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On the R.O.A.D. to the Kauffman Center Stage 

Marching onto the brightly lit stage in her red and blue soldier’s uniform, 13-year-old Maresha joined the battle against the mice. Cast along with other Kansas City Ballet School (KCBS) students, this was the second time in Maresha’s six years at KCBS that she had performed in Devon Carney’s The Nutcracker. The climactic ‘Battle Scene’ is an audience favorite, with rousing music and animated characters. Overcome with pride, Maresha’s mother wanted to yell her daughter’s name as she excitedly watched her from the audience.

Whether it’s in the studio dancing with friends, or on stage performing for a thousand-plus captivated audience members, Maresha’s experiences with Kansas City Ballet have helped shape who she is today.

Reach Out And Dance

Beginning in a small dance studio at Longfellow Elementary School, Maresha was first introduced to Kansas City Ballet (KCB) through the Reach Out And Dance (R.O.A.D.) Program. Led through weekly movement classes centered around a STEAM-based curriculum, Maresha excelled. She was familiar with expressing herself through movement because of her previous experience in dance and gymnastics. Observing Maresha’s talent and enjoyment of the program, KCB invited her to continue onto the R.O.A.D. Scholarship program.

Piling into a yellow school bus with other eager third graders, Maresha’s journey took its next leaps in weekly trips to KCB’s Todd Bolender Center for Dance & Creativity. Now, not only were her classes in larger dance studios, but they were filled with students from other schools. New friendships were born as she met students with similar interests.

For the next two years, Maresha continued in the R.O.A.D. Scholarship program as a full-fledged KCB School student. Dance was now more than just a simple school activity; it was becoming a major part of her life. With every class, she discovered what dance meant to her. Asked how dance makes her feel, Maresha says, “Dance helps me use my body and the motions to express myself and how I feel.”  Her classes were focused much more on discipline and technique now, evolving past the games and creative movement of the first year.

It was during Maresha’s third year in the program that she auditioned for a role in The Nutcracker. She remembers it being “nerve-racking at first” with so many other children also auditioning. Despite this, Maresha recalls that the experience was “really cool,” and that she “got to meet and get to know girls from other classes.” Through it all, her favorite part of being in KCBS continues to be the friends she makes along the way.

Family Support

After three years, Maresha’s R.O.A.D. Scholarship was complete. However, she wasn’t finished at the Kansas City Ballet School. As an Intermediate Level student, her classes now include pointe work, as well as jazz, modern, and contemporary. Her mother remarks, “When Maresha started it was about games. Now, she talks about precision, timing, and being in sync with friends.”

At each point in her journey as a dancer, Maresha has had a strong pillar of support: her mother. “She’s taken care of me all of my life,” Maresha says. “My mother has helped develop me into the person I am, and I wouldn’t be here if it wasn’t for her.” The arts run deep in Maresha’s family. African dance, praise dance, hip-hop, two-step, and drill team are just a few of the dance forms surrounding her since she was young. Additionally, her grandmother plays the clarinet; Maresha herself plays the violin; and her uncles were regular performers around 18th and Vine, Kansas City’s jazz district. Her family is proud of this legacy and will keep dancing and making music for years to come.

Make a difference

The Reach Out And Dance program transforms the lives of thousands of children in Kansas City each year. To learn more about the program and how you can support it, please visit our website or contact Rebecca Zandarski at 816.216.5597 or rzandarski@kcballet.org.

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