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A weekly look at creativity, arts, and culture in southwest Michigan, hosted by Zinta Aistars.Fridays in Morning Edition at 7:50am and at 4:20pm during All Things Considered.

Art Beat: Dancing through the years

Members of the Kalamazoo Ballet Arts Ensemble at a dress rehearsal for the Kalamazoo Symphony Orchestra Youth Concert Series.
Betty Kondo
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Betty Kondo
Members of the Kalamazoo Ballet Arts Ensemble at a dress rehearsal for the Kalamazoo Symphony Orchestra Youth Concert Series.

At the age of three, Betty Kondo was not very excited about what she calls “the intruder” in her life at that time – her baby brother. To distract the upset toddler, her parents enrolled her in a ballet class. She hasn’t stopped dancing since – although she has made peace with her brother. Kondo is the new artistic director of the Ballet Arts Ensemble in Kalamazoo.

A conversation with Betty Kondo

“My parents thought, ‘We need to have something special just for Betty,’” Kondo recalls her childhood introduction to dance. “So, they stuck me in the local, what I always like to say, Dolly Dinkle Dance Studio. Ballet, tap, that kind of thing. And I just never stopped. I fell in love deeply with ballet and dance and just the whole creative process.”

Betty Kondo
Annette Epperson
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Betty Kondo
Betty Kondo

Kondo, who is originally from Bowie, Maryland, has been a professional dancer for over 15 years. She received her training at the Maryland Youth Ballet and began her professional career with the Orlando Ballet. She has since performed with many classical and contemporary ballet companies including the Kansas City Ballet, the Eugene Ballet, and the Owen/Cox Dance Group. She has taught ballet, pointe, contemporary, conditioning, and choreography.

“I taught ballet art for a year,” Kondo says. “We were living in Kalamazoo for a couple years, and it was during that strange time when the world was shut down and Covid was prevalent, and my daughter was taking ballet classes at Ballet Arts. They caught wind that I was a professional dancer, and they needed a teacher to teach advanced students. They asked if I would teach—and I said yes.”

When long-time artistic director Cathleen Huling retired, Kondo was offered the position. One of the first performances Kondo wanted to organize was the mixed repertoire program, “Dancing Throughout the Years.” It is a celebration of dance from 1869 to the present and will take place on Saturday, March 16, 2024, at 4:30 p.m. at the Gull Lake Center for the Fine Arts in Richland, Michigan.

“I really feel strongly about the importance and necessity and desire to honor the past, the legacy that has come before this point, and to pay homage to that,” Kondo says. “Also, to make room and make way for the legendary dance to come. That’s what this program is all about.”

Tickets for the program are $22 and can be ordered online.

Listen to WMUK's Art Beat every Friday at 7:50 a.m. and 4:20 p.m.

Zinta Aistars is our resident book expert. She started interviewing authors and artists for our Arts & More program in 2011.
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