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Kansas City Ballet School Debuts at Universal Ballet Competition
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Kansas City Ballet School Debuts at Universal Ballet Competition

Kansas City Ballet School (KCBS) makes its grand entrance on the Universal Ballet Competition (UBC) stage this year! 

The UBC Experience: A Twist on Tradition 

UBC isn’t your run-of-the-mill dance competition. It infuses innovation and excitement into the world of pre-professional ballet. Here’s what sets it apart: 

  1. Instant Gratification: Right after each performance, judges announce which medal that dancer receives. 
  1. Real-Time Feedback: Corrections and encouragement are expressed in real time in a recorded video that judges provide the dancers post-performance. 

The heart of UBC lies in its master classes. These aren’t your ordinary dance workshops. Dancers soak up techniques, refine their artistry, and emerge transformed.  

UBC isn’t just about medals and applause. It’s about nurturing talent. With over 10,000 dancers mentored and $3 million in scholarships, UBC has left an indelible mark on the dance world. 

Daytime Principal & Competition Coordinator Lauren Fadeley Veyette walks us through how KCBS has been preparing for this exciting opportunity! 

Preparation for the big day 

“We start in the fall learning the variations and working on them, and then come competition time they are a completely different dancer,” Lauren says. “I always am so proud watching them perform onstage and seeing how far they have come.” 

Kansas City Ballet School Dancers have been rehearsing for competitions since September.  

Lauren says there’s quite a bit of overlap of the pieces performed at both the Youth American Grand Prix (YAGP) and UBC which gives dancers more opportunities on stage and to receive feedback from judges. Dancers can then adapt and improve for the next competition. 

What is YAGP?  

At its essence, YAGP is the world’s largest dance scholarship audition and a global network for dance. It fulfills its mission through scholarship auditions, master classes, alumni services, educational and outreach activities, performances, and films. Worldwide, more than 100,000 students have participated in YAGP’s workshops, scholarship auditions and master classes. Through regional semifinals results, students are selected to participate in the New York Finals each spring. 

Fun Fact: Lauren competed in the very first year that YAGP took place and left with the regional Grand Prix title. She enjoys being on the other side of the competition and challenging students to become stronger, both physically and mentally throughout the process, and feel prepared so that they can go out there and just enjoy their moment. KCBS is also a host studio for YAGP. 

“This is our first-year competing at UBC, so we are very excited to experience this new opportunity.” Lauren says. “The dancers have been practicing so much and are ready to showcase their hard work, but there is also the anticipation of the day and knowing you only get one chance at displaying all you’ve learned — so there’s a lot of nerves too!” 

Once a week, they have short rehearsals to slowly rise to their peak by competition time. KCBS will host “mock competitions”/dress rehearsals for students to perform in costume in front of family, friends, and teachers, to give them a feel for the actual day. 

This is Luci Oyler’s first year at Kansas City Ballet School and she had the opportunity to compete in UBC Chicago. 

She says her favorite part of the competition is learning from the judges on how to explore herself as a human and as an artist in the master classes. The dancers get to express themselves in a regular class environment rather than solely on stage for a minute and a half solo, Luci says, they now can see dancers as technicians too. 

“UBC really tries to encourage (to dancers) that it’s not just about the competition, it’s about you developing as a person and as a dancer in this setting,” Luci says. “The master classes are supportive environments where the judges really want you to be better.” 

By competing in both YAGP and UBC, Luci says she uses the comments from both competitions as fuel to better herself and for the next performance. 

Setting the Stage 

Before each dancer performs, there is an “open stage” for participants in each group to warm up before they go on individually, and that can be very intimidating. Lauren says she always reminds dancers to just focus on themselves and what they need to do to feel ready for their piece, and not compare themselves to others around them.  

“They all have something special to offer and just have to let that part of them shine,” Lauren says. “Dancers who do well at competitions are eligible for scholarships from other schools and recognition from companies. They also can go on to Finals, which opens many doors.” 

For example, KCBS offers short term scholarships during the year for dancers placing at various competitions and dancers at Finals are seen by some of the top Artistic Directors from all over the world. 

Why competition matters 

Competing helps dancers overcome fears of performing under pressure and gives them an opportunity to work on something and show off the final product, Lauren says. Her favorite part is watching a dancer grow throughout the rehearsals. 

“KCB participates in these competitions not to win, but to offer more performance opportunities to our students, and have them work individually with a coach on a set goal,” Lauren says. “It’s always so wonderful to watch a dancer grow in their technique and artistry throughout this process and see their confidence up on stage.” 

She hopes their biggest takeaways are the overall rehearsal process and the technique and confidence they gain throughout.   

“It takes a lot of guts to go out there on their own and be judged and know that vulnerability will be beneficial for their life even outside of ballet,” Lauren says. “The tools they learn from ballet and these competitions will help shape them as they grow into adults, no matter what they choose to do.” 

Luci echoes this sentiment, emphasizing how critiques have helped her grow as an artist, armed not just with refined technique but also with a tenacity that transcends ballet. 

“At the end of the day, our teachers are preparing us for our careers beyond these competitions,” Luci says. “Critiques aren’t just given to improve your variation, but also in respect to you as a dancer. A unique thing that Kansas City Ballet School does compared to any other school, is that it gives you the tools that are going to help you for years. I’m honestly just super grateful to all the faculty here.” 

 

Photos by Lauren Fadeley Veyette. Header photo (L to R): Luci Oyler, Ben Brandmeyer, Simone Parigo, Samy Stortzum. Inset photo: Luci Oyler and Ben Brandmeyer.

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