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Five Questions For Devon Carney

Peter Mueller

The Kansas City Ballet has named Devon Carney as the company's new artistic director. For the last decade, Carney has worked with Cincinnati Ballet; since 2008, he's served as associate artistic director.

Carney, a former principal dancer with Boston Ballet, has also created his own choreography, with versions of classic ballets, such as Sleeping Beauty, and staged the work of a wide range of contemporary choreographers, including Mark Morris and Christopher Wheeldon.

You grew up in New Orleans, Louisiana. Is that something that stays with you, in food or music?

"For me, without dance, I'm not alive. Dance to me is life. It's the essence of who were are." - Devon Carney

New Orleans, of course, is a big center of jazz, just like Kansas City. I think there's a wonderful affinity between the jazz heritage in both of those cities. So that is certainly a part of me, the jazz from New Orleans. I've choreographed a piece (Blue Rondo), for instance, to Dave Brubeck's Take Five, which is just complete jazz all the way through.

The food, of course; I adore the New Orleans food. I can't say enough about it. I hope to find some good Southern cuisine in Kansas City. And of course, the barbecue, I'm looking forward to that. 

Is there one song you never get tired of listening to?

That would be Dave Brubeck's Take Five. It's been with me my whole life; I love it. I could listen to it forever. 


Do you have a favorite dish that you like to make at home?

If I had my choice, I would say it would be red beans and rice with Andouille sausage. That's a straight up New Orleans dish, which I just love.

What's the last book you read?

I'm in the middle of a book right now, which I'm finding really fascinating: Daily Rituals: How Artists Work. It's all about great artists and their daily routine. I'm about halfway through it and I'm reading about Frédéric Chopin, Merce Cunningham...it's just fantastic to read what Ben Franklin did in the morning. It's an interesting book.

If people ask you 'Why does dance matter?', how do you respond?

For me, without dance, I'm not alive. Dance to me is life. It's the essence of who were are.

We all dance. When you walk down the street, you're dancing. It's amazing to watch different individuals' rhythm as they walk. Their gait and how they sway, if they sway, if they're very purposeful in their walk. That in itself, the very pedestrian side of life, is dance.

All movement is dance. You can't live without it. To me, the answer would be: dance is life.

The Kansas City Ballet's new artistic director, Devon Carney, starts in early July. He'll relocate from Cincinnati with his wife of more than three decades, Pamela Royal Carney. She's a former soloist with Boston Ballet and on the faculty of Cincinnati Ballet Academy. Their two grown children are also involved in the arts; Lauren is an artist and Ryan is a rock musician.

Kansas City is known for its style of jazz, influenced by the blues, as the home of Walt Disney’s first animation studio and the headquarters of Hallmark Cards. As one of KCUR’s arts reporters, I want people here to know a wide range of arts and culture stories from across the metropolitan area. I take listeners behind the scenes and introduce them to emerging artists and organizations, as well as keep up with established institutions. Send me an email at lauras@kcur.org or follow me on Twitter @lauraspencer.
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