One artist’s journey for the love of ballet
Cyndi James grew up in Washington D.C. Her father loved the arts, especially ballet. He took her to see Swan Lake when she was just 5 years old. The experience made a lasting impression and at age 7 Cyndi began ballet lessons at The Washington School of Ballet near her home. At 13 she was invited to join their Academy for serious students. Every year, American Ballet Theatre (ABT) would come from New York and they would select supers from Cyndi’s school to be background actors for their ballets.
“I was a super in Giselle, Swan Lake and Petrushka,” Cyndi recalls.
As a student, she danced in Nutcracker productions. She started off as a teddy bear under the tree. That same year the legendary Marjorie Tallchief danced the role of the Sugar Plum Fairy. As the years went on, Cyndi grew to be a child in the party scene, a snowflake, flower and Chinese Tea.
After graduating from the Academy, she pursued musical theater and acting in New York City. Throughout her acting career, she often taught ballet, her first love.
“Once you’ve had ballet in your heart it never leaves you.”
“Having been a former dancer and knowing how difficult it is and how hard dancers work, I don’t think, as an art form, ballet is as appreciated as it could be. When I saw KCB dancers taking ballet class in their apartments during the pandemic or later in the studio going full out with masks on, it really blew me away!”
Cyndi believes Kansas City Ballet’s repertoire is so impressive because of the classical and contemporary mix. “Devon has led the way beautifully. I love his ballet choices.”
When Artistic Director Devon Carney learned of Cyndi’s ballet and acting experience, he approached her to be a court couple, in the recent Giselle performances at the Kauffman Center. “It was so fun. This company is one of the kindest, welcoming group. What an honor to share the stage and to perform with KCB,” she says.
And now it’s come full circle — she has the privilege to watch her beloved company perform The Nutcracker at The Kennedy Center where she once performed and in her hometown.
Sharing a love of ballet
However, performing is not the only way she’s supporting the Ballet, Cyndi joined the Ballet’s Guild in 2017, at the urging of friends. “I fell in love with the group! I love anybody who loves the Ballet. I decided to volunteer more and more,” Cyndi recalls. She is serving as President-Elect this season. She’s never served as an organization’s president before, but she is excited to step up.
Cyndi attended the Guild’s annual gala, The Nutcracker Ball, and then she made an additional gift to become a Bolender Society member.
interested in joining the bolender society?
Named for the beloved former Artistic Director Todd Bolender, who transformed Kansas City Ballet with his artistry and vision, The Bolender Society is Kansas City Ballet’s premiere philanthropic group. Members generously make a monthly gift of $200 or an annual gift of $2,500 or more. You can even add on to your Nutcracker Ball donation to qualify. For questions or to become a member, contact Associate Director of Individual Giving Maya Collins at 816.216.5608.