Celebrating Dance in Kansas City
The original brick smokestack was transformed into a skylight.
Kansas City Ballet is kicking off the season by opening its doors and offering free classes for children and adults. It’s also a chance to see what’s cooking dance-wise in the whole city. I love it when the various dance contingents in one city can work together, and Kansas Citians will see this kind of collaboration in action this Saturday, August 27.
This is the sixth year of KC Dance Day. It started shortly after the opening of the extraordinary Todd Bolender Center for Dance & Creativity in 2011. The center houses seven beautiful studios for Kansas City Ballet and its school of 1800+ students, plus a 180-seat theater and administrative offices.
I was lucky to see the center last May when I visited the city. Wherever you are in that building, the views inside and outward are interesting. Originally a 1914 powerhouse that burned coal to generate steam and electricity, the building had been abandoned since the 1970s. KC Ballet employed a design team from BNIM to retain the old structures while providing open, expansive dance spaces, and the result is gorgeous in its functionality. No wonder people from all over the city flock to this building for KC Dance Day.
What they will find is free classes for kids in ballet, jazz, and hip hop, pre-ballet and creative movement for the very young, and a special class called Boys on the Move. Adult classes include Zumba, modern, ballet, tap, hip hop, jazz, flamenco and Pilates.
Kansas City Ballet in A Midsummer Night's Dream. Photo by Steve Wilson.
But KC Dance Day is not just about Kansas City Ballet and its school. It’s about the richness of dance all over Kansas City. So you can also see free demonstrations by AileyCamp Kids, the UMKC (University of Missouri, Kansas City) Conservatory Dance Ensemble and Kansas City Youth Ballet. Independent groups like Störling Dance Theater, Seamless Dance Theatre, Wylliams/Henry Contemporary Dance Company, Billie Mahoney Dance Troupe and Allegro Ballroom also get their 15 minutes in the sun. Then there’s the world dance contingent, with groups specializing in dances from Greece, Philippines, Spain and Ireland.
William Whitener, who was director of Kansas City Ballet at the time the Bolender Center was being built, says that KC Dance Day “was KC Ballet's gift to the local dance community…It was a way to support, acknowledge and generate enthusiasm for all kinds of dance in the local area.”
This year the folks who partake of this gift will also get to see a rehearsal of KC Ballet in Bruce Wells’ A Midsummer Night’s Dream, which opens Oct. 7 at the Kauffman Center for the Performing Arts, another architectural wonder. (It helps that Kansas City has an arts-loving mayor.)
For more information on KC Dance Day, click here.
"Besides the stage, baking is my other happy place," says New York City Ballet corps member Jenelle Manzi.
Four years ago, she thought her baking days were over when she was diagnosed with gluten intolerance. Manzi had been dealing with pain, frequent illness and joint inflammation for nearly 10 years. Once she cut out gluten, Manzi gradually started to feel better, noticing a transformation in how her body felt and functioned. She found her joints were less inflamed, and she got sick less often.
New York City Ballet soloist Unity Phelan and American Ballet Theatre soloist Cassandra Trenary spend every day making their hard work look effortless and graceful both in the studio and onstage. That's exactly what makes them the perfect spokesmodels for the dance-inspired activewear line, Belle Force.
To celebrate our 90th anniversary, we excavated some of our favorite hidden gems from the DM Archives—images that capture a few of the moments in time we've documented over the decades.
This image was captured during a 1978 New York City Ballet tour that took the company to Copenhagen—home turf for Adam Luders (right), who trained at the Royal Danish Ballet School and briefly danced with the company before joining NYCB as a principal dancer in 1975. Next to Luders is (of course) George Balanchine, in conversation with ballerina Suzanne Farrell. And looking on with a smile? NYCB's current ballet master in chief Peter Martins.
On March 8, 2016, Rami Shafi found himself inspired to film an impromptu dance video of his best friend, Aaron Moses Robin, improvising on Gay St. in New York City's Greenwich Village. Thus was born Pedestrian Wanderlust, a collection of dance videos that has grown to include a monthly improv jam.
Shafi works with anyone who wants to take part in the project, filming videos in locations chosen by the dancers and later adding music. The videos are shot on Shafi's iPhone in one take and, other than the starting and ending points, are entirely improvised. The editing afterwards—including the music choice—is minimal. "I don't like to edit too much. It's just what it is," says Shafi. "I usually can do the editing on the train ride home."
Many people see dance and choreography as separate pursuits, or view choreography as a dance career's second act. For some dancers, however, performing and choreographing inform one another. "That's just the kind of choreographer I am. I feel things so deeply in my physicality. I have to do it to know it," says Jodi Melnick, who is a prolific performer of her own work. She also maintains an active practice as a performer for other choreographers: Throughout her career, she's worked with Trisha Brown, Twyla Tharp, Tere O'Connor and Donna Uchizono, to name a few.
Though a dual career can be fulfilling, simultaneously inhabiting the roles of dancer and choreographer requires focus, organization and a great deal of energy.
New York City is getting an embarrassment of riches this week—riches of the Emerald, Diamonds and Rubies variety. The Bolshoi Ballet, Paris Opéra Ballet and New York City Ballet will be sharing the stage at Lincoln Center to present George Balanchine's Jewels in celebration of the iconic ballet's 50th anniversary.
One of the many stars we're excited to see is Olga Smirnova, our June 2014 cover girl, who will be performing the lead in "Diamonds" as well as the role of Bianca in Jean-Christophe Maillot's Taming of the Shrew next week.
I have always been extremely dramatic. I think "extremely" might even be an understatement. As a child, I was constantly in costume. Never clothes. Always a costume.
When I was 8 we moved into a new house, and took a home video to send to my dad's family. My siblings were performing a song for the camera. I desperately wanted to join them, but they got annoyed and said no. In the video I run out of the room crying hysterically, and you can hear my dad saying, "It's okay, Sam, you can dance for the camera later."
This is followed by about 45 minutes of me dancing. Music changes, style changes, costume changes, the works. Dance was, and still is, the best way I know how to express myself.