BWW Interviews: Kansas City Ballet Opens Season, Continuing New Era of Prominence in Dance World

Taking visitors around Kansas City is always fun, driving past the striking Moshe Safdie-designed Kauffman Center for the Performing Arts on Broadway; seeing their surprise on the Pennway Overpass as they look left at an old four-story brick warehouse-type building, all new and redesigned, illuminaTEd White letters prominent on its south and west faces: "Kansas City Ballet."

"Wow, look at that," comes their tone at these and other impressive civic structures. "And in Kansas City, too," they're thinking. It's so unexpected by most to see how the city supports its arts, that Kansas City is consistently ranked among the top three philanthropic communities in America.

The Kansas City Ballet example is ideal in exploring this little-known truth. It's probably the finest regional ballet in the country, with a civic support system that would be the envy of any city. The company opens its 2013-14 season with a mixed bill this Friday, continuing through Oct. 20.

I recently sat down with KCB Ballet Master James Jordan after he conducted a run-through of the program opener, Jerome Robbins' indelible FANCY FREE, upon which the musical ON THE TOWN is based.

Jordan is a soft-spoken man who demurs comparison of his company to others: "...I think it's just great to say we're so thrilled to be supported as well as we are by the community. And to have this facility and the Kauffman to perform in is pretty outrageous."

He's speaking here of what the ballet, along with other Kansas City performing arts groups, has established for itself: A huge new architectural wonder, the above-mentioned Kauffman Center, a state-of-the-art performance space featuring all the trappings you'd expected on any worldly stage. KCB shares the space with the city's opera company and symphony.

Additionally, there is the Ballet's Bolender Center for Dance and Creativity, a restored power plant in the Union Station district that houses a complete set of rehearsal and classroom studios; the Ballet's administrative offices; wardrobe and costume facilities; physical therapy facilities, storage areas and artist locker rooms.

It is a stunningly thorough remodel, sleek with glass and steel, an almost embarrassment of riches for a ballet company KCB's size.

Commented Michael Kaiser, President of the John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts, at the Bolender Center's ribbon-cutting ceremony, "I'm lucky enough to travel all over the world and see dance facilities everywhere, and I can't think of one in the world that is more beautiful than this building."


What's even more exciting here is the debut of a new KCB Artistic Director, Devon Carney, most recently Associate Artistic Director of the Cincinnati Ballet, a company with whom he's been associated since 2003. I'll be interviewing him later in the season, but for now Jordan talked about the last piece in the opening program, which Carney created.

"[W]e finish with Devon's work, and that's (set to) a Shubert score. That's a big, driving's very classical, it's the most classical work of the evening.

"It's very physical, very fast, it's every bit as challenging as ALLEGRO BRILLANTE technically [he's referring to the Balanchine piece also included in the program]. It really launches (Devon) in a great way that says to Kansas City that we've got a new director with this rich background of classicism, and he can choreograph."

One further bit of news on KCB's development as a top-flight company-the addition of a "Second Company" of five dancers, which Jordan refers to as "Kansas City Ballet Two." "Because they're not part of the AGMA (dancer's) union, they're a little more flexible, they can dance in the community and do more outreach."

Of this Second Company, which brings KCB more in line with a feature all top-ranked ballet outfits boast, Jordan says, "It was Devon's request to do that and they agreed to finance this Second Company...we'll have fewer students in the corps de ballet, because we'll have more rising professionals that it raises the caliber of the dancing on the stage."

The Kansas City Ballet opens its 2013-14 season this Friday with a mixed program, continuing thorugh Oct. 20. For tickets and more information, visit

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