To Claire Brand, sharing the joy and magic of ballet with family is an important part of the holidays. Claire, along with her husband Joe, embrace the arts in their family. She knows firsthand that the best way to develop an appreciation for ballet is to be in the theater experiencing its beauty. Through their membership in The Bolender Society, Claire says her appreciation has grown as her understanding of what goes on behind the curtain at the Ballet increases. Claire hopes that future generations will continue to experience the magic of ballet the way she and her family have and is excited for the future of dance in Kansas City.
Ballet as a Family Tradition
Claire’s first encounter with ballet was at an early age in Milwaukee, Wisconsin. In addition to her parents taking her to ballet performances, her school also periodically took groups of students to attend ballet and symphony performances. Joe and Claire even got engaged following a performance of The Nutcracker in Milwaukee. When they began to have a family of their own in Kansas City, Claire and Joe felt it was important to introduce their children early to ballet and brought their two daughters and son to performances.
“If you don’t take them and don’t let them experience it, how will they ever develop that appreciation and love?” says Claire. “There’s a beauty and athleticism to dance that is different from other forms of art, and for a couple of hours you are transported away by the dance and live music. It’s fun watching that experience through the next generation’s eyes.” Claire says she enjoys all forms of ballet, from the innovation of mixed repertory works to revisiting familiar story ballets.
One story ballet that returns year after year in Kansas City is Devon Carney’s The Nutcracker. Before enjoying the first Saturday matinee performance each December, Claire has a tradition of attending the Sugar Plum Fairy Children’s Ball with her daughter, granddaughter and friends. “It’s a fun event to anticipate and great to enjoy together,” says Claire. She knows from her own experiences that building an appreciation for the arts happens through exposure and interaction. Presently, Claire’s granddaughter is in the Kansas City Ballet School and will be in The Nutcracker for the first time this year. “It’s extremely fulfilling to watch her be excited about her teachers, classes and participation in dance. I’ve enjoyed going to the watch days where you can see them in class” says Claire.
Claire and Joe Brand Support the Arts
In addition to being season ticket holders, Claire and Joe give back to Kansas City Ballet in many ways. In 2010, Claire was approached by a colleague at Hallmark about joining the KCB Board of Directors. Around that time, the Todd Bolender Center for Dance & Creativity and the Kauffman Center for the Performing Arts were opening and a search for a new artistic director was about to get underway. With her marketing role at Hallmark, her colleague thought she could help contribute those skills to the board at a critical time for KCB as it took on more venues and performances. She was excited about the opportunity to serve and began her term of board service which lasted over a decade including time as President of the Board. She was involved in the search for the new executive director and continues to serve on the Endowment Committee.
Both Claire and Joe have always loved the arts, and Claire says working at Hallmark around so many artists enhanced that passion. The company offers employees and retirees generous performing arts discounts through their 50/50 program, encouraging their employees to attend arts performances and introduce others. As young parents, it allowed us to bring the children and get great seats. “Hallmark has been so giving to many different organizations in Kansas City, and it exposed me to many of them,” says Claire. “Through that experience, philanthropy was brought front and center and my eyes were opened to the number of opportunities that exist.”
Claire believes that Kansas City Ballet has been on “quite the journey” for the last 10+ years. She has enjoyed watching the growth of the company and the ballet school. Claire hopes that KCB can continue that growth and bring in/maintain its wonderful staff, dancers and choreographers. She appreciates the increased diversity in both the variety of programs and the backgrounds of dancers that have joined. When thinking about the future of the company, Claire asks the question “Is there enough support to continue the momentum that KCB has been so lucky to experience? It takes a lot to do it.”
For Claire and Joe, supporting KCB comes with many benefits. Claire says, “we’ve really enjoyed the camaraderie of The Bolender Society. They’ve loved meeting other people passionate about the arts and learning more about the art form through Dance Speaks, open rehearsals and interactions with the staff and dancers. “The information that is flowing to us as a part of that membership improves our understanding of the programs and has made going to the performances more interesting,” says Claire.
Claire and Joe also made a gift through the Moving Into the Future Campaign, to secure a strong financial future for KCB. “We feel like the arts are an important gift to the city,” says Claire. “It’s something we want to continue to support so that our children and future generations can have that same opportunity to be exposed to them.”
You Can Support Ballet Traditions Too
Claire and Joe Brand’s dedication to supporting and uplifting the arts in Kansas City helps others discover how ballet can become a tradition for their family. This holiday season, learn how you can make an impact at Kansas City Ballet. If you would like to talk to someone about your interests, please contact Director of Gift Planning, Rebecca Zandarski, at email@example.com or call (816) 216-5612.