Julie Denesha / KCUR 89.3FM

Each year in the fall, nearly 1,700 people enjoy Ailey II modern dance performances presented by the Kansas City Friends of Alvin Ailey. But besides being the official second home of the famed New York-based Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater, the local organization has another year-round mission: to create social change by encouraging diversity.

Jordan Green / Flickr - CC

It can be intriguing when performers may not show everything they have, yet still impress. 

Well, that will have to wait! Because no lights will be hidden under any bushels this weekend, with a diversity of shows divulging a harvest of talents and captivations – from oh-so-sultry singing to over-the-top stage gore.

Do you see? Oh, you will.

​1. MattyB

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Shakespeare’s romantic comedy A Midsummer Night’s Dream revolves around the mishaps of two mortal couples, as well as the king and queen of the fairies, Oberon and Titania. An oft-quoted line provides a summary of the plot: "The course of true love never did run smooth."

The Kansas City Ballet's production, choreographed by Bruce Wells, tells the story of magic and mistaken identities — through movement and music. 

Here are five things to know about the production: 

1. There's a 30-year connection

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More than 20 years ago, in 1994, philanthropist Muriel McBrien Kauffman started talking about a vision for a performing arts center in Kansas City. After years of planning, selecting architect Moshe Safdie, fundraising, and finally building —the $326 million Kauffman Center for the Performing Arts opened to the public in September 2011. 

Dancing In The Street

Aug 2, 2016

Dance can be a way to express yourself, but it can also be a way to meet people and find community. Kansas Citians have tangoed, sashayed, two-stepped, and boogied all over the streets and dance floors of this city for decades. But what's new in the scene? What are the cultures of dancing in our city? And, are there still places to dance? 


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Supporters of the proposed downtown University of Missouri-Kansas City campus for the arts have enlisted Warren Erdman, a savvy veteran of Missouri politics, to lead the lobbying effort for $48 million in matching state funds.

“Warren has been fantastically supportive since early on,” says Dean Peter Witte of the UMKC Conservatory of Music and Dance.

“His understanding of the University of Missouri System and his reputation in the State Legislature are great assets.”

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The members of Kansas City's Dance Gurukul troupe are hoping “Cosmic Forces” helps revive an ancient tradition while honoring the Hindu god Shiva.

This weekend, they'll be performing in the classical Southern Indian tradition of Kuchipudi, a style of dance that started as a temple art form thousands of years ago.

“The stage is a sacred space for us and the essence of the dance is deeply spiritual,” says Samarpita Bajpai. “It’s a way of connecting with God. That’s what you should feel when you are dancing.”

Beth Scupham/Flickr -- CC

Inspired by a new exhibit at Union Station, which features preserved corpses, we explore our relationship with our bodies.


file photo: Julie Denesha / KCUR 89.3

The late dancer and choreographer, Alvin Ailey, believed that "dance is for everybody." That philosophy extends to an event in its second year called Festival on the Vine: three days of dance, art and live performance in the historic 18th and Vine jazz district. 

The festival was created by Kansas City Friends of Alvin Ailey, the second home for Ailey's New York-based dance company. Chief artistic officer Tyrone Aiken walked us through some things to know: 

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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.

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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.

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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."

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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.


  • 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
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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.

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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." 

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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.

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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.

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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, 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.


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

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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."

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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."

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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.


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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.