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Devon Celebrates 10 Years of Artistic Excellence

Celebrating Devon Carney’s 10th Season with Kansas City Ballet from Kansas City Ballet on Vimeo.

Meet Devon Carney

The 2022-2023 Kansas City Ballet season is special for several reasons, one of them being the 10th Anniversary of Devon Carney’s appointment as Kansas City Ballet Artistic Director.  

Mr. Carney began his career with Kansas City Ballet in 2013 and has added a brilliant list of story ballets and world-premiere works to the Kansas City Ballet repertoire. Some of his most notable choreographed works include the spectacularly successful Swan Lake in 2016, his world premiere choreography of The Sleeping Beauty and Romeo & Juliet in 2017, and Mr. Carney’s world premiere choreography of Peter Pan in May 2018. Mr. Carney also choreographed the classic romantic ballet Giselle in 2015 and 2022 after Marius Petipa, Jean Coralli, and Jules Perrot. Also, in 2023 is Devon Carney’s world-premiere choreography of Cinderella.

Prior to Mr. Carney’s Kansas City Ballet appointment, he served as Ballet Master for Boston Ballet from 1998 to 2003, as Artistic Director of the Boston Ballet Summer Dance Program in 1994, and as the Associate Artistic Director of Cincinnati Ballet from 2003 to 2013. He also served as a judge for the finals of the 2002 Youth America Grand Prix Ballet Competition in New York City, the 2005 and 2006 American Ballet Competition, and the semi-finals of the Youth American Grand Prix in 2018. 

A New Era in Artistic Direction for KCB

Kansas City Ballet Executive Director Jeffrey J. Bentley has been with the company for twenty-five years and still remembers the search for a new Artistic Director back in 2012. 

“When searching for a new Artistic Director, we needed someone who was committed to building a “classical” ballet company able to introduce to the KC public the traditional story ballets like Swan Lake and The Sleeping Beauty that had been missing from our repertory for a variety of reasons,” Bentley remembered.  “Also, we needed to remain committed to mixed repertory programming and the presentation of new work to our audiences. By stint of Devon’s background, he filled these needs ideally. Furthermore, he came with an excitement and an accessibility to the public that was and continues to be engaging.” 

An Artistic Success: The Nutcracker 

In 2015, Kansas City Ballet produced Mr. Carney’s newly choreographed rendition of the timeless classic, The Nutcracker, which has since generated over $13 million in ticket revenue. The production received stellar reviews including: “The rebuilt and re-imagined ‘Nutcracker’ … is, among other things, a visually mesmerizing spectacle that will fill viewers’ heads with indelible images.” (Robert Trussell, The Kansas City Star). 

Mr. Carney’s world premiere production of The Nutcracker was performed at The John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts in 2017 to sold-out audiences. Kansas City Ballet returned to The Kennedy Center from November 23 to 27, 2023 to perform Carney’s The Nutcracker for the second time on our national theatre stage. 

An Impressive Career

Mr. Carney’s professional dance career lasted for an impressive 21 years. He danced numerous leading roles in well-known classical ballets such as Giselle, Don Quixote, The Sleeping Beauty, Swan Lake, Bruce Wells’ A Midsummer Night’s Dream, and John Cranko’s Taming of the Shrew, among others. Additionally, he has toured throughout Europe, the United States, Mexico, and Asia with such greats as Rudolph Nureyev, Fernando Bujones, and Cynthia Gregory. In 1994, Mr. Carney was the non-competing partner of the Senior Division Bronze Medalist at the Jackson International Ballet Competition. Mr. Carney’s extensive performance career, matched with his impressive choreography and experience in artistic direction, made him an excellent fit for Kansas City Ballet and its future.  

Devon is everything a dancer hopes for in an Artistic Director”, KC Ballet Dancer Kaleena Burks praised. “Dancing for him during his tenure with Kansas City Ballet has inspired me and pushed me to be a better artist. I will forever be grateful for not only the wonderful opportunities he has graciously given me, but for all the knowledge and guidance he has passed down which has shaped my career.” 

Innovation and Increased Opportunities for KCB

One of Mr. Carney’s most notable achievements at KCB was establishing Kansas City Ballet’s Second Company made up of KCB II and the Trainee Program, completing the bridge between the School and the Company. These dancers are often the first impression of KC Ballet that the public may see in community performances. Therefore, teaching them the importance of this ambassadorship is important to Mr. Carney and to the greater organization. 

“Inside of this crucible of learning and growing, these young dancers blossom into the professional dancers and human beings that Devon wants to see be able to ascend into the Kansas City Ballet Company”, Second Company Manager and Rehearsal Director Christopher Ruud said. “Managing this journey is my proud responsibility and bringing these dancers up to Devon’s expectations is my distinct honor. Mentoring these dancers to be of the level of professionalism that can and will move on into high-level ballet companies, and make positive contributions to the world of Ballet, is a gift!” 

In 2014, Kansas City Ballet produced the inaugural New Moves, which is a unique and immersive dance experience established by Mr. Carney that was designed to search out, develop, and showcase emerging choreographers from the Kansas City metro and the national dance scene. The annual tradition was designed to provide time and space for dancers and guest choreographers to create world-premiere works. 

Optimism for the Future

When asked to reflect on the future of Kansas City Ballet, Mr. Carney seemed excited about the current state of the organization and what lies ahead. 

“I’m thrilled to mark my 10th year at Kansas City Ballet,” Mr. Carney said. “The 2022-2023 season as a whole is a great example of where we’ve gone over the last decade and where we are headed.”  

Mr. Carney added, “It’s an honor and a privilege to artistically lead Kansas City Ballet and nurture these company dancers who have grown and evolved in their abilities through the variety of works they perform.” 

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