dance

Julie Denesha / KCUR 89.3FM

For two decades, The Billie Mahoney Dance Troupe has riffed, shuffled and flapped to jazzy, syncopated rhythms year round.

There's always that one friend whose obsession leaks into every conversation. Wendy Perron, dancer, choreographer, and writer, says, "I'd be talking about dance so much that friends would say, 'Just shut up already.'" Despite the advice, Perron has built a career around documenting changes in dance and choreography since the 1970s.

Julie Denesha / KCUR 89.3FM

As they rehearsed for an upcoming performance in the apocalyptic “Rite of Spring,” two dancers in the Kansas City Ballet recently got advice from the legendary ballerina who’d helped create the role.

Andrea Tudhope / KCUR 89.3

Story of a Song is a monthly segment on KCUR's Central Standard, in which local musicians tell the story behind a recent song, and explain how it was constructed musically. 

The project: Igor Stravinsky's "L'Histoire du Soldat," or "A Soldier's Tale."

Julie Denesha / KCUR 89.3

The ballet Swan Lake is a tragic love story. A beautiful princess, Odette, is under a spell, and, by day, turns into a white swan. A handsome prince falls for her, but then he’s tricked into pledging his love for an evil witch, Odile, the black swan. And the spell cannot be undone. 

Veteran dancer Cynthia Gregory made her debut as Odette/Odile in 1967, at the age of 20, on tour with the American Ballet Theatre in San Francisco.

How does a classical art adapt to a changing world? Exploring race in what began as a 17th-century European artform, through the lens of dancers of color.

Guests:

  • Tyrone Aiken, artistic director, KC Friends of Alvin Ailey
  • Sabrina Madison-Cannon, associate dean of undergraduate affairs, UMKC Conservatory
  • Courtney Garrett, dance student, UMKC Conservatory
  • Miyesha McGriff, New York City dancer and Kansas City native
Julie Denesha / KCUR

The mood was intense on Wednesday at the final dress rehearsal for the Kansas City Ballet's world premier of "The Nutcracker."

After nearly two years of planning and collaboration, with artisans from all across the country, artistic director Devon Carney was finally ready to bring his new creation to the stage of the Kauffman Center for the Performing Arts.

Julie Denesha / KCUR

Kansas City Friends of Alvin Ailey announced two new top leadership roles on Tuesday. 

Harlan Brownlee joins the organization in the newly created position of chief executive officer.

In July, Brownlee stepped down as president and CEO of ArtsKC, the regional arts council. He's worked in arts education for three decades, including as a dance teacher and choreographer, and calls this a "great fit." 

Julie Denesha / KCUR

For more than three decades, Kansas City audiences have gathered at the holidays to watch the classic ballet, The Nutcracker. This year, though, they'll be getting something much different.

Julie Denesha / KCUR

More than 200 people are expected Wednesday at the Gem Theater at 18th and Vine for a daylong community conversation about race.

Though the Fall Symposium: Race, Place & Diversity hosted by the Kansas City Friends of Alvin Ailey might feel like a response to this week’s events at the University of Missouri in Columbia, the organization hosted a similar symposium a year ago and is committed to doing so for the next five years, says the organization’s executive director, Tyrone Aiken.

Courtesy Oskar Landi / Urban Romances, A Sundance Selects Release

Though the late choreographer George Balanchine may have been a genius, he had a skewed vision of what his ballerinas should look like. He dictated they be flat-chested and that they follow diets so strict they stopped menstruating. Today that's called body fascism in some circles. And it might have produced as much hurt as art.

Julie Denesha / KCUR

Photographer Mike Strong has spent the past two decades capturing the movement of dancers on Kansas City stages. 

When Strong first became interested in dance, he says he couldn't find much information about metro-area dance events. So in 1997, he started his own website, KCDance.com and has published photographs of performances and rehearsals ever since. 

Pain. It's not the most uplifting topic, in fact it hurts, but it's universal... and throughout time, philosophers have found value in it. Our meditation on pain starts with a dance.

Guests:

Courtesy photo / Belger Crane Yard Studios

Kansas City artist Peregrine Honig spent time this year in artist residencies — one in China, and, an unofficial one, closer to home at the Hotel Phillips. 

Some of the drawings and prints she created will soon be on display in a replica hotel suite — inside the Belger Crane Yard gallery. Sexuality and vulnerability, power and luxury — and privacy all collide in a new multimedia installation called Suites

Julie Denesha / KCUR

T’khara Jones and her younger sister KhaTera Jones wanted to take dance lessons.

Their older sister won gymnastics and dance trophies, and they had an aunt whose dancing mesmerized them.

"I just thought, 'Wow that looks so much fun, it just looks beautiful," says T'khara. "I always wanted to do it."

Same went for KhaTera, a year behind her in school.

"One of my friends took dance classes and I thought it was really cool. When I first started wanting to take dance classes, it was maybe fourth or fifth grade."

Julie Denesha / KCUR

Ryan Jolicoeur-Nye counts out the beats as he directs three dancers darting across the floor in a rehearsal room.

Earlier this year when Jolicoeur-Nye created a pas de deux for Kansas City Ballet’s “New Moves” showcase set to the music of composer Max Richter, it caught the eye of Kansas City Dance Festival’s co-artistic director Anthony Krutzkamp. The two decided to collaborate on a larger work for the festival this weekend that they’re calling "Richter Scales."

Julie Denesha / KCUR

In a small dressing room Saturday afternoon, nine young dancers from AileyCamp The Group crowded around a bank of mirrors checking makeup and donning leotards. The dance troupe was one of three performing in Festival on the Vine’s youth matinee performance at the Gem Theater in Kansas City.

