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.

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