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Kansas City Ballet Returns To The Kauffman Center With A Crowd-Pleasing Season

Kenny Johnson
Kansas City Ballet
Three works open the Kansas City Ballet's season at the Kauffman Center for the Performing Arts in October, including "Celts." Dancers Taryn Mejia and Cameron Thomas are pictured here.

The Kansas City Ballet on Friday announced the company’s 2021-2022 season – including a return this fall to the Kauffman Center for the Performing Arts.

The Kansas City Ballet is planning to emerge from the pandemic with a line-up of popular performances selected partly out of gratitude.

Artistic director Devon Carney said the Kansas City community provided a "lifeline" to the company after COVID-19 restrictions forced it to cancel performances at the Kauffman Center for the Performing Arts in 2020 and again this year due to the coronavirus pandemic.

Donors and audiences remained supportive as the ballet offered a series of online productions of new works filmed in iconic spots in Kansas City, like the Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art and the American Jazz Museum.

"There's just no way that we can absolutely a hundred percent thank them except to do what we know how to do best," said Carney, "and that is — give great performances."

The upcoming season at the Kauffman Center will feature a range of audience favorites — from “Celts,” a mashup of ballet and Irish folk dance; to “Dracula,” the classic gothic horror story; to “The Wizard of Oz,” a journey to the Emerald City.

And, of course, the annual holiday show, “The Nutcracker,” will be back.

Kenny Johnson
Kansas City Ballet
Kansas City Ballet Dancer Whitney Huell was the first African-American dancer with the company to take on the role of the Sugar Plum Fairy in "The Nutcracker."

The ballet's connection with audiences will begin in August, when the company plans to host Kansas City Dance Day at the Todd Bolender Center for Dance and Creativity, with free dance performances, classes and demonstrations.

In September, New Dance Partners at Johnson County Community College’s Midwest Trust Center will celebrate new works in partnership with other professional dance companies. Also, look for New Moves in March, showcasing original contemporary ballet in the Frost Studio at the Bolender Center.

Kansas City Ballet will return to the Kauffman Center in October with a mixed-repertoire performance, including George Balanchine’s “Serenade,” a romantic ballet that pays tribute to classics like “Swan Lake” and “Giselle.”

"It's a very classic moment for that signature work by Balanchine," described Carney, "when all the women are on stage in these beautiful costumes and the lights."

He added, "The curtain goes up, the lights are there, the music is there and they're looking toward the sunlight. And it's just a glorious moment, which I am very much looking forward to."

Kenny Johnson
Kansas City Ballet
Kansas City Ballet dancers Amanda DeVenuta, Liang Fu, James Kirby Rogers and Lamin Pereira in Septime Webre's "The Wizard of Oz."

The 2021-2022 season will conclude in May with a big-budget production of “The Wizard of Oz,” which draws on the storyline and visuals from the classic film.

The cast will include 30 company dancers and 15 second company dancers, plus 23 children’s roles (with two casts). Audiences will see 112 hats, 120 costumes (and 60 costume changes during the production), as well as 20 puppets, including a mechanical Toto.

“This has been a very long dark tunnel,” said Carney. “And I think it's wonderful to finally see the light at the end of the tunnel.”

Here’s a look at the season at the Kauffman Center for the Performing Arts:

Oct. 15 - 24, 2021

  • "Celts." Choreography by Lila York, recorded music by The Chieftains, William J. Ruyle, Bill Whelen and Mason Daring.
  • "Wunderland." Choreography by Edwaard Liang, music by Philip Glass performed by the Opus 76 Quartet.
  • "Serenade." Choreography by George Balanchine, music by Peter I. Tchaikovsky performed by the Kansas City Symphony.

Dec. 3 - 24, 2021

  • "The Nutcracker." Choreography by Devon Carney, music by Peter I. Tchaikovsky performed by Kansas City Symphony.

Feb. 18 - 27, 2022

  • "Dracula." Choreography by Michael Pink, music by Philip Feeney performed by Kansas City Symphony.

May 13 - 22, 2022

  • "The Wizard of Oz." Choreography by Septime Webre, music by Matthew Pierce performed by Kansas City Symphony.

Subscriptions to the three-ballet package range from $141 to $305. Tickets are available online or by calling the Kansas City Ballet Box Office at 816-931-8993.

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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