Arts & Culture

New Dance Partners celebrates 5 years with four world premieres

The Wylliams-Henry Contemporary Dance Company
The Wylliams-Henry Contemporary Dance Company

New Dance Partners, the collaborative effort between the Carlsen Center and some of the area’s best dance ensembles, has yielded much fruit in its five years.

Besides the obvious benefit of Kansas City’s dance companies learning from one another and working together, the program has resulted in 17 new works of choreography.

But perhaps the best thing about New Dance Partners are the actual performances of these works.

New Dance Partners will present the Kansas City Ballet, Owen/Cox Dance Group, Wylliams/Henry Contemporary Dance and Störling Dance in four world premieres Sept. 21 and 22 at Yardley Hall.

Störling Dance Michael Strong

Emily Behrmann, general manager of Carlsen Center Presents, got the idea for New Dance Partners while she was attending Dance St. Louis in 2012. She based it on the New Dance Horizons program, which commissions new works for local companies.

This year’s New Dance Partners will feature all the companies that took part the first year with the addition of Störling Dance.

Mary Pat Henry, artistic and executive director of the Wylliams/Henry Contemporary Dance Company, says her company will be performing a newly commissioned work from choreographer Christian Denice called “Fragment.” Henry hasn’t seen it yet, but based on Denice’s past work, she’s excited to see the finished product.

“Christian creates very physical work, which I love,” Henry said. “I do know that it will be for five dancers, two men and three women, and I also know the music is kind of unique. He’s using two selections of Gregorian chant, the Kyrie and the Pater Noster, and he’s also using a piece by a group called The Black Dog and a work by another artist named Greg Haines. Our dancers are helping him shape his vision. I got a lovely e-mail from Christian that said ‘I love your dancers.’ I wrote back, ‘I do, too.’”

According to all reports, Denice’s work with the Wylliams/Henry dancers is going splendidly.

“The dancers are delighted and the choreographer seems pleased with the process,” Henry said. “Our dancers can be very risk-taking, so whatever the choreographer asks, they’re going with him on that journey. They’re going to take a leap of faith in this new direction. The comment they’ve all made about ‘Fragment’ is ‘You’re gonna love this work. It’s going to be beautiful.’”

After these new works receive their premieres, they don’t gather dust.

“Twisted Metal,” for example, a work Gregory Dawson created for Wylliams/Henry for the 2015 New Dance Partners, was performed again for the Dance USA conference in 2017, earning Wylliams/Henry an invitation to the prestigious Jacob’s Pillow Dance Festival.

“I have to give props to New Dance Partners,” Henry said. “Jacob’s Pillow, which is the Holy Grail of contemporary dance, saw ‘Twisted Metal’ when we performed it at the Dance USA conference and loved the work.”

Behrmann is proud of her role in helping choreographers bring their visions to life.

“Part of the beauty of this project is that all of this work is being created from scratch,” Behrmann said. “It does not exist on the planet before these choreographers come to our community to work with our local artists. That’s part of the fun of coming to the performance. All of the dances that you’ll see have been in existence for less than a month.”

8 p.m. Sept. 21 and 22. Yardley Hall, Johnson County Community College, 12345 College Blvd., Overland Park. $21-$25. 913-469-4445 or

Evening of Fado

Fado singer Nathalie Pires Jeff Evrard

Beau Bledsoe and his Ensemble Iberica deserve credit for creating many local aficionados of flamenco, tango and the Portuguese soul music known as fado. It was in 2014 that Ensemble Iberica presented its first fado concert to great acclaim and the group has presented the unique song style several times since.

On September 18 and 19, fado singer Nathalie Pires, flamenco singer José Cortés and flamenco dancer Melinda Hedgecorth will join Ensemble Iberica for a concert that combines both Iberian art forms at Musical Theater Heritage.

Bledsoe’s usual band of superb musicians, including guitarists Michael McClintock and Jordan Shipley also will be on hand for what promises to be a lively and soulful evening of music and dance.

7:30 p.m. Sept. 18 and 19. Musical Theater Heritage, 2450 Grand Blvd. #301. $20-$25. 816-221-6987.

Kantorei season opener

Kantorei Jacquie Stenger

Kantorei conducted by Chris Munce should be heard by any lover of choral music. The group’s purity of tone and devotion to excellence remind one of the Tallis Scholars.

Kantorei’s season-opening concert Sept. 23 at Central United Methodist Church would be a great introduction to this accomplished group of singers. The program will include works the group has performed over its 10-year existence, as well as new repertoire. It’s a mix of everything from Heinrich Schutz to Stephen Paulus.

6 p.m. Sept. 23. Central United Methodist Church, 5144 Oak St. $10-$20. Tickets available at the door or at

You can reach Patrick Neas at and follow his Facebook page, KC Arts Beat, at