The holidays arrived a little early this year for the Kansas City Ballet.
The Kennedy Center in Washington, D.C., has invited the ballet to perform “The Nutcracker” in the nation’s capital the week of Thanksgiving.
“We’re thrilled to be invited,” said Jeffrey Bentley, the ballet’s executive director. “The Kennedy Center functions as America’s national theater. I think there will be terrific benefits to this, both tangible and spiritual, if you will.”
The Kennedy Center brings different “Nutcracker” productions to D.C. during the holidays. Last year it was the Cincinnati Ballet. The year before it was Ballet West from Salt Lake City.
Meg Booth, director of dance programming at the Kennedy Center, said the nation’s performing arts center was proud to showcase KC’s ballet company.
“We have continued to watch the company as they transitioned artistic leadership and built a spectacular new ‘Nutcracker’ production,” Booth said via email.
The Kansas City Ballet will perform “The Nutcracker” Nov. 22-26 (no performance on Thanksgiving) at the Kennedy Center and return to Kansas City to begin performances Dec. 7 at the Kauffman Center.
This isn’t the company’s first trip to D.C. In 2008, the ballet was invited to be a part of the Kennedy Center’s Ballet Across America. And the company’s former director, Michael Kaiser, served as the Kennedy Center president from 2001 to 2014.
The Kansas City Ballet will take two casts and several crew members and support staff to D.C. The show’s sets and other materials will be trucked across the country.
“Hopefully, the weather will be with us and we won’t have any snowstorms, with the trucks,” Bentley said. “Those are the nail-biters — is the weather going to work with you.”
Artistic director Devon Carney, who choreographed and created the ballet’s new “Nutcracker,” said he will travel to D.C. in the fall to hold auditions for the kids and students in the Kennedy Center cast. A massive feat for Carney and staff, considering they’ll need to keep track of hundreds of students between KC and D.C.
“That’s going to be a huge undertaking, to acquire roughly 120, 130 students that can be involved in the show,” Carney said. “Then the following week, we’ll come back here and do the auditions for our kids here. But a whole new group of kids get to enjoy the magic of the show. I love that.”
Bentley said the Kennedy Center will reimburse the Kansas City Ballet for the trip. Even though the ballet has traveled to D.C. before, it wasn’t with a production this size. The company will have a lot of beans to count.
“You guess how many trucks you’re going to need. You know the number of dancers. You check into airfares. Then, of course, there are surprises along the way,” he said. “Our out-of-pocket will be as best as we can devise in advance, and we will be compensated by the Kennedy Center. But we have to ensure our numbers are accurate and we don’t go over.”
Carney has performed at the Kennedy Center as a dancer, so he knows the specialness of the moment. He said being on that stage is awe-inspiring.
“It’s a little like country singers getting to perform at the Grand Ol’ Opry,” he said. “I’m thrilled that our artists are getting this opportunity. They’re going to come back to Kansas City and they’re going to be more mature artists. These kind of experiences really move them forward, and that’s what’s cool.”