The three-day festival of dance over the weekend featured Kansas City-based Owen/Cox Dance Group, Cleo Parker Robinson Dance from Colorado and CRISOL danza Fusión from Mexico. And Saturday was the moment for young dancers to take the stage. 

LIbrary of Congress/Google Images -- CC

During World War II, the Hollywood Canteen in Los Angeles was a famous nightclub where civilian hostesses danced with Allied soldiers of all races. It was an oasis during a time of segregation — or was it? KU professor Sherrie Tucker interviewed people who frequented the club and heard about their different — and sometimes contradictory — experiences on the dance floor.

Guest:

Julie Denesha / KCUR

The two-act ballet Giselle premiered in 1841. Today, this story of a peasant girl who falls in love with a nobleman in disguise is considered a classic. There’s a love triangle, a mad scene, and ghosts who dance men to death.

Giselle as a 'personal experience'

At the Bolender Center on a recent afternoon, Kansas City Ballet rehearsals were underway for Giselle. It's the first act when Giselle, a young peasant girl, falls in love with Albrecht, a nobleman disguised as a peasant. Here’s the problem – the village gamekeeper, Hilarion, is also in love with Giselle.

Esther Honig / KCUR

On a Monday night at the Lee A. Tolbert gymnasium in Kansas City, 80 dancers ages 6-25 gather for one of two weekly practices of The Marching Cobras. 

In gym shorts and sneakers, the dancers break a sweat running through their routines. They move to the beats of a group of young drummers banging out a rhythm loud enough to make your ears pound.

Days before the deadline for a clarinet and saxophone competition to win $1,000 and a trip to Paris, Gunnar Gidner could barely stand. A spinal injury had left him unable to walk, much less practice his tenor saxophone, for two and a half months.

Gidner had recovered enough to return to school at the UMKC Conservatory of Music and Dance in December. His jazz combo was rehearsing on his first day back, and Gidner’s professor, Dan Thomas, heard the recording and thought it was good. Really good.

Julie Denesha / KCUR

The Nutcracker, with choreography by Todd Bolender, has played a role in the holiday season for Kansas City audiences since 1981. But, on Christmas Eve, the curtain falls for the last time on this version of the production.

The Sugar Plum Fairy lightly takes center stage in a gold tutu at the final dress rehearsal of The Nutcracker at the Kauffman Center for the Performing Arts.  

Julie Denesha / KCUR

In the depths of the Kauffman Center for the Performing Arts, small herds of children passed racks of snowflake and flower costumes Wednesday night as they made their way to dressing rooms just before Kansas City Ballet’s final dress rehearsal of The Nutcracker.

Julie Denesha / KCUR

Alvin Ailey was a choreographer who was born in Texas in 1931. He spent his pioneering dance career in New York City, touring internationally and transforming ideas about dance and race on the world stage throughout his life. He died in 1989, and yet, Kansas City dancers live and breathe Alvin Ailey in the 21st century. 

In recognition of the 30th anniversary of Kansas City Friends of Alvin Ailey (KCFAA), Central Standard explores the dance philosophy of Alvin Ailey and his relationship with Kansas City. 

Julie Denesha / KCUR

One character in the Kansas City Ballet's new production of Alice (in wonderland) is not a dancer -- but requires seven dancers to move: the Jabberwocky, a silver-scaled beast with a sprawling 25-foot wingspan.

Early in the rehearsal process, the ballet's artistic director, Devon Carney, brought in Paul Mesner, founder of Paul Mesner Puppets, to stage the puppet work and teach the dancers a few tricks of the trade.

Julie Denesha / KCUR

Under the watchful eye of Kansas City native David Parsons, 10 young dance students worked on perfecting dance steps from two very different Parsons works -- Nascimento and Whirlaway -- this week at the Todd Bolender Center for Dance and Creativity. Parsons teamed up with Kansas City Ballet to bring his intense workshop to Kansas City after touring the facility with his father last year.

Julie Denesha / KCUR

On Tuesday's Central Standard, we invited a variety of artists to discuss how their practice has evolved as they have moved from one stage of life to another.

As a ballet dancer embarked on retirement from the stage and into a teaching and choreographing role at the age of 32, he sat down with a visual artist who has more than forty years of studio experience and a legendary jazz saxophonist. The three compared notes across genres. 

Highlights:

Julie Denesha / KCUR

This weekend, the second annual Kansas City Dance Festival gets under way, assembling dancers and choreographers from the local, national and international stage.

A recent rehearsal found dancers Logan Pachciarz and Molly Wagner working on a pas de deux under the watchful eye of departing Kansas City Ballet ballet master James Jordan, as they honed both steps and expression during a walk through of the late Todd Bolender’s "The Still Point."

Wylliams/Henry Contemporary Dance Company

If you're looking for a variety of entertainment this weekend, look no further than Brian McTavish's Weekend To-Do List for May 30-June 1.

Cher (pop diva), D2K Tour 2014, 8:00 p.m. Saturday at the Sprint Center, 1407 Grand, Kansas City, MO

Tickets: $45.50 to $105.50

Julie Denesha / KCUR

The modern pointe shoe has kept ballerinas on their toes since the early 20th Century.

Each delicate, custom-made satin and leather shoe endures a punishing routine that begins even before a dancer places a shoe on her foot.

As part of an occasional series called Tools of the Trade about performers and their relationship to the tools that make their work possible, I talked to members of the Kansas City Ballet about shoes.

Pages