Winning! Kansas City Ballet’s Pandemic-Inspired Videos Continue To Find Acclaim

Photo credits: Steve Gibson

Last June as the pandemic was raging, many local performers and artists found themselves gainfully unemployed. The talented squad at the Kansas City Ballet were no exception. “The dancers had been in quarantine due to Covid for about four months,” says Tempe Ostergren, a dance instructor and retired dancer. “Not performing, not rehearsing, not dancing in the studios, but instead solitarily in tiny makeshift studios.”

Ostergren—in a bit of creative whimsy—teamed up with videographer Ron Berg to get the dancers out and about safely. An idea was hatched to create some stylized, pandemic-friendly dance videos. “We shared our frustrations, the desire to create, the need to share art and provide beauty for the community, especially during these darker times,” she says.

The premise? “Film our ballet dancers improvising in great locations around Kansas City, street clothes and all,” says Ostergren. “Everyone was volunteering their time, talents, and effort.  It was a generous outpouring of the love for the art and hunger to create.”

The enthusiasm and support during the shoot was palpable. “Not one person said no to any ask. All of the large organizations—Union Station, The Nelson, The Jazz Museum, Crown Center—were so cooperative letting us use their space and then sharing all of our videos on their media platforms.”

The dancers, meanwhile, were on board from day one—despite being way, way outside their comfort zones. “Professional ballet dancers are used to dancing in very specific environments that cater to their needs, spring floors, warm temperatures etc.  But they all were willing to adapt and create movement that was appropriate and conducive to whatever location and situation we were filming in,” says Ostergren. “It was truly beautiful to see the dancers inspired by the locations, take in their surroundings, and create genuine movement that expressed how they were feeling.”

Berg says the experience bordered on surreal. “It didn’t really hit home until, on one of our early sessions, one of the dancers did a jump near me, and they practically went over my head. I was just blown away,” he says. “When recording them that intimately I continually got goose bumps—so our goal was to try to provide this same feeling across to the viewer through these videos.”

Earlier this week, the awe-inspiring videos started their rounds on the awards circuit. Or, should we say, started cleaning up. “The first two videos we did have just won several Local Addys from AAF-KC—including a special recognition call the Cowan Award for Best Local Video/Commercial, which celebrates Kansas City in the most impactful way,” says Berg. “The late Rick Cowan was a long-time, local producer who championed our local city and industry. The two videos we did not only showcased the ballet but they also celebrated Union Station, Liberty Memorial, the WWI Museum, and The Nelson Atkins Museum.”

Ostergren couldn’t be happier with the final product and the subsequent accolades. “This helped reveal the cool—and dare I say, sexy—side of ballet,” she adds. “The dancers almost seem like pedestrians—that is, until they start to move you see the refined grace and ability to express emotions with one gesture. That’s when you realize that these aren’t just everyday people—they are refined athletes that have spent years being disciplined and refining their art. They are the jewels of our city.”

While the shoot wasn’t out of Berg’s comfort zone, it was definitely a labor of love.  “We approached this with a nimble shooting crew and tried not to over-think or over complicate things,” he says. “We let the dancers do their thing and let the locations speak for themselves.”

No Comments Yet

Comments are closed