Ballerina Shares Love for Dance

Conservatory of Music and Dance Alumni Achievement Award goes to Molly Wagner

Molly Wagner (B.F.A. ’07) is a ballerina who danced for the Kansas City Ballet. Recently retired, she spent six seasons with the company and has performed some of the most cherished roles in dance including the leads in “Swan Lake,” “Giselle,” “Sleeping Beauty” and “Romeo and Juliet.”

Last year, Wagner was asked to choreograph the company’s New Moves showcase as well as their youth program and was honored at the University of Missouri-Kansas City Conservatory’s Crescendo gala.

Before joining the Kansas City Ballet in 2012, Wagner danced professionally with the Missouri Contemporary Ballet, Montgomery Ballet and The Charleston Ballet. While a student at the UMKC Conservatory of Music and Dance, Wagner was awarded First Place Regional winner by the National Society for Arts and Letters Midwest Region. She currently teaches at the Kansas City Ballet School, coaches students for Youth American Grand Prix and teaches at the Crescendo Conservatory in Overland Park, Kansas.

Because of Wagner’s contribution to the performing arts in the greater Kansas City community, the UMKC Alumni Association will present Wagner with the 2018 Conservatory of Music and Dance Alumni Achievement Award.

Wagner recently discussed her career achievements with UMKC:

When and why did you decide to pursue dance as a career?

I grew up playing softball and competing in gymnastics and viewed dance as something fun on the side. In eighth grade I had burnt out from the intense gymnastics competition and focused on pitching for my high school team, going from field to ballet class. By my junior year I realized that nothing brought me joy like performing did. I decided I wanted to be a ballerina and didn’t look back.

Is there physical pain that comes from the demands that ballet puts on your body? What are the rewards that make up for that?

The physical pain is one of the biggest struggles of a professional ballet career; the daily aches and pains that you have to just put out of your mind to the debilitating injuries. The second you get on the stage; the mental concentration and soul-filling moments take away every ounce of pain. 

Why did you choose UMKC for your B.F.A.?

I had a ballet teacher in high school, Molly Holberton, who previously danced for Kansas City Ballet and knew Paula Weber (UMKC Conservatory chair of Dance and professor of Dance). She had nothing but glowing recommendations about her, the city and the Conservatory. Sure enough, as soon as I auditioned I knew it was right for me.

You’ve performed some of the most celebrated roles in dance. Which was your favorite and why?

While all the amazing roles I’ve been fortunate to perform are dear to my heart, there is nothing like the ballet “Giselle,” in my opinion. It’s the one role that demands so many layers. First, a young vibrant girl in love, to utter heartbreak leading to her demise, to a ghost-like state but still human enough to forgive your love and say goodbye just to save him. Plus, Elaine Bauer, famed for her own performances of “Giselle,” coached me. She turned my “mad scene” (the moment Giselle realizes she’s been wronged, goes crazy, and dies) from superficial actions to true, honest emotion. 

Describe your feelings when a theatre full of people erupts in applause for your performance.

There is nothing like being on stage and feeling the entire audience drawn into your performance. I’ll never forget the opening night of “Romeo and Juliet” for instance. Right as I was about to kill myself in the crypt scene, the audience was so quiet, I could hear the sniffles resonate in the theatre. To me, that is the most gratifying moment; to be able to transport the audience into your story brings me to elation. As I’m bowing to an applauding audience I step outside of myself to take a mental picture, because I know these moments are so special yet rare, and I want to remember them forever. 

What are your long-term goals? What would you like to accomplish that you haven’t already?

I’m really interested in getting my M.F.A. in dance to teach at a university level. I enjoy the maturity and intelligence of college dancers and want to help them start their careers.

Each year, the UMKC Alumni Association recognizes individual alumni and one family with top honors. UMKC will honor Wagner and other outstanding alumni at the 2018 Alumni Awards event Friday, June 15, on campus. The reception is one of the university’s largest events and proceeds support student scholarships. In the last decade, the Alumni Awards event has garnered more than $1 million in scholarships and immediate aid for students.

Click here for tickets or sponsorship information for the June 15, 2018, Alumni Awards event.

Click here for more information on the 2018 Alumni Award recipients.

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