Instructor, Student Pas de Deux

World-renowned professor mentors UMKC ballet student

The heart of UMKC is our campus community. With lots of opportunities, it’s easy to develop student mentorship teams. And these rich relationships—our Dynamic Duos—are some of our best success stories.

Simone Davis (BFA ’23, dance) chose the UMKC Conservatory because she knew that the training curriculum and the faculty were renowned, and she relished the opportunity to study with them. While she has been a student at UMKC, she has performed as a guest artist with various dance companies including Wylliams Henry Contemporary Dance Company, Störling Dance Theater, Tristian Griffin Dance Company and Kansas City Friends of Alvin Ailey.

Despite her professional success, she still maintains a vigorous instructional practice in addition to her classes.  She and Karen Brown, assistant professor of dance, work together regularly.

“Karen and I began working together last summer. Before she came on campus I learned more about her career. I was very excited to work with her.”

Brown is well-known in the dance world. She danced as the principal ballerina with the internationally renowned Dance Theatre of Harlem from 1973-1995, served as artistic director of the Oakland Ballet, and assistant professor at the University of the Arts in Philadelphia. She is certified in all levels of the American Ballet Theatre National Training Curriculum.

Brown founded En Pointe Plus Dance Mastery Institute to optimize motion analysis technology in teaching sessions to improve dancers’ form and prevent injuries.

While Davis was not familiar with Brown, she was excited to learn from her when she knew more about Brown’s career. It turned out to be a good fit professionally and personally.

“The connection was natural,” Davis says. “KB has an intensity in teaching that helps push students further, which is very beneficial.”

Brown was thrilled when Davis reached out for private lessons. She offered Davis the opportunity to work as her assistant during her Master Classes. Brown notes that Davis has a strong sense of technique and a good sense of her body. She is working with Davis on moving beyond her comfort zone, as well as fine tuning her form to avoid injury.

“Much of dance is a science, and I’m teaching her to set herself up for the same outcome every time,” Brown says. “When a dancer gets better in the studio, they manifest that on stage because they are confident with their technique.”

She says that Davis is at that point in her practice.

“Simone is ready to go. She’s going to try new things. Because of her talent, she has already had a lot of opportunities to perform.”

Davis admires Brown’s intensity.

“Most dancers and dance educators have similar personalities,” Davis says. “So that’s what I respond to. As an emerging artist, having a mentor is important.”

“Most dancers and dance educators have similar personalities. So that’s what I respond to. As an emerging artist, having a mentor is important.” - Simone Davis

Brown respects Davis for her focus and her work ethic in return.

“She’s been out in the world performing and making money with her craft. She's a good performer. She presents well, she's beautiful. Her work is fine tuning her technique.”

Currently, Davis is dancing professionally with Quixotic Fusion in Kansas City. There, she’s been able to participate in immersive performances, where the fourth wall is broken. She feels this offers a new connection with the audience. She plans to live in Kansas City following graduation, while she continues to travel and perform on a freelance basis throughout the country.

Brown is confident in Davis’s success.

“She’s very kind. She has a great work ethic. Her aesthetic, her creativity, the way that she learns and studies, these are the important things that take longer to teach. If someone doesn’t understand this, they might not even think to learn them. We have a great deal of respect for one another.”

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Published: Oct 14, 2022