The pianist is a vital role in the creative process in dance, especially when it comes to rehearsals.
One of the biggest advantages to including a live musician early in the process is the ability to vary the speed of the music during the introduction of choreography. “A recording could be too fast when learning the steps. Not every dancer is built the same and the timing of jumps are different,” Jordan says. “I see everyone in class and I know how they jump and turn and I can personalize the timing for each dancer. It helps them immensely.”
Jordan admits he is extremely grateful to be working full time at Kansas City Ballet as Company Pianist alongside Kansas City Ballet Music Director Ramona Pansegrau. “Majoring in music leads to a very limited career field aside from working for yourself,” he says. “I’m just extremely fortunate that I unexpectedly began working with dancers. It has turned out to be more rewarding than any other type of musical collaboration I’ve had. Dancers are extremely gracious and respectful of the people that supply the music.”
An Unexpected Beginning
In 2015 he began this journey in a trial by fire. Music Director Ramona Pansegrau contacted him to step in for another pianist who’d been injured. “She gave me a schedule and said: “Let’s see how you do,” Jordan remembers. Even with the learning curve to pick up ballet terminology, he did well.
In fact, in 2022, Jordan was promoted to a newly created, full-time position—Company Pianist/Principal Academy Pianist.
Finding a Mentor
For any pianist working at KCB, Ramona is their direct contact. Jordan appreciates her openness and responsiveness. “This summer I started meeting with her every day working on Giselle and The Nutcracker. I was able to copy all of the choreography for Nutcracker into my copy of the score including what parts of the score need to be emphasized. I’m so thankful to have someone I trust so much to guide me,” he shares.
Originally from Hesston, Kansas, Jordan moved to KC to study at UMKC where he ultimately received his doctorate in piano performance. He credits his grandmother and an amazing elementary school music teacher with igniting his love of classical music. He started taking lessons at age 11 and hasn’t looked back.
Photograph courtesy of Jordan Voth.