October 30, 2011

Up to date Spoutings about Ballet and Architecture in KC MO

I visited Kansas City, Missouri this month and was struck once again by the influence, salutation and importance of water in this mid-size American city. A city which is in the middle of vast prairies but actually settles into arching bluffs and glacier made hills. The confluence of the Missouri and Kansas Rivers was what brought that region to the attention of early French trappers as early as 1714. The city, now known as Kansas City, began to arrange itself on those bluffs and ridges in 1838.
JC Nichols Memorial Fountain

Today Brush Creek is tamed and made people-useful in the beautiful Plaza area. The creek looks like a cement lined canal and when I was there, Bonfires were artfully arranged in the center of the canal in the shape of a long serpent. Bridges over the creek were closed to traffic and live music was performed while restaurants spilled out onto the streets closest to the Creek offering outdoor dining. Brush Creek is a tributary of the Blue River and becomes a part of the Missouri and then part of the watershed which is the Mississippi River.
Johanna http://nativemoments.blogspot.com 
KC plays homage to the water flowing through it by being a "city of fountains". It is second only to Rome, Italy, in the number of fountains erected. There are over 300 fountains. They can be found in parks, outside of buildings, shopping areas and marking the entry of neighborhoods.http://www.kcfountains.com/
Designed by Moshe Safdie
I was in KC MO to visit my daughter Johanna. I was also there to see the completed Kauffman Center for the Arts and to attend a brand new ballet. My daughter works as a costumer for the Kansas City Ballet. The ballet which was performed was the premier of the first ballet ever based on American literature. It was "Tom Sawyer", this piece of literature is based on events which happen in the small 19th c. town of Hannibal, Missouri. A town, novel and now ballet heavily influenced by the rolling Mississippi. So it was appropriate that Kansas City Missouri a city influenced also by the flow of water was able to premier this amazing event.
But first, the new building in which the ballet was performed also seemed to have a watery connection to my eyes. Because I think it looks like 2 giant conch shells left there in some primordial time to be repurposed into an Opera/Ballet Theatre and a Symphony Orchestral Theatre each nestled beside each other. See photos of these which my daughter took on her blog. http://www.nytimes.com/2011/09/16/us/kauffman-center-for-the-performing-arts-set-to-open-in-kansas-city.html , This is what I saw as I came to the Ballet performance.

To be in this brand new building was pretty exciting in this time of debt crisis. I love that private donors were the main donors for these buildings. 135 million came from the Muriel Kauffman fund. The city gave a parking garage. Now I think if you build it they will come. The horse shoe arrangement of Opera/ballet Theatre provides the sort of sight line an auditorium built for theatrical or symphonic performances cannot provide. We set high up in the balcony but easily felt an intimate of the performance. The sets were beautiful and minimal.  The simple cross beams which were raised and lowered to indicate the individual homes of Hannibal, the lanterns which were suspended in the Firefly scene and the spooky graveyard tombstones all created believable settings without taking away from the choreography, dancers and story.

Lobby at intermission

The music performed by the Kansas City Symphony and Choral group from the Liberty High School Concert Choir and composed by Maury Yeston was wonderful.  The costumes gave a sense of time and place and magic. They were primarily designed by Holly Hynes and put together by the wonderful costume department which includes my daughter. The company has been working on this premiere since January. Now that is while they have kept there regular performance schedule and moved to a new building.
Kudos to  Kansas City. Do read this review from the New York Times its a good read.


Eugenie Torgerson said...

Thanks for illuminating Kansas City for those who don't know what a gracious town it is. Those of us who participate in the Plaza Art Fair each fall always praise the inhabitants for their attention to good shoes. There is a level of visual awareness to the city that people might not expect.

The Kauffman Center looks wonderful, particularly at night. What an combination -- American get-up-and-go, culture, aspiration, and fulfillment all rolled up together.

Carole Buschmann said...

Thank you Eugenie,you should give Jo a c all next time you go- she would love to share it with you.


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