Kansas City Dance Festival: Dance in the Heart of America

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Kansas City, MO boasts a thriving arts scene, and this summer, it will add a new attraction.

The first annual Kansas City Dance Festival (KCDF) premieres later this month. With Kansas City Ballet (KCB) dancers Anthony Krutzkamp and Logan Pachciarz at its helm, KCDF looks to be a cool way to spend a hot Midwest summer evening.

I had the opportunity to sit down with Krutzkamp and learn more about the ins and outs of putting together a dance festival.

Matthew Donnell: How did you come up with the idea for KCDF?

Anthony Krutzkamp: I’ve always wanted to do a show and I’ve been sitting on the idea for about ten years. When my wife and I left Cincinnati Ballet, I realized it may not make sense to come back just to put on a show. Being in a new place, shaking hands can be hard. Logan has been here for a twelve years, and he knows everyone. We both wanted to put on a festival with people from different places. We wanted our dancers to dance with them, not just around them.

MD: Where are your dancers coming from?

AK: We have dancers from Kansas City Ballet, Cincinnati Ballet, Joffrey Ballet, Nashville Ballet, and KC’s Owen/Cox Dance Group, which is our umbrella organization. (It will perform a piece called Canned Heat.)

MD: You have choreographed a couple of pieces on the program. Is choreography something you’ve taken a liking to?

AK: Yes, just recently. I didn’t really know I had so many ideas in me. I mean, heck, it’s not that I want to use the show as a platform for that, but using some of my own choreography isn’t just cost effective, it also puts more people on stage. One of my pieces is for six dancers. Just having a show of pas de deux would get really boring.

MD: It takes visionaries to put on work like this. Not all dancers feel the call to undertake such a project.

AK: Actually Cervilio Amador, one of the guys who’s coming to perform in the festival talks a lot about this. He says, “Some people are dancers, some are teachers, some are ballet masters, some are directors, and they’re meant to be there.”

MD: We’ve known each other since we were 15, and started here with Kansas City Ballet together. It’s been fun to watch you then rise through the ranks to principal in Cincinnati Ballet, and now come back to Kansas City. You’ve really come full circle.

At Dd we’re interested in sharing about dancers’ transitions and the groundwork they lay down during their careers. Can you share more about your experiences with this process?

AK: I have a B.S. in Business from Northeastern University in Boston. This has been helpful in putting together KCDF. But this is my first time fundraising. Non-profit management is very different than what I went to school for. The only thing that is similar is the Excel Spreadsheet! I’m learning a lot.

In fundraising, I’ve learned how important it is to have the festival as an annual event. I was afraid that if I asked people for their support, they would be worried that I wouldn’t come back. But I’ve learned that people are more willing to put their money into something that they know is going to last and grow. We’re not giving up. We’re not going anywhere. We’re doing this thing.

MD: It sounds like you’re learning about the importance of all of the different positions in a ballet company, not just the artistic side.

AK: Absolutely. Right now, Logan and I are doing the line share of most of everything. Daniel Allen, our attorney has done an amazing job on the legal end of things as well as other areas. The three of us are doing fifteen people’s jobs. It’s crazy.

MD: When did you decide you were going to do this?

AK: Probably about October, but we really began fundraising in March. We didn’t want to show up to potential donors empty handed with nothing but ideas. If we tried to plan and fundraise at the same time, we felt that we’d be spread too thin. So, we planned the artistic side first and made sure we had a total package set up that we could sell. Some people thought we were completely crazy, and we were! It takes a little bit of crazy. But at the same time, we met our goal very quickly.

Now, we are thinking about the future. We are purchasing things now that we can use for the next four or five years. It’s not worth buying the cheaper version of something if you’re going to have to re-buy the next year. We’re really investing in this festival.

MD: As far as planning for dancers’ needs, what have you learned?

AK: I don’t feel comfortable doing anything unless it’s the right way. It’s easy to say “I’m going to employ fifteen people at this little bean of a paycheck.” But it’s hard to really give artists what they’re worth.

We went into it trying to give what we always wanted as dancers. At the end of the day, I want to be proud of the project we’re giving — not only for the audience, but for the dancers as well. I want dancers to come this year, and I want them to want to come back. As the budget grows, I want other people to want to come also. We had really great dancers email us as soon as we started promoting on Facebook — really wonderful artists saying, “I want to be a part of the show.”

At the end of the day, you have to look at the budget and say, “Hey, if we’re really going to do this the right way, we need to keep these numbers a little smaller and make dancing a little more, making it safe for everybody.”

MD: How did you come up with the name for the festival?

AK: It was important for us to keep Kansas City in the name. It is for the community.

As artists, we have to push ourselves artistically, and at the same time we need to try our art out on the audience. We need to try to push them and see what they can take in, and that’s hard. Art isn’t just about sitting there and always watching what you’re comfortable with. Sometimes you need to say something, and that’s okay.

Bringing people from different places is really important for our community. People need to see different types of dance, and artists need to see and learn from each other about what is being done in different regions.

If you just do the same stuff all the time, no one is learning…. At the end of the day, nobody learned from the art. Art’s not there just to clap at. We want to have a good show that makes people think.

Kansas City Dance Festival premieres in Kansas City, MO at the Spencer Theatre UMKC on June 28 and 29. For more information, visit the Kansas City Dance Festival Facebook page.

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Alexandra Pinel