Dance has led David Gray everywhere – from true love to Kansas City.
His journey began at the New York City Ballet where he met Principal Dancer (and his future wife of 33 years) Kyra Nichols. Dance continued to be David’s driving force after the two were married, leading him to the American Repertory Ballet and their Princeton Ballet School.
“It’s always been a fantasy of mine to combine the arts and finance,” Executive Director David Gray said. “It meshes the passionate side and the analytical side of my brain to work together.”
Leaping to new heights
Years later, dance led David to Kansas City Ballet, where he will embark on his next adventure maintaining the organization’s growth and momentum it has gained over the last 65 years.
“Kansas City Ballet has been diligent about growing its infrastructure and artistic programs, to not only be strong financially but also strong in its execution of the art form on the beautiful stages the Kauffman Center for the Performing Arts and the Todd Bolender Center for Dance & Creativity have to offer,” David said.
Putting the people first
He’s eager to be in front of the Kansas City community as much as possible from greeting guests at the Brandmeyer Great Hall to chatting with parents at the new South Campus at Meadowbrook.
“I think people like to have a face to a name and feel like there’s someone they can talk to, complain to whatever. That’s a very important part of my role,” David said. “I think a leadership role is about character and integrity. The two things that Jeff has brought to this role have been his integrity and his character and I’d like to think that I’ll do the same. I am someone you can be proud, comfortable, and confident to work with. It doesn’t mean every decision is going to be correct, but it means that we’re going to be able to get through the challenges together.”
One of those challenges is the increasingly rising costs in the arts industry. David said the solution isn’t raising ticket prices, but instead prioritizing consistent fundraising.
“Kansas City Ballet has identified a gap is approaching, and we better do something about it,” David said. “We’re hopefully on the other side of the pandemic and are working to figure out how to continue to grow the endowment so that the deficit will lessen or not emerge at all. This is another indication of this organization’s excellent management and board oversight. They didn’t wait until I arrived to figure out that we needed to look at the future. They’ve been proactive and that’s exciting to me.”
Let the show begin!
Additionally, David can’t wait to return to the energy that resonates from the theater – from the crowd to the dancers – this season. Most importantly, he’s excited to witness the magic of The Nutcracker.
“I didn’t grow up watching this show every year like so many have in Kansas City,” David said. “And that opening night energy is addictive. I’m drawn to it every time. As much as I’ve enjoyed what I’ve been doing for the last five years, I’ve really missed the anticipation of the audience, the hustle and bustle backstage, etc. It’ll be exciting to get back to it.”