Wendy Powell is woven firmly into the history of Kansas City Ballet.
Wendy grew up dancing. Her mother loved ballet and introduced Wendy to the art form as a very young child. Wendy attended ballets in major cities near where she lived—which changed often since her father was in the Air Force. Her love of dance grew and grew.
She married her husband George Powell III and moved to Kansas City. Theirs was a marriage that was extremely complimentary. While Wendy’s love of ballet is deeply seeded, George feels equally strong about symphonic music. The two not only married each other, but also their strong passions for the arts.
It’s a love they instilled in their daughters as well. And now it is a love they are all able to share with their grandchildren.
“We took our 11-year-old granddaughter with us to see The Nutcracker last December and she was blown away. It’s something that our family just really appreciates and enjoys,” Wendy says.
A History of Involvement
Shortly after moving to KC, Wendy began taking ballet classes from Tatiana Dokoudovska, the founder of Kansas City Ballet (Civic Ballet of Kansas City as it was then known). And in 1975, Former Civic Ballet Board Chair Trula Hunt encouraged Wendy to join the Ballet’s Board.
In 1978 as the Board Chair herself, Wendy was tasked with helping the civic company transition to a part-time professional company. “I was on the board when we brought Todd Bolender to Kansas City to serve as Artistic Director,” Wendy remembers.
Todd began by building up the company of dancers. He also would routinely invite famous guest artists or legendary former dancers to town to build excitement for ballet. This included his friend Alvin Ailey who later put down roots here by establishing Kansas City Friends of Alvin Ailey.
“In the early 80s, Todd was able to present Balanchine’s Firebird and Maria Tall Chief came in for the opening night and a dinner afterwards,” Wendy recalls. “And the audience was in awe of her presence. She was amazing!”
Through it all, Wendy continued to serve on the board. “I also chaired the search committee for Todd’s replacement: William Whitener,” she says. “I worked closely with then Executive Director Martin Cohen for 18 months or more to find Bill. Bill was the perfect person at that time to follow Todd and to broaden our list of choreographers. He was very familiar with Balanchine, but he’d also worked with Jerome Robbins, Twyla Tharp, Margot Sappington and other great contemporary choreographers.”
In 2008 when Wendy was awarded the Ballet’s Pirouette Award at the 50th Anniversary Gala, she told the crowd she could sum up her life in six words: Tania Dokoudovska, Todd Bolender and William Whitener.
“I stepped off the board before Devon Carney arrived, but as a longtime member of the Emeritus Council for the ballet, I appreciate the annual gatherings and the updates that we get and from Devon and Jeff giving the successes of the ballet today,” Wendy admits.
“When I think back to the Civic Ballet days and the freestanding, small building that had been converted into a dance studio on 61st and Troost, and then the Westport Allen Center morphing into the Bolender Center – I realize we have come such a long way,” Wendy reminisces. “We went from the Lyric Theatre’s small stage to the Kauffman Center for the Performing Arts and it’s night and day from where we were to where we are now.”
A Long History of Giving
“The Kansas City community has been very good to us and our family, and we feel it’s important to give back to it,” Wendy says. “George and I are committed to ensuring Kansas City is a very livable city. George’s grandfather, George Powell, Sr., was so grateful for the business success he had that he set the bar high for his family’s philanthropic endeavors.”
Wendy and George Powell III’s passion for the ballet resonates from early experiences with contemporary choreographers, and they have established an Endowment Fund to ensure the Ballet can always support newly commissioned works as well as work from legendary choreographers like George Balanchine and Jerome Robbins.
For all of Wendy’s time and hard work, and for the generosity of the Powell’s, Kansas City Ballet is grateful. Their Legacy of giving will forever be a part of Kansas City Ballet.
How will you be remembered?
Like Wendy, you can make your passion a vital part of your legacy story. We would gladly assist you with ways to make a gift that is meaningful to you and has a lasting impact for Kansas City Ballet. Please contact Rebecca Zandarski, CFRE, CSPG, by email or 816.216.5597 or visit our website here for more information.
Photo: Wendy Powell and husband George Powell III (center) with their daughters and sons-in-law