Cultivating Talent from Within: One Dancer’s Journey from the R.O.A.D. to the Stage - KC Ballet Logo Full tickets calendar ballet-shoes quotations play chevron-down chevron-left chevron-right chevron-up facebook checkbox checkbox-checked radio radio-selected instagram google plus pinterest twitter linkedin youtube search arrow-right slider-arrow-left slider-arrow-right playbutton phone location-pin fax email spinner shopping-cart
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Cultivating Talent from Within: One Dancer’s Journey from the R.O.A.D. to the Stage

Clutching his brown teddy bear as Michael Darling in Kansas City Ballet’s recent stage production of Peter Pan, twelve-year-old Sam Stein reveled in the opportunity to show off all he has learned in his more than four years of training with Kansas City Ballet School (KCBS). A dance enthusiast from an early age, Sam first learned about the ballet art form as a third grader in Kansas City Ballet’s Reach Out and Dance (R.O.A.D.) Program. Today, Sam is a devoted Intermediate Level KCBS student who serves as another bright example of how Kansas City Ballet’s far-reaching community involvement engages not only new audiences, but also new and rising dance talent.

The R.O.A.D. that revealed a whole new world

Sam says that he would never have considered ballet had it not been for the R.O.A.D. Program, a Kansas City Ballet (KCB) community initiative that offers weekly movement classes centered around a STEAM-based curriculum for third and fourth grade students across the Kansas City Metropolitan Area.

“The R.O.A.D. Program showed me how fun it was to learn ballet and its many different styles,” says Sam. “I discovered a passion I never would have known about before.”

“It was like a whole new world opened up for him,” recalls Sam’s mother Julie Stein, who volunteers at the Kauffman Center for the Performing Arts during Ballet performances when she is not in the audience watching her son perform. “I love talking with people about Kansas City Ballet and my son’s journey with them,” she says.

Following the end-of-semester R.O.A.D. Rally at Midland Trail School, during which Sam performed an enthusiastic routine for the audience, KCB invited the budding young dancer to continue his training in the R.O.A.D. Scholarship Program.

Joining students from other schools in weekly school bus trips to KCB’s Todd Bolender Center for Dance & Creativity, Sam took classes to gain new skills essential to ballet, such as stability and balance. Beginning to move through motions more quickly and fluidly, Sam gained confidence and even developed an affinity for certain dance moves.

“Pirouettes and jumps are my favorites,” says Sam, who formally joined KCB Academy classes once his R.O.A.D. Scholarship training finished at the end of fifth grade.

Now a dedicated Level 4 student with KCBS, Sam takes classes four days a week, each one challenging him to further develop his technique as a dancer. Through his commitment to becoming a better dancer, he has also found a spot as one of KCB’s popular young performers in its various stage productions.

Nurturing talent and the joy of performing

KCB has long promoted talent of all ages and levels from within its ranks of students, Second Company dancers, and apprentices.

At age ten, Sam auditioned and landed his first role as a peasant boy in the tragic love story Giselle, KCB’s 2022-2023 season opener.

Sam (age 12) in Devon Carney’s Peter Pan. Photography by Brett Pruitt & East Market Studios.

Sam’s big break came later that same season when he successfully auditioned to play the part of Fritz, the annoying younger brother in The Nutcracker.

“I was really nervous taking on a bigger role at first, but it only took a couple of shows to settle in and relax,” says Sam, adding that he finds it “so much fun” to entertain and perform on stage for a large audience.

Sam’s mother Julie, along with other members of his family, never misses a KCB performance that features her son.

“You can just tell that he is in his total element while on the stage,” she says. “It doesn’t matter how much time he has to spend practicing and rehearsing his ballet, while also working equally hard to be a straight A student in school, he finds joy in all of it.”

Both Sam and his mother credit KCBS teachers with providing the type of inspiration and quality instruction that is needed to effectively motivate and prepare aspiring young dancers.

“KCBS is just an exceptional school, and we are so fortunate to have it in our backyard,” says Julie.

Make a difference and transform a life

The R.O.A.D. Program and KCBS transform the lives of thousands of children in Kansas City each year. To learn more about the program and how you can support it, please visit our website or contact Rebecca Zandarski by phone at 816.216.5612 or by email at


Header Photo: Photography by Beeh Becvar. Sam (age 12) in Devon Carney’s Peter Pan


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