Olivia Denson’s dream of becoming a professional ballet dancer started years ago at a Kansas City Ballet performance. “I love watching the professional company shows. And once I saw Miss Kim [Kimberly Cowen] dance, I knew that’s what I wanted to do,” Olivia remembers.
Olivia started dance classes at age 2 ½. She learned ballet, jazz, tap and gymnastics but she really loved the ballet. At age 7 it was clear she was smitten, so her parents decided to send her to Kansas City Ballet School’s (KCBS) Johnson County campus. “Coming here was amazing! It was a BIG change,” says Olivia.
When asked why she felt drawn to ballet, Olivia admitts, “I love the discipline. I love structure and repetition—it’s meditative in a way.”
When asked what she liked most about KCBS, she has trouble picking just one thing: “One of the main things I love is the building. Huge studios and natural light. I love the teachers at KCBS so much. And I love that we have the opportunity to dance in professional shows.”
Standing Out as a Student
As a student at Kansas City Ballet School, Olivia had the opportunity to dance in Company productions which included The Nutcracker, among others. Olivia has shined over the years in earning roles in productions as a student that would typically have gone to Second Company dancers.
In 2017, she danced in the ‘Garland Waltz’ in The Sleeping Beauty. Then she danced corps roles in The Nutcracker in ‘Waltz of the Flowers’ and in ‘Snow Scene’ for the last two years. And in 2020, she was awarded a corps role in Swan Lake, an incredibly beautiful and difficult assignment for any dancer.
“Dancing in Swan Lake was one of the best experiences so far for me as a dancer. The energy from everyone during performances felt magical,” Olivia remembers. “My favorite memory was the moment when the final curtain closed and all the swans experienced overwhelming feelings of accomplishment. It was a bittersweet moment. The show was so physically and emotionally demanding, but also it is a production I deeply miss.”
She admits Swan Lake was a challenge. She had to learn the choreography while dancing on the side of the rehearsal studio, rather than learning it in her assigned spot during rehearsals—valuable experience for an aspiring professional dancer. The corps work that goes into making a beautiful production like Swan Lake helps to develop skills that are essential in a ballet career.
Joining the KCB Second Company
Olivia has been selected to be part of Kansas City Ballet’s Second Company for the 2020-2021 Season. The Second Company is made up of two groups, KCB II dancers and Trainees. As a Trainee, Olivia is looking forward to continuing her ballet training and participating in performances and programs that reach out into the KC community.
While the coming year is full of unknowns, one thing is certain. Olivia’s future looks bright.
Photogaphy by Brett Pruitt & East Market Studios