Saturday, July 7, 2012

William Whitener stepping down from KC Ballet

Thomas F. Whittaker, President of the Board of Directors of Kansas City Ballet announced today that William Whitener, Kansas City Ballet's longtime artistic director has decided not to renew his employment contract for the 2013-2014 season.

"Bill has been an enormous asset in the growth of the company over the past 17 years," stated Whittaker. "Our heightened national reputation, the significant growth of the artistic quality of the organization as well as our well deserved recognition as a company devoted to exciting and creative repertory is a direct result of the remarkable work he has accomplished during his tenure."

Whitener succeeded Todd Bolender as artistic director of the company in 1996, following Bolender's 17- year tenure.

"As I approach my 17th season as Artistic Director with Kansas City Ballet, I feel it is an opportune time to move into the next phase of my professional and creative life; it's the beginning of my third act. Now that the ballet company has had such splendid openings at the Todd Bolender Center for Dance & Creativity and the Kauffman Center for the Performing Arts, I am confident that the Ballet will continue to develop and thrive. I have always aspired to work as an independent artist on a project-to-project basis. Therefore, I plan to remain active in theatre, dance and other media as a director, choreographer, teacher, writer and advocate for the arts. In addition, I will be expanding my association with choreographer Twyla Tharp, and begin to multiply the number of her ballets which I stage domestically and internationally. It is an honor and a privilege to be a part of the consistent and recent rise of Kansas City Ballet. I look forward to watching and supporting the company and its wonderful dancers as it continues to build on its success. I am deeply grateful to our many trustees, donors, artists, faculty, staff, writers, audiences and loyal community members who have helped to turn so many of our dreams into reality."

During Whitener's tenure Kansas City Ballet grew from a $2.5 million budget to $7 million, received the 2002 Missouri Arts Award, celebrated its 50th anniversary season with well received and critically celebrated performances at the Joyce Theater in New York City and the Kennedy Center and established the choreography workshop "In the Wings." Whitener choreographed 16 new ballets for Kansas City Ballet including Tom Sawyer – A Ballet in Three Acts which was the second highest grossing ballet in the company's history and was warmly praised by the New York Times. Furthermore, he commissioned 17 new works by an array of American choreographers and presented numerous works of historical significance. Over his career, Whitener has launched and developed the careers of many talented dancers.

"Bill Whitener's contribution to Kansas City Ballet and to the arts in Kansas City cannot be overestimated," says Executive Director Jeffrey J. Bentley. "I have had the pleasure of working with him for the better part of 20 years here and in Canada. Our association has resulted in the creation of an artistically robust and debt-free organization."

Whittaker indicated that the Board of Directors is in the process of naming a Search Committee to begin an international search for Whitener's successor to ensure a smooth transition.

William Whitener was appointed artistic director of Kansas City Ballet in 1996. He previously served as artistic director of the Royal Winnipeg Ballet and Les Ballets Jazz de Montreal. Mr. Whitener began ballet training as a child with Karen Irvin at the Cornish School in Seattle and received a Ford Foundation scholarship to study at the San Francisco Ballet School. Subsequently, he trained with Robert Joffrey who invited him to join the Joffrey Ballet (l969-77) where he danced a variety of leading roles in the United States and abroad. He joined Twyla Tharp Dance (1978-89) and performed worldwide and for President Reagan at the White House. He also served as Ms. Tharp's assistant for ballets created for Mikhail Baryshnikov and American Ballet Theatre. He has staged Ms. Tharp's ballets for Kansas City Ballet, The Joffrey Ballet, The Juilliard School and for Ballet du Capitole de Toulouse in France. On Broadway, he performed with the original cast of Bob Fosse's Dancin' and assisted with the reconstructions for Jerome Robbins' Broadway. He also appeared in Martha Clarke's The Garden of Earthly Delights. His film and television work include Amadeus, Bye Bye Birdie!, Dance in America and The Catherine Wheel.

more about Whitener the KC Ballet

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