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[VIDEO] Off-Season: Dancers Challenge Audiences And Themselves With New Summer Festival

Julie Denesha

For most dancers, the off-season is a time of rest and recuperation from the rigors of performance. But six months ago, Kansas City Ballet dancers Anthony Krutzkamp and Logan Pachciarz began to plan a more ambitious summer break.

Art is not always easy

As co-artistic directors of the first-ever Kansas City Dance Festival, Krutzkamp and Pachciarz are bringing in dancers and choreographers from around the country. The classical ballet and modern dance works were selected to challenge audiences - and dancers.

"As far as artists go, we need to push ourselves artistically, and in the same vein, we need to push the audience, artistically," Krutzkamp says. "Art isn't always there for it to be easy. I want people to think after the show."

An opportunity to work with fellow dancers

The festival also draws from a group of dedicated local dancers, such as the Kansas City Ballet's Tempe Ostergren.

"I am with Kansas City Ballet throughout the year," Ostergren says, "And this is a wonderful opportunity over the summer months to get to work with my fellow dancers, dancers from around the country, choreographers from around the country.

"And this is a great opportunity to just (explore) little jewels that we've thought of over our careers, and things that we've seen throughout our careers and things that we've seen. And then we can expose them during the summer months when we are all hungry for some entertainment."

Blending East and West

Festival organizers say one of those  "little jewels" is Angeli. It's a work created by Ma Cong, a choreographer from China who recently retired as a dancer with the Tulsa Ballet. Cong says that his combined study of classical ballet and Chinese classical dance sparks his desire to blend East and West in his work.
Angeli, the piece he is bringing to the Kansas City Dance Festival, was inspired by the angelic statues he encountered on a trip to Italy.

"My expression is, 'Humans are angels,' and that's why I use the dancer's body and their movement, actually, to create, you know, angel's wings. When they fly, when they are looking over down to the earth," Cong says. "The movement is, actually, very earthy, and very grounded and it shows a lot of beautiful lines in the body, in the face, in arms, in the fingers.

"Some of the sections you will find, when you look at it, it's just like sculpture that I saw in Europe, in Italy."

A hunger to dance

Yoshiya Sakurai performs as one of these dancing sculptures in Angeli. A native of Japan who has been with the Kansas City Ballet for three seasons, Sakurai says he feels lucky to have a chance to dance during the summer months.

"We love to dance all the time," he says. "In summer time, we usually have long vacations. We don't do anything, so we always hunger to dance, to perform in front of people, show what we can do."

Festival is a gift to dancers

The Kansas City Ballet's Ostergren says the festival has given her a chance to experience stimulating new works. She gives credit to Krutzkamp and Pachciarz for taking an idea and leaping with it.

"I am so proud of these guys, because they actually made this vision and they've actually made it happen," Ostergren says. "And I am so proud. It's a gift to us and the other dancers. I am so proud of them to do that because it's food for us."

Co-director Anthony Krutzkamp says he hopes the Kansas City Dance Festival will be thought-provoking - and that it will live with the audience until next summer, when they plan to do it again.

Kansas City Dance Festival, June 28 and 29, 7:30 pm, Spencer Theatre, 4949 Cherry St., Kansas City, Mo. 816-235-6222. A master class, open to students ages 13 and up, with Nashville Ballet's Jon Upleger will also be offered as part of the festival, July 1, 7 pm, Ballet North, 6308 N. Prospect Avenue, Gladstone, Mo. Cost: $15.

Julie Denesha is the arts reporter for KCUR. Contact her at julie@kcur.org.
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