Fine contemporary ballet work is happening all over the world. No single choreographer, company, city, country or even continent can claim to be the center of the scene. Keeping abreast of all that is new in ballet necessitates lots of travel.
But Anthony Krutzkamp and Logan Pachciarz, founders and co-artistic directors of the Kansas City Dance Festival, are making it easier for ballet fans to stay current while staying close to home.
Now in its fourth season of annual summer productions, their KC Dance Festival will present its Main Event performance Saturday night, June 25, at the Folly Theater. The show will give spectators a chance to see a ballerina from the Finnish National Ballet, present and former dancers from the Pennsylvania Ballet, acclaimed performers from Milwaukee and Chicago, plus some of Kansas City Ballet’s most popular members, all dancing together in old and new works by noteworthy contemporary and neo-classical choreographers.
Krutzkamp said the festival’s aesthetic mission is to assemble a diverse array of top-tier contemporary ballet artists to work alongside one another for a few weeks in Kansas City.
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“It’s a mishmash of local, national and international dancers performing good rep,” Krutzkamp said.
And by “good” rep, Krutzkamp means challenging.
“Rep that is slightly different from what the dancers have been performing. I don’t want to say ‘stuck,’ but as a dancer you are in the ebb and flow of the company director you’re working under, so the chance to dance anything outside of that ebb and flow can be difficult, yet fun, and important to a dancer’s artistic growth.”
Yet the festival is rooted in a practical mission as well.
“I always wanted to give dancers money in the summer because that’s when they’re laid off,” said Krutzkamp, who retired from performing with the Kansas City Ballet in 2014 and now manages KCB II.
“I didn’t have any work lined up for the summer, and it was strictly because I needed a job. That’s why I came here last year,” said Pennsylvania Ballet soloist James Ihde, who is enthusiastically returning to the festival this summer to perform the title role in George Balanchine’s groundbreaking “Apollo.”
“They put together a really nice ‘friends and family’ atmosphere last time, and the quality of the work was very good and taken very seriously. So it’s the best of both worlds. It’s not often that you get side gigs that are the kind of work you really want to do. ”
In addition to “Apollo,” the show comprises another timeless work (the late Venezuelan choreographer Vicente Nebrada’s “Lento”), a piece by one of today’s most lauded American choreographers (“Penumbra” by Philadelphia-based Matthew Neenan), and world premieres of a sextet and a duet created for the festival by emerging choreographers Garrett Smith (of the Norwegian National Ballet) and former Kansas City Ballet member Ryan Jolicoeur-Nye, respectively.
“I’ve traveled a lot as a dancer, and whenever I go anywhere I try to see as many shows as possible to see who sparks my interest,” explained Krutzkamp when asked how he chooses the festival’s choreographers. “Plus I’m definitely a YouTube stalker.
“I really follow where dance is going. For us it doesn’t matter where it’s coming from. It’s not that we’re Eurocentric or looking for something that’s always out of New York. Sometimes great work comes out of places like Tulsa.”
Krutzkamp selected Jolicoeur-Nye to create the festival’s commissioned duet because he feels the choreographer is on the cusp of doing “something great” and wants to give him a platform to do that. Jolicoeur-Nye’s duet is based on what he calls the mind-body problem.
“Where does the mind meet the body and what’s the relationship between the two? Can one exist without the other? Does one control the other?” he said. “I wanted to play around with that idea, using the dancers, not necessarily as two separate people, but with one representing the mind and one the body, and how they interact, and what happens when they’re apart.”
Smith was chosen as the other commissioned choreographer because Krutzkamp felt his works exhibited a variety rarely demonstrated by a choreographer of such a young age. Though flattered by Krutzkamp’s excitement about his work, Smith admitted to being nervous about not knowing most of the dancers he’d be working.
“Being a choreographer is so much more than just making up steps,” Smith said. “A lot of it is about people-managing, making sure everyone’s happy, working well and looking good.
“Dancers work with a lot of choreographers over their careers, but which ones they remember is based on how they are made to feel during the creative process, more so than on the final product.”
Krutzkamp, however, has no doubt that a good time will be had by all.
“Everybody we invite is a nice person,” he said. “There are no jerks around, just driven artists who are looking to get better at what they do.”
Kansas City Dance Festival
The Main Event of the Kansas City Dance Festival is at 7:30 p.m. Saturday, June 25, at the Folly Theater, 300 W. 12th. Tickets range from $40 to $100. The festival begins Saturday, June 18, with a variety of events at different prices. For a full schedule of events, go to KCDanceFestival.com.