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Ballet can soar in new home

By BARBARA SHELLY
The Kansas City Star

The old Power House Building, which once kept the lights burning at Union Station and the Liberty Memorial, will soon unleash a much different source of energy. As the Todd Bolender Center for Dance & Creativity, it will hum around the clock with classes, rehearsals and performances.

The Kansas City Ballet is converting the 98-year-old building at 500 W. Pershing Road into a home for its offices and studios, which are now spread out in several locations.

A walk through the building explains why the ballet and its donors are so excited about the $39 million project. It will feature airy studios with natural light and observation areas. The company’s professional dancers will finally have locker rooms. There will be ample space to invite the community in for classes in multiple dance forms, Pilates and yoga.

"We have a mission to make Kansas City a destination for dance," said Jeffrey J. Bentley, executive director of the Kansas City Ballet. "This building will enhance that mission significantly."

Scheduled to open in August, the Bolender Center is another brick-and-mortar symbol of Kansas City’s rising status in the arts world. The ballet has about $4.5 million to go to reach its $39 million goal, which includes a $7 million endowment for the building’s upkeep.

Patrons can provide a push to the finish by donating before June 30. The Kresge Foundation has offered a $900,000 challenge grant if the ballet can raise $3 million in the 18-month period ending June 30. The company has to raise about $2 million to meet that worthy goal.

The opening of the Bolender Center will serve as a preview for the debut of the Kauffman Center for the Performing Arts in September. It will be a fine time for the arts in Kansas City.

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