting the other participating students from all over. In addition to these incredible experiences, each student receives a written evaluation of his/her performance(s) offering constructive critiques for ways to improve from the judges. Nye will read all of these evaluations to determine if they offer broader ways to improve class goals for the coming year. In this way everyone benefits from the process.

What drives Nye to take on so many students for this annual competition? “I like coaching,” Nye says. “And I REALLY like classical ballet! I enjoy providing the students with so much individual attention because ultimately it really helps their confidence.”


If you’d like to attend the performances for the competition at The Folly, tickets will be available at the door for $10 for each day. You can also support the students and the school by leaving a comment on this post.


Interested in learning more about the 2017 YAGP competition?




Learn more about YAGP Coordinator Racheal Nye:



2018 Summer Programs Enrolling Now

2018 KCBS Summer Programs Brochure Cover. Photography: Brett Pruitt & East Market Studios.
2018 KCBS Summer Programs Brochure Cover. Photography: Brett Pruitt & East Market Studios.

Enrollment has already begun for Kansas City Ballet School’s wide array of classes and camps for kids ages 2-18.

Summer is a great time to try ballet. The classes are 4 or 6-week sessions that meet 1-2 times a week. It’s a nice sample of what the fall and winter semesters bring. Summer camps meet four times in one week, with a performance during the final 15 minutes of class on the last day. Camp themes include Little Mermaid, Fairy Princess or Super Hero. Additional courses and workshops are available for ages 8-18.

“Our summer programs are a great way for children to spend the summer – physical and artistic activity combined,” KCB School Director Grace Holmes says. “Students who already dance can maintain and enhance their training, and those who  have never danced before can try something new.”

If your child is interested in ballet, this is the chance to try it!


Click here to learn more about the offerings.


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.


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.


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.


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.


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.”

2018 Summer Intensive Auditions Begin

With temperatures stuck below freezing in KC, what better time to begin auditions for Kansas City Ballet School’s 2018 Summer Intensive program. Nothing shakes off the chill like gearing up for summer!


Admission to Kansas City Ballet School Summer Intensive is by audition only. The five-week program is for students 11-22 years of age (females who have had a minimum of one school year of pointe work). Auditions kick off this Friday, Jan. 5 in Chicago and continue to 23 other cities throughout January and into February. Here is the complete list. KCBS will host two auditions: the first is on Saturday, Jan. 13 and the the second on Saturday, Feb. 24—the final audition.

Students unable to attend one of these may submit a video audition by Feb. 14 or try to schedule an appointment audition at KCBS.


Pre-registration fees are $30 in advance—these close the Wednesday prior to the audition. On-site registration fees are $40. In addition to fees, students will need to:

  1. Complete online Audition Form
  2. Attach photos to online Audition Form or bring to audition (4×6, with student’s name on the back)
    • Headshot (females with hair up)
    • First arabesque (females on pointe).


For more information about auditioning for Kansas City Ballet’s Summer Intensive, contact Kansas City Ballet School at 816.931.2299 or school@kcballet.org.

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.

Event Recap: 2017 Sugar Plum Fairy Children’s Ball


The 23rd Annual Sugar Plum Fairy Children’s Ball, hosted by chair Mrs. Shelley Zucht, on December 9th transformed the Muehlebach Tower of the Kansas City Marriott Downtown into a beautiful floral garden. Guests enjoyed the Kansas City Youth Ballet performance, as well as holiday carols sung by Ginger Frost High School Honors Artists from the Lyric Opera. It was indeed all about the twinkle and sparkle of the holidays as guests were treated with incredible magicians, jugglers, beautiful face painting, photos with the Sugar Plum Fairy and shopping at the Nutcracker market. At the end of the feast, everyone was whisked away to the matinee performance of The Nutcracker presented by Kansas City Ballet and sponsored by Bank of America. It was a wonderful way to celebrate the start of the holiday season.

Event Photos

School Director Grace Holmes with Event Chair Shelley Zucht
School Director Grace Holmes with Event Chair Shelley Zucht
Artistic Director Devon Carney, Christa Dubill (emcee), and Executive Director Jeffrey J. Bentley
Artistic Director Devon Carney, Christa Dubill (emcee), and Executive Director Jeffrey J. Bentley
Robbi Walberg, Mark Walberg, Diane Searcy, Steven Fass, Laurie Fass, (front boys) Lawson Fass, Hudson Fass
Robbi Walberg, Mark Walberg, Diane Searcy, Steven Fass, Laurie Fass, (front boys) Lawson Fass, Hudson Fass
Catherine Middleton with daughter Sophie
Catherine Middleton with daughter Sophie
L-R. Back to front: Alison Patterson and her daughter Elwyn, Pam Welker and her daughter Sophie, Loren Whittaker and her niece Mia Whittaker.
L-R. Back to front: Alison Patterson and her daughter Elwyn, Pam Welker and her daughter Sophie, Loren Whittaker and her niece Mia Whittaker.

Photography by Brian Goodman

Student Profile: Olivia Denson

KCB School Student Olivia Denson. Photography by Brett Pruitt & East Market Studios.Olivia Denson started dance classes at age 2 ½. She learned ballet, jazz, tap and gymnastics but she really loved the ballet. At age 7 it was clear she was smitten, so her parents decided to send her to Kansas City Ballet School’s Johnson County campus. “Coming here was amazing! It was a BIG change,” says Olivia. “Shortly after I switched schools, my old school shut down. So I was really, really glad to be here.”

