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Turner Students Perform in The Nutcracker

The opportunity was possible because of a partnership between USD 202 and KC Ballet's R.O.A.D. Program

For the past six years, USD 202 has been one of just a few districts in the metro to participate in the R.O.A.D. program through the Kansas City Ballet. R.O.A.D., which stands for Reach Out and Dance, is a 12-week session for 3rd grade students where KC Ballet teaching artists visit the elementary schools weekly and teach curriculum centered around the fundamentals of dance. These lessons are aligned with academic standards and touch on the areas of space, time, effort, self-discipline, and cooperative learning. These concepts cover a range of curriculum, including math and science.

At the conclusion of the R.O.A.D. school-based program, students who show a natural skill for the fundamentals of dance are invited to continue on in the KC Ballet's scholars program. For this program, USD 202 transports students twice per week during school hours to the Todd Bolender Center for Dance & Creativity where they are able to continue their dance lessons and education.

For the fall of 2022, Turner USD 202 had eleven students from the spring school-based program who continued on into the KC Ballet scholars program. This is a point of pride for the district as there were only eighteen students who were in the fall of 2022 R.O.A.D. scholars class at the KC Ballet's Todd Bolender Center. About the experience, student Benjamin Munoz said, "I really enjoy being in the R.O.A.D. scholars program because it has given me the opportunity to be part of such an amazing discipline. Being in the R.O.A.D. program has given me the opportunity to express myself through the dance."

Of the eleven USD 202 students, three of them who auditioned for The Nutcracker were selected to perform in the production. Those students were Benjamin Munoz and Julian Brown, both of whom were cast as a 'Party Boy,' and Aubrey Omland, who was cast as a 'Lamb.' The production ran from December 7th - 24th at the Kauffman Center for the Performing Arts. The additional practices for The Nutcracker were quite an added time commitment for the students and their families, but they shared that the experience was worth it.

Gynon Brown, the mother of R.O.A.D. scholar and 4th grade Turner Elementary student Julian Brown, feels that the program provides so much more than ballet lessons. "I most like that he is being exposed to new things and different cultures. It has expanded his mind, and he is now interested in other languages and landmarks and architecture from different countries. The terms that are used for the dance positions in ballet are French, so he is also learning a new language. They also teach a lot about discipline, respect, and how to conduct yourself in a professional manner. What the KC Ballet teaches goes beyond just dance, they teach life skills and help groom the values, morals, and character of their students. For Christmas I purchased nutcrackers for decoration which he loved and wanted to keep in his room! I'm very grateful to the Turner School District for giving him this awesome opportunity."

Gicela Martinez, Benjamin Munoz's mother, agrees that is has been a positive experience, "We are so grateful to all the parties involved for making the ROAD Scholar Program possible and to the Kansas City Ballet for giving my son the opportunity to be part of them. Benjamin truly enjoys the benefits of being part of the ROAD program, he really loves dancing, exercising and making new friends. It makes us really happy seeing our son enjoying being part of the Kansas City Ballet family. It has given us the opportunity to live a wonderful experience with our son, we are truly proud of him."


Q&A with Julian Brown, 'Party Boy' in The Nutcracker

Q: What do you most enjoy about being in the R.O.A.D. Scholars program?

A: I like performing and spending time with my friends that I've met at the KC Ballet.

Q: What was the preparation for The Nutcracker like?

A: It was easier than I thought it would be, but it was a lot more practice than I expected. My favorite part was doing the dress rehearsal and the actual performance.

Q: How were you feeling before and during the performance?

A: I was excited that I got picked to participate in The Nutcracker. I was nervous on my first performance, but after that I was ok.

Q: What did you most enjoy about being in The Nutcracker?

A: I liked dancing and entertaining people - also, the costumes were cool.


Q&A with Benjamin Munoz, 'Party Boy' in The Nutcracker

Q: What was the preparation for The Nutcracker like?

A: The preparation for The Nutcracker required a lot of commitment and teamwork. We spent a lot of hours each week rehearsing, trying to remember a bunch of steps and movements to the rhythm of the music in order for the choreography to look natural and flowing. Some days were longer than the others and some were easier than the others. I had to attend the rehearsals after school and sometimes during the weekends when I was not rehearsing I was attending my regular ballet classes at the Kansas City Ballet. In the end, the reward of seeing the fruits of our hard work was just priceless. It was such a unique experience.

Q: How were you feeling before and during the performance?

A: I was so excited when I first got the chance to rehearse at the Kauffman Center wearing my outfits. As the days got closer for my first performance, I became more excited and nervous, I really couldn’t believe I was about to perform in front of hundreds of people at the Kauffman Center. I really loved performing in front of a big audience.