DANCE ‣ Dancer of the Month - June 2022, Kassi Tiedjens
Kassi Tiedjens is from Milwaukee, Wisconsin, and began her dance education at the age of 4 with the Milwaukee Ballet School and Academy. Kassi studied with Milwaukee Ballet School for 14 years and had the privilege of dancing in company productions of Michael Pink’s The Nutcracker, Cinderella, and Peter Pan. As a young dancer, it was so fascinating to observe such a top-tier dance company from such a young age. I learned so much about artistry and work ethic by being able to study Milwaukee Ballet’s professional dancers.
During her academic career, Kassi attended the performing arts high school Pius XI where she performed several soloist roles in a diverse number of styles and repertoires. Recently, Kassi graduated cum laude with high distinction from Butler University and received a BFA in Dance Performance as well as a BA in Psychology. During her time at Butler University, Kassi had the opportunity to dance in corps de ballet, demi-soloist, and soloist roles in large-scale productions of The Nutcracker, Sleeping Beauty, Cinderella, Midwinter Dances, as well as student-made choreographic works.
“I feel as though Butler prepared me well for entering the professional realm of dance. I learned how to manage my time and take care of myself, particularly when my schedule got very full.”
Kassi is now a company artist with Confluence Ballet Company based in Pittsburg, Pennsylvania, as well as the company’s Costume Manager and Communications Associate. She joined Confluence for their inaugural season in 2021, because, “Confluence set itself apart from other companies with its mission to provide the community with accessible dance performances and education while nurturing artists in an inclusive and diverse environment. With my psychology background, I knew I wanted a company that held more contemporary stances on dancer well-being and ethics. By having such a mission-driven company, Confluence has gathered a passionate group of dancers who all enthusiastically believe in prioritizing the artistic experience, diversity, and inclusion. Being surrounded by such ardent and talented dancers has been the most inspiring and rewarding part of this season.” She has since performed in a wide array of both soloist and group roles. She feels that her executive roles have helped her to become a more well-rounded dancer with insight into potential career paths for later in her life. “While at Confluence, I have learned that determination will get you far.”
When asked about cross training and alternative dance styles, Kassi told us, “I find it important to balance my time outside of the studio with challenging yet restorative practices. When I’m not dancing, I enjoy taking hot yoga classes which I’ve found really helps maintain my flexibility - particularly on breaks during the season. I have recently started going rock climbing which I’ve found is a great mental and physical workout - especially for dancers! Personally, I’ve always found that my upper body is weaker than my lower body and rock climbing has been a fun new way to gain strength in new areas.
When I have the opportunity, I love going into the Pittsburgh dance scene and watching and partaking in new dance-style classes. This summer my goal is to try something new and take a heels class!”
Kassi highlights in the way she treats her career the importance of mixing up your routine and staying both physically and mentally healthy by utilizing other training styles, workouts, and dance styles. As a dancer knowing your body, its strengths and weaknesses, is key to creating the perfect train regime for you. The body must have balance in order to perform at its highest capability.
Kassi’s tips for dancers and athletes is: “Intrinsic motivation and determination will help propel your career forward. You don’t need to embark on a traditional dance career to feel fulfilled in dance! Throughout my professional career, I have learned that committing to something, even if you’ve never tried it before, and learning new skills makes you a more desirable dancer, inside and outside of the studio.”
If you would like to support Kassi and Confluence Ballet, they will be opening up their next season in October with a performance of Versatile Voices at the Kelly Strayhorn Theater.
“This show is so special to me because it features four female choreographers in a male-dominated choreographic world and celebrates the expansive and imaginative power of a woman’s voice. We also will be participating in a Diversity Fashion Showcase this weekend in Greensburg at the Green Beacon Gallery.”
To get tickets or learn more, head to their website: https://www.confluenceballet.org/
All of the pictures are by Jeremy Kyle Photo, Eddie Eng Photography, and Sojourn Rose Filming. The headshot is by Allan Smith.