When asked why she is drawn to ballet, Olivia admits, “I love the discipline. Ballet has so many rules and I love rules. And it just felt natural and the other [dance styles] didn’t feel natural. I love structure and repetition—it’s meditative in a way.”

KCB School Student Olivia Denson. Photography by Brett Pruitt & East Market Studios.What she loves about KCBS

When asked what she likes most about KCBS, she has trouble picking just one thing: “One of the main things I love is the building. Huge studios and natural light. We are so lucky! I have different teachers each day of the week so I get many different perspectives during the week. I love the teachers at KCBS so much. And I love that we have the opportunity to dance in professional shows.”

Olivia has been part of several KCB Company productions including Cinderella, The Sleeping Beauty, and seven years of The Nutcracker. “I was so excited when I was asked to dance in the ‘Garland Waltz’ in The Sleeping Beauty last season,” Olivia says. “I actually got a role that was mostly given to Trainees. It was a great experience—a big deal. I enjoyed getting to know the Trainees and ask their advice.”

As part of her preparation, Olivia also has been part of Kansas City Youth Ballet, directed by Kimberly Cowen. She likes the company feeling that being part of KCYB brings. Along with the corps work and the fact that they also get to dance contemporary works, working directly with choreographers, especially the company members like Molly Wagner and Charles Martin, makes KCYB a very worthy experience.

Lots of Support

Tuition can be expensive, and for a budding dancer spending your summers in intense training is important. “For my first two Summer Intensives we did a silent auction with our family and friends,” Olivia says. “Family and friends donated items and services—like our dentist donated an electric toothbrush or a teeth whitening package. It seemed like everyone wanted to help however they could. We raised around $2,000 each year to help pay for my SI program. These same folks buy tickets to watch me perform as part of KCYB as well. I’m lucky to have so much support.”

KCB School Student Olivia Denson. Photography by Brett Pruitt & East Market Studios.A Dream of Dancing

Her dream started years ago at a Kansas City Ballet performance. “I love watching the professional company shows. And once I saw Miss Kim [Kimberly Cowen] dance, I knew that’s what I wanted to do. I once asked her to sign my ticket to one of her last performances.”

She knows she wants to become a professional dancer someday. She says, “That’s the coolest job! I would love to stay here as part of KCB. I love KC and we just have such great facilities here. I’ve been to other places and I just feel like we are so lucky here.”



All photography by Brett Pruitt & East Market Studios.

Teacher Profile: Kramer Kreiling

Kramer (Pruitt) Kreiling is Kansas City Ballet School’s Administrator at the Bolender Center. Along with being among the frontline staff to greet students and guests at the Bolender Center, she also teaches a number of classes for a wide range of students including creative movement classes on up to adults taking Studio classes. But if Kramer seems familiar, it could be because she’s been around KCBS since she was 9.

A Stong History

Kramer has seen a lot of changes for the school as well. When she started taking classes, KCB was located where the Kauffman Center is now. Then the organization moved across the street to 1601 Broadway, what’s now Quixotic’s Offices.

During her time, she danced in several Kansas City Ballet productions including the role of “Clara” in Todd Bolender’s The Nutcracker, and MidWest Youth Ballet became Kansas City Youth Ballet. Kramer was part of the youth company from its inception in 2007 through 2011 when she graduated from high school and KCBS. After college, where she earned her BFA in Dance in 2014, she began teaching classes at KCBS and eventually worked her way up to an administrator position.

Kramer (Pruitt) Kreiling as Clara in The Nutcracker, 2005. Photography by Brett Pruitt & East Market Studios.
Kramer (Pruitt) Kreiling as Clara in The Nutcracker, 2005. Photography by Keith Gard.

“I never really questioned leaving the dance world,” Kramer says. “I can’t exactly pinpoint a moment, but it was just always the thing that felt ‘right’. Though I now just take classes for personal enjoyment, I still feel fully immersed in the ballet world with my teaching.”

A New Passion

Kramer says: “The first time I stepped into the studio as the teacher, rather than the student, I knew I had discovered my true passion. I absolutely love teaching! I like to say that when I dance it is my selfish act, but when I teach it is my way of giving to others. I am lucky to teach a large variety of classes here at KCBS. Most of my time is spent with young dancers in our Children’s Program and with our Adult Beginners. I have also had the opportunity to teach contemporary, improv, and theraband classes in KCBS’s Summer Intensive and Junior Summer Intensive.”

Kramer enjoys being both a teacher and administrator because she is able to bond with students in the studio, as well as with their families outside of the studio. Making those connections brings her full circle back to her own memories of being a student at KCBS.

KC Ballet Instagram News

In honor of Kansas City Ballet’s Nutcracker debut at the John F. Kennedy Center in Washington, D.C., next week, KC Ballet has Company member Lamin Pereira dos Santos and KCB School Student Maggie Crist on board to takeover the @kc.ballet and @kc.balletschool Instagram accounts respectively. Be sure to follow them on their incredible journey that begins today! Send them some hometown love as they represent KCB in our nation’s capital. They’ll begin KC performances on Dec. 7th at the Kauffman Center.


Photo Credits:

Top: KCB Dancer Lamin Pereira dos Santos. Bottom: KCB Dancer Michael Davis and KCB School Student Maggie Crist. All photography by Brett Pruitt & East Market Studios.