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Ballet Scholarships Provide Essential Student Support
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Ballet Scholarships Provide Essential Student Support

Dahir Klawonn | Photo by Brett Pruitt & East Market Studios

At sixteen years old, Dahir Klawonn, a former foster child, is pursuing his passion for ballet with the support of a scholarship from the Kansas City Ballet School (KCB School).

This opportunity arose after the school’s leadership recognized his artistic potential during the School’s summer intensive program.

Reflecting on the impact, Dahir shared, “Receiving the scholarship was deeply meaningful for a former foster kid like me, who hadn’t always had access to such opportunities. It made me feel valued and embraced, reminiscent of the sense of belonging I experienced when I was adopted.”

Scholarship funds have played a pivotal role in aiding KCB School students in the pursuit of their dreams, ever since the estate of the late Todd Bolender, former Kansas City Ballet (KCB) Artistic Director, was left to KCB to allow for the original funding of the Todd Bolender Scholarship Fund.

Todd’s unwavering dedication to dance education sparked a ripple effect of inspiration, leading others to establish scholarship funds in the memory of others who had enormous influence on KCB, including Tatiana Dokoudovska and Shirley Weaver. In celebration of these meaningful contributions and the philanthropic spirit that drives them, a first-ever Scholarship Social will be held on May 18 in the Frost Studio Theater within the Todd Bolender Center for Dance & Creativity.

An outgrowth of the Bolender Scholarship Committee, the Scholarship Social recognizes those who are a vital part of the KCB story and whose legacies live on through impactful scholarships. Featuring a lively morning filled with engaging conversation and uplifting performances, the Scholarship Social invites former dancers, students and supporters of KCB School dancers to come together to reminisce about their dance journeys while looking ahead to nurturing the next generation of talent.

Investing in Present and Future Talent

Kimberly Cowen | Photo by Brett Pruitt & East Market Studios

Scholarships offer the KCB School an opportunity to invest in the current and future talents of KCB. They can serve dance students in numerous ways, whether by acknowledging artistic promise or by assisting a dedicated student in covering expenses.

“The path to becoming a dancer demands a significant dedication of resources, making scholarships crucial for many students as they progress in their training,” states Interim Kansas City Ballet School (KCBS) Director Kim Cowen

Cowen herself exemplifies the impact of scholarships: A scholarship enabled her to pursue ballet training with the KCB School, providing essential housing support when she relocated from St. Louis to Kansas City at 16.

This support played a pivotal role in her development as a dancer, leading to a 20-year professional career with KCB and serving as a school principal with the KCB School for 12 years.

Stephanie Eppler | Photo by Brett Pruitt & East Market Studios

The KCB School also invested in Stephanie Eppler, a current KCB School instructor who has dedicated the last five seasons to volunteering for the KC Ballet Guild, including serving as the auxiliary group’s treasurer.

Stephanie received KCB School scholarships in both her junior and senior years of high school based on her potential as a young dancer.

“The scholarships were a fantastic way to acknowledge the hard work I was putting in,” she recalls. “They instilled in me a powerful sense of accomplishment, further motivating my dedication.”

Bestowing the Gift of Dreams

Undoubtedly, philanthropic support for scholarships holds significant, even transformative, value for its recipients.

To further expand dance education opportunities for young KCB School students, three more scholarship funds have been established.

The Tatiana Dokoudovska Scholarship Fund, named after KCB’s Founder, was established by her former students to honor the dedication of the dancer, choreographer, and artistic director to ballet and mentoring. Similarly, The Shirley Weaver Scholarship Fund celebrates the contributions of the beloved dance instructor Shirley Weaver, who also inspired generations of dancers.

“Countless former students still hold cherished memories of dancing and training under both ‘Miss Tania’ and ‘Miss Shirley,’ as they were affectionately known,” explains Jennifer Wampler, Chief Philanthropy Officer for KCB. “The Scholarship Social will provide another opportunity for them to come together and celebrate the sweeping impact their mentorship had on their lives.”

A fourth fund, Building Diversity in Ballet, founded by Dr. Linda Mitchell, supports pre-professionals in the KCB School who are from under-represented communities.

Launching Successful Futures

Grace Price | Photo by Brett Pruitt & East Market Studios

Eighteen-year-old Grace Price says the receipt of several merit-based scholarships has been significant, helping to fuel her passion as she pursues her dream of mastering ballet before advancing to study ballet and business in college.

“The scholarships made a tangible difference,” she states. “With this support, I can dedicate myself fully to my training knowing that I can also pursue my future aspirations.”

Stephanie Eppler maintains that the sense of belonging fostered by her scholarships has influenced every aspect of her work with the Ballet. This includes nurturing her daughter’s pursuit of ballet studies and fostering her appreciation for the art form.

“Scholarships are an invaluable way to engage young individuals,” she emphasizes. “The more we involve them, the greater the likelihood they will become the next Company talent, contributor or season ticket subscriber.”


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