WHAT’S NEW IN KC DANCE?

A TIME FOR DANCE: New festival offers lesser-known rep, puts restless dancers to work

By Paul Horsley

If you want to build a dance festival from scratch, the key is collaboration. When veteran Kansas City Ballet dancers Logan Pachciarz and Anthony Krutzkamp determined to create an off-season dance performance, their goals were twofold: to provide work for dancers and choreographers from various companies during the lean summer months, and to present work to Kansas City audiences that we might not normally see otherwise. Thus was born the Kansas City Dance Festival, which debuts this June 28th and 29th at UMKC’s Spencer Theatre, a two-night event curated by Logan and Anthony with the help of KCB friends and others from Cincinnati Ballet, the Joffrey Ballet, the Kansas City Ballet, BalletMet, Nashville Ballet, Tulsa Ballet and others, including locally the Owen/Cox Dance Group.

Artistic directors Anthony Krutzkamp and Logan Pachciarz

Artistic directors Anthony Krutzkamp and Logan Pachciarz

The goal is not consciously to avoid KCB repertoire but rather to enhance it, says Logan, who has danced with our local company since 2001. “It’s repertoire that we like, repertoire that we believe is good and ‘now’ and present.” There are no brand-new works, he adds, as the fledgling group can’t yet afford to hire choreographers to create new works. But several are cutting-edge pieces, and some are older works that are “relevant still,” he adds. “There’s a whole knowledge-base of choreographers out there that should be seen and that are still fresh and current, but that some companies might not do any more.” Equally important to the festival, he says, was to include contributions from other local companies, such as the Owen/Cox group co-founded by former KCB dancer Jennifer Owen. “Because by fostering that cross-collaboration between groups, you share audiences, you share ideas,” Logan says. Growth is made possible by “pooling our resources and creating an expandable dance culture.”

The program includes Angeli by award-winning choreographer Ma Cong, the pas de deux from Bells by Yuri Possikhov (known to KCB audiences from his spectacular Firebird), Salvatore Aiello’s Satto, Jennifer Owen’s Canned Heat (a pas de trois with live drummer), Similar by KCDF co-director Anthony Krutzkamp, Adam Hougland’s solo to Mozart’s Requiem, and classics such as the pas de deux from Le Corsaire, a suite from Don Quixote and the local premiere of the of Satanella pas de deux, to music of Napoléon Henri Reber. KCB fans will recognize company dancers Rachel Coats, Tempe Ostergren, Jill Marlow, Geoffrey Kropp, Yoshiya Sakurai, Michael Davis and Anthony, who are joined by seven others.

The co-founders say that as soon as news of the festival appeared on Facebook “people just starting writing in: ‘Hey, count me in.’ ” The result is a group of dancers “with whom we have come into contact over the years,” Anthony says, “dancers that we trust and admire technically and artistically.” Among the works being performed here for the first time is Angeli, a 20-minute piece for six dancers by Chinese-born dancer/choreographer Ma Cong, who traveled here to stage the piece and presented excerpts at a recent open rehearsal. Cong immigrated to the United States, he says, partly in order to enhance his own training with a better sense of Western artistic traditions – to “create beautiful works,” he says, “that combine what I have learned from Eastern culture with Western culture.”

Seeking funding for the festival was of course an initial challenge for the two new artistic directors: Dancers had to be flown into town and lodged, a theater had to be rented, and so forth. “Logan’s from Tennessee and I’m from Kentucky, and we do not ask anybody for anything,” says Anthony with a laugh. But he says funders understood their intentions and needs, and were generous. “When you say, ‘Hey I want to employ dancers, and I want to bring good art here,’ people can really look you in the eye and say, ‘That’s a great idea.’ ” The festival has received support from the Todd Bolender Fund, the Kauffman Foundation, longtime KCB supporters Michael and Ginger Frost and others.

The festival is at 7:30 p.m. on June 28th and 29th at Spencer Theatre, 4949 Cherry. For tickets call 816-235-6222 or go to kcdancefestival.com. To watch a video of a recent rehearsal with Ma Cong to go:

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To reach Paul Horsley, The Indy’s performing arts editor, send email to phorsley@sbcglobal.net or find him on Facebook (paul.horsley.501) or follow him Twitter (@phorsleycritic).