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Youth Ballet Alumni Choreograph New Works

Cameron Miller leads rehearsal with KCYB Dancers. | Photography by Andrea Wilson
Cameron Miller leads rehearsal with KCYB Dancers. | Photography by Andrea Wilson

Since 2009 Kansas City Youth Ballet (KCYB) has been the performing ensemble for Kansas City Ballet School (KCBS). For the first time ever, they will perform choreography created by former KCYB members— Maggie Andriani and Cameron Miller.

Cameron Miller (center) in the Spring 2013 KCYB show promotions | Photography by Brett Pruitt and East Market Studios
Cameron Miller (center) in the Spring 2013 KCYB show promotions | Photography by Brett Pruitt and East Market Studios

Both Andriani and Miller went on to major in dance at universities after graduating from their respective high schools, KCBS and KCYB. Andriani attended Indiana University Jacobs School of Music, Opera and Ballet Theater, and Miller went to The UMKC Conservatory of Music and Dance. Andriani is now a member of Quixotic Cirque Nouveau and has toured with the group across the U.S. and internationally. Miller is a dancer with American Midwest Ballet (formerly Ballet Nebraska).

KCYB Experiences

Andriani remembers her experiences with KCYB and working with different choreographers fondly. She says it was constantly changing and always challenging. Working on classical variations, partnering and contemporary works allowed these younger dancers a safe space to make mistakes and learn from them on and off the stage.

“Taking ballet class is one thing but KCYB was that bridge between student and professional,” Miller says. “It was our chance to perform bigger name ballets.”

Maggie Andriani as Odette in Swan Lake for KCYB's Spring 2014 performances. | Photo by Brett Pruitt & East Market Studios.
Maggie Andriani as Odette in Swan Lake for KCYB’s Spring 2014 performances. | Photo by Brett Pruitt & East Market Studios.

When she watches old DVDs from the performances, Andriani admits her dancing is far from perfect. “But I could see myself growing as a dancer every year. My favorite memory was dancing the white swan pas from Swan Lake with Cameron, rehearsed by Hyuk Ku Kwon. Kwon taught me so much about the importance of the tiniest movements making a big impact. Cameron and I were definitely challenged with the stamina and when we finally got to perform it for our last senior show it was really emotional in a happy way,” she says.

The Opportunity

“I was happy when Kim [KCYB Director Kimberly Cowen] reached out to me because choreographing is something I started to become interested in during college, when we had a choreographic class,” Andriani says. “At Quixotic, sometimes we have choreographers come in to set pieces, but much of the time the other dancers and I collaborate to create our own pieces. So slowly I’ve been getting more experience. It’s something I’d like to continue doing, and I’m glad to have the opportunity at my former studio!”

When Cowen asked Miller about choreographing, it was after she’d attended his senior capstone performance at The Conservatory where he’d choreographed one of his own pieces.

Miller now teaches at competition dance schools in the evenings where he is building up his choreography chops.

“I have a degree in performance and choreography. That’s my end game—becoming a choreographer,” he says. “Creative, innovative, growing my own voice. I love the process. It’s fulfilling to have a piece of you out there at the end. It’s your baby.”

He is grateful for this opportunity and excited to see where he’ll go from here.

Cameron Miller | David K. Pugh Photography
Cameron Miller | David K. Pugh Photography

CAMERON Miller’s Work

Miller believes one voice can change the world. It’s an important message with younger generations. It’s one he admits he struggles with at times. “I hone in on that theme a lot with them,” he says.

He describes this work as taking place in a post-apocalyptic setting, grounded down to Earth where one thing motivates the next—a sort of structured improv. “It’s what I would have wanted to try at their age,” he says. His contemporary sock ballet is set on 17 dancers (14 women and 3 men) with 15 corps dancers and one featured couple.

The music is a subtle contemporary piano piece. “There’s a sorrow, a sadness and it’s full of emotion,” Miller says. “The undertone of strength and passion… I’ve been wanting to use it for a while now. “

“I hope that the students learn there’s a world outside of classical ballet. Don’t get me wrong. I love ballet. It’s wonderful. But I want them to know more styles because dancers need them, too, in many companies,” Miller says. “I also want them to know becoming a choreographer is an option someday.”

Maggie Andriani
Maggie Andriani

MAGGIE Andriani’s Work

Andriani’s biggest inspiration lately has been strong feminine voices, such as the recent rise in diverse women elected into office, and all of the strong women of the #metoo movement, including dancers in certain companies. So, she was really excited she’d be choreographing for 10 girls. The music she chose is from a very old, rarely performed Vivaldi opera called “Nisi Dominus”. “I liked the strong, singular female vocalist. She sounds haunting but also very powerful,” she says.

Her goal is for her choreography to show that femininity can be powerful and capable, but still beautiful. And she hopes the girls can start to realize the inner beauty in every single dancer. She believes unique beauty is the defining nature of their artistry, and they should own it! Andriani wants them to realize the power in their voice as dancers, because she feels like that voice has always been somewhat suppressed. She hopes to work in more collaborative, inclusive spaces.

“We’re almost done with the piece, so I’m eager to finish and spend the remaining rehearsals on details and movement quality. The girls have been really great in working with me on trying new things that I know are somewhat out of their comfort zone. We’re all learning a lot together,” Andriani says.

KCYB Performances April 5-7, 2019

The program features multiple ballets including Esmeralda, Spartacus pas de deux and brand new works by Maggie Andriani and Cameron Miller. Tickets go on sale March 1 here.

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