When Bill and Carolyn Parkerson’s daughter Julia begged to take ballet classes, they had no idea what an impact ballet would have on their lives.
“She pestered me relentlessly for a year to take ballet classes. When I realized her passion for dance was not going anywhere, I enrolled her at Kansas City Ballet School. At first, she was a little sad and overwhelmed, believing the other girls were so far ahead of her at the very old age of seven that she would never catch up!” But time and perseverance paid off, and she did indeed catch up and excel.
“That’s also when Julia and I started attending company performances as season subscribers,” Carolyn remembers. “As the youngest of four children, Sunday matinees were such a special opportunity for Julia to get one-on-one time with her mom,” Bill recalls. Both Bill and Carolyn are proud of their daughter and credit ballet with honing Julia’s self-discipline, something they’ve discovered many dance parents have noticed about their own children as well. Bill believes that discipline has helped her in other parts of her life, especially as a college student. Carolyn agrees. “Everyone who has dancers that go pretty far knows the kids have to have a fair amount of discipline and perseverance. The ballet brings that best out of them. They are an ambitious group of people.”
As a former college athlete, Bill admits he appreciates the athleticism of ballet dancers and loved watching that athleticism grow in his daughter. What was surprising to him about Julia’s experience was the degree to which her ballet background helped her get a job. “Every interview she had, they brought up ballet. I think employers recognize the hard work and discipline the pursuit of ballet takes and realize dancers take that work ethic into their next chapter.”
COMMITTING TO COMMUNITY
In addition to Julia’s dance education, the Parkersons appreciate all that the Ballet has to offer not only to them but also to the community as a whole. So Carolyn jumped at the chance to join the Ballet’s Board of Directors. “It’s a real privilege and an honor to serve on the board,” she says. “I love the ballet. I really do. It’s a joy in my life that I don’t know how to describe. I just think it’s so important for our community to have a ballet. Art brings something unique to our lives. It speaks to our better, gentler, kinder, more cooperative selves. It’s a truly joyful experience. It helps us bond in the best of ways. I’m happy to be part of this organization and I’m committed to its mission.”
The pair focus their philanthropy on education and on the arts that are near and dear to their hearts. As a former teacher, education is certainly a passion for Carolyn. “I picked the Ballet School and opportunities there for student performances, like the Kansas City Youth Ballet (KCYB). That’s the specific thing that speaks to me the most,” Carolyn says of their philanthropic support. She hopes to see Kansas City Ballet School grow even more. “Ever since we’ve been here, it’s gotten more serious. We’re starting to see increasing numbers of our young dancers being recruited. The Ballet’s growth and continuing maturity as a company just leads to more success and an expanding support for ballet in our community.”
PASSION TAKES ROOT
The Parkersons continue to subscribe to Kansas City Ballet performances as well. “Julia wanted to sit in the first row when we started. I loved sitting with her because Julia sees so much more than I do. She likes to watch their footwork. All through the years this has been incredibly bonding because Julia teaches me how to look and see the dancers. She’s brought me to a level of ballet education that I can now help other people see and know more about it,” Carolyn says, “which is very rewarding for me! And we’ve experienced so many incredibly touching moments together.”
These days, Carolyn has multiple subscriptions and attends more than one night. And she and Bill attend together, along with friends. “You feel that emotion those dancers express through their movements, their faces. It’s an extraordinary feeling! I’m not sure how it happens, it just does.”