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Donald McKayle speaks at main library downtown KCMO

24 January 2008
Main Public Library, 10th and Baltimore (downtown), Kansas City, Missouri

Prior to world premiere of "Hey-Hay, Going to Kansas City" specially commissioned
for the Kansas City Ballet winter performance Feb 21-24.

Below find some of Nicole English's interviews (with William Whitener and with Donald McKayle)

Donald McKayle speaking at KCMO pub lib for KC Ballet and Hey-Hay
Donald McKayle

William Whitener gives introductory remarks at KCMO library for Donald McKayle
William Whitener gives introductory remarks
Donald McKayle speaking at KCMO pub lib for KC Ballet and Hey-Hay
Deanna Hodges, Matthew Donnell
KC Ballet Executive Director Jeff Bentley
KC Ballet Executive Director Jeff Bentley
Jason Pollen with Donald McKayle with the event poster he just signed for the library.
Jason Pollen with Donald McKayle with the event poster he just signed for the library.
NE: How did the project for the new ballet that Donald McKayle is choreographing for the Kansas City Ballet 50th Anniversary ("Hey-Hay, Going to Kansas City") come about?

William Whitener, (Director of Kansas City Ballet): This is a work that I had on the backburner for a while.... I knew I wanted something in the reparatory that honor the great Jazz tradition of our city....and I had Donald McKayle in mind for a while.... Then, recently, I was reminded of his great artistry when he was in town working on one of his classic works, Games, recently for the Wylliams/Henry Dance Company.... It reminded me of when I had seen his work for Alvin Ailey in NYC when I was with the Joffery.... So, I have been a great fan for many years.... and we are delighted to have him working with the dancers.... and things are going, as they say, swimmingly.... It looks great ... it will be a wonderful program....

We are presenting two new works and a classic piece at the KC Ballet in Feb. 21-24.... one of them will be mine, which opens the show and this one of Donald's will be closing the show.... and we will present a classic piece from well-known choreographer, Twyla Tharp, in between.... Immediately after the Kansas City premiere, we will be taking the whole show then to the Joyce Theatre in NYC March 11-16th.

NE: How did William Whitener approach you about the project? What were your thoughts about the project?

Donald McKayle (Choreographer): During the After Party of "Games" that we staged for the Wylliams/Henry Contemporary Danse Company last year at UMKC, Bill came up to me and said, "Why don't you do a ballet for us? We would love for you to do something for us."..... it was very straightforward.... and I said, emphatically, YES.... and that is how it began..... Bill then introduced me to Chuck Haddock of KCUR's local Jazz music show, the Fish Fry... and Chuck helped me to select 55 pieces of music that were representative of Kansas City Jazz music.... he made recordings for me to take back to New York City..... from those 55 pieces, I narrowed it down to seven pieces.... all instrumentals, covering a variety of periods and styles.... including Euday Bowman's "12th Street Rag", Charlie Parker's "Max Making Wax", and Count Basie's "Jumping at the Woodside"....

They have been wonderful dancers.... we have been working five hours a day for the last three weeks... they have really learned how to push the beat... pull the beat... work the beat.... and they have done a beautifully....

NE: Did you know Leni Wylliams, one of the Wylliams/Henry founders/dancers/choreographers?

DM: Yes, indeed, I did. I knew Leni.... the last time I saw his work, he was doing a piece where he would dance weaving in and out of a horse's legs as it went around the ring.... he was always a risky and courageous choreographer.... and he was an amazing dancer.

NE: What are your favorite pieces that you have choreographed?

DM: Whatever I am working on currently becomes my favorite piece (smiling). Since I am working currently on three pieces, including the Kansas City Ballet piece... it is one of my current favorite pieces.


See Also:

Donald McKayle at UMKC:
1 - Working with UMKC dance students (August 2006) in studio
2 - Wylliams/Henry Sept 2006 and "Games," choreography Donald McKayle

Kansas City Public Library
Kansas City Ballet
Wylliams/Henry Contemporary Dance Co.
UMKC Conservatory of Music:
Conservatory's Performance Calendar