William Whitener has spent the past 17 years as the Artistic Director for the Kansas City Ballet, Whitener succeeded Todd Bolender as artistic director of the company in 1996, following Bolender's 17 - year tenure. He previously served as artistic director of the Royal Winnipeg Ballet and Les Ballets Jazz de Montreal.
Mr. Whitener began his ballet training as a child in Seattle and received a scholarship to study at the San Francisco Ballet School. Subsequently, he trained with Robert Joffrey who invited him to join the Joffrey Ballet where he danced a variety of leading roles in the United States and abroad. In 1978 he joined Twyla Tharp Dance Company where he was a lead dancer for eight years performing 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 was a member of the original cast of Bob Fosse's "Dancing" and assisted with the reconstructions for Jerome Robbins' Broadway.
Mr. Whitener created many ballets for the Kansas City Ballet including "A Midsummer Night's Dream" in 1999 and most recently "Tom Sawyer - A Ballet in Three Acts" in 2011 which was the second highest grossing ballet in the company's history and was warmly praised by the New York Times. His tenure also includes the opening of the Todd Bolender Center for Dance and Creativity, the new headquarters for the school and rehearsal facility and their new performing home at the Kauffman Center for the Performing Arts.
"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 theater, 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 stage domestically and internationally. It is an honor and 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 realty."
After watching last Sunday's performance of Hey-Hay, Going to Kansas City I turned to my friend and told her how lucky we are to have a great ballet company in our city and how fortunate Kansas City has been to have Bill Whitener.
Good luck Bill!