Tatiana Dokoudovska, Kansas City Ballet and School
The Kansas City Ballet and School is currently housed in the Ted Bolender Center for Dance and Creativity next to the Union Station, and conducts their performances at the Muriel Kauffman Theatre at the Kauffman Center for the Performing Arts. The Kansas City Ballet was founded by Tatiana Dokoudovska in the late 1950s. A professionally trained and accomplished ballerina, Dokoudovska performed across Europe and the United States. Her experience as a dancer provided her with the skills to become a successful ballet instructor, albeit a stern one. Her passion for dance allowed her to support the ballet department at the Conservatory of Music, which would one day be a part of the University of Missouri-Kansas City, and provided a foundation for ballet appreciation in the city. Dokoudovska's legacy lives on both in the professional performances by the Kansas City Ballet, and in the ballet instruction that the Kansas City Ballet School provides.
The Tatiana Dokoudovska Library located in the Todd Bolender Center for Dance and Creativity
Outside of the Todd Bolender Center for Dance and Creativity, the home of the Kansas City Ballet
Backstory and Context
On January 13, 1921, Alexis and Nadia Dokoudovska welcomed their daughter, Tatiana Dokoudovska, into the world. Considering her father was the son of a nobleman and her mother’s grandfather was an opera singer, her family background was brimming with nobility and talent. She demonstrated a talent for dance at a young age, and at only 12 years old, she would study dance under the instruction of Olga Preobrajenska, an influential Russian ballerina and dance instructor. Dokoudovska’s talent and dedication led to a successful ballet career spanning many countries, starting with the Ballet Russe de l’Opera Comique when she was only 15. After this opportunity, she would become a soloist for the Ballet Russe de Monte Carlo. Later endeavors would bring her to the United States, where she would join the Radio City Music Hall ballet for the duration of World War II. Promptly after the War, she would return to Europe for a season.
Tatiana would return the United States and be included in many different pursuits, including ballet performances and teaching ballet at Carnegie Hall and Regent Academy. In 1954, Tatiana would learn of an audition for Song of Norway at the Starlight Theatre in Kansas City. After the audition, she received the soloist position for the musical, relocating her to Kansas City for the duration of the show. While performing in Kansas City, Tatiana was approached by Victor Labunski, the head of the University of Kansas Coty’s Conservatory of Music at the time, and offered a position at the Conservatory. The position would allow her to establish a dance program at the Conservatory while continuing to be a ballet instructor. Tatiana gave the offer thought before accepting and permanently relocating herself to Kansas City.
Tatiana flourished in Kansas City, seen in her many contributions to the dance community. While serving as the director of the ballet department at the Conservatory, and as a choreographer for the Kansas City Philharmonic for a time, her greatest contribution to the Kansas City dance community was establishing the Kansas City Ballet. In 1957, Tatiana developed the Kansas City Ballet with her top 25 students from the Conservatory. With Tatiana’s constant contributions, including her own monetary donations, the Kansas City Ballet would evolve overtime. Her extensive past within the ballet world would offer her the opportunity to recruit renowned ballet dancers from across the country, establishing an amazing reputation as well as a dedicated community within the city. After successfully establishing a professional ballet in Kansas City, in 1962, Tatiana would introduce a Bachelor of Arts in Dance at the Conservatory, further expanding opportunities for the dance community in the metro. Her accomplishments in dance would be recognized in 1966, when she was elected to be on the Association of American Dance Companies’ very first Board of Directors.
Tatiana would maintain her position as the artistic director of the Kansas City Ballet until she stepped down in 1976, and she would remain at the Conservatory until her retirement in 1989. Throughout her career, she instructed countless ballet dancers with the use of a wooden cane to keep track of the beat, inspiring talented individuals to reach their potential in ballet. On September 21, 2005, Tatiana passed away, but her legacy continues to live on through the continuation of the Kansas City Ballet and its school that instructs future ballet dancers in the craft.
The Kansas City Ballet and School is housed in the Todd Bolender Center for Dance and Creativity at 500 West Pershing Road in Kansas City, Missouri. The building, located next to the Union Station, once served as the “Power House,” or a coal-based power plant that developed steam for the Station. After renovations, the Center opened in August of 2011 to serve as the home of the Kansas City Ballet and School, offering plenty of space for both students and professional dancers the opportunity to improve their ballet skills. The space also houses the Tatiana Dokoudovska Library for Dance, which has primary source documents from Tatiana herself that trace the history of the Kansas City Ballet. Although Tatiana Dokoudovska did not have the opportunity to see the opening and use of the Todd Bolender Center for Dance and Creativity, its mission to provide access to ballet instruction further promotes Dokoudovska’s legacy in the Kansas City community. Her passion and dedication shaped the professional ballet scene in Kansas City, something that may have taken decades longer if she had not pursued its development.
- Alcock, Andy. KC Ballet's founder, Tatiana Dokoudovska, left indelible mark on area arts scene, KSHB. March 10th 2021. Accessed January 24th 2022. https://www.kshb.com/news/womens-history-month/kc-ballets-founder-tatiana-dokoudovska-left-indelible-mark-on-area-arts-scene.
- DeAngelo, Dory. Biography of Tatiana Dokoudovska (1921-2005), Dancer, The Kansas City Public Library. Accessed January 24th 2022. https://kchistory.org/document/biography-tatiana-dokoudovska-1921-2005-dancer.
- Enriquez, Sandra. Yes, We Can!: Immigrant Women and Their Influence on Kansas City, The Kansas City Public Library. Accessed January 24th 2022. https://www.kclibrary.org/sites/default/files/2019-03-10YesWeCanImmigrantWomenandTheirInfluenceonKansasCityPPT.pdf.
- Tatiana Dokoudovska, Kansas City Ballet. Accessed January 24th 2022. https://kcballet.org/company/tatiana-dokoudovska/.
- Todd Bolender Center for Dance and Creativity: Home of Kansas City Ballet and School, Kansas City Ballet. Accessed January 25th 2022. https://kcballet.org/bolender-center/.