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Celebrating 20 Years of Modern Night

Updated: Feb 3

There is nothing quite like “Modern Night”. This production is the result of the inner-workings of hundreds of innovative minds... a labor of love since the early 2000's to 2024.

It all began much earlier than the 2000's, in 1985, when Randy Barron left the Westport Ballet to help create City in Motion Dance Theater on Kansas City's West Side. "Co-Artistic Directors Kathleen Kingsley, Ric Hillis, Arielle Denise Thomas, and Jean Dickinson joined Barron in the very first New Dance Series program to open the company's headquarters in the old West Side Christian Church at 700 West Pennway, calling to mind the Judson Church dance series in New York's experimental dance wave of the 1960's.

City in Motion's New Dance Series was an experimental place... where amateurs could present work alongside professionals and other emerging artists in the area when no other venues or troupes could host. The New Dance Series "has presented works by City in Motion's own choreographers, dancers, and instructors, local dance companies, independents, university groups, and nationally-known touring companies. Dance luminaries who have performed on the series include Urban Bush Women, Suzanne Grace, The State Ballet of Missouri, (formerly and now again known as the Kansas City Ballet), aha! dance theater, Susan Warden Dancers, Westport Ballet Theatre, Wylliams/Henry Danse Theatre, Zuleikha, Prairie Wind Dance Theatre, and Cohan/Suzeau, to name only a few. The University of Missouri / Kansas City Conservatory, University of Kansas Dancers, and Kansas State's dance program have been represented on New Dance Series programs, as have Laura Luzicka and Miller-Marley."

"Under the unsurpassed technical direction of John "Moose" Kimball, the New Dance Series made the most of very limited resources in the old church building and later in the Penn Valley Community College auditorium." After determination and community support, the New Dance Series evolved to become "Modern Night at the Folly" - moving the show to (arguably) one of Kansas City's most legitimate and classic theaters: The Folly. For the first 5 years, the show was not adjudicated, and the amount of submissions reflected the real lack of similar opportunities for artists in the region. After unanimous decision, in 2009, the show became adjudicated "to facilitate growth in our dance community by continually striving to raise the level of excellence in our productions." Former Directors and Contributors include David Ollington (way back at the church during the New Dance Series), Beth Byrd, Jane Gotch, Marisa Callaway, Tracie Jensen and more.

In 2020, several things happened to change the course of this dance tradition, and really the world. On the weekend of 2020 Modern Night at the Folly, the Kansas City Chiefs also won the Superbowl, and shortly thereafter, the world began to shut down due to the COVID-19 pandemic spreading across the United States. City in Motion then began learning how to navigate a new world during the pandemic. The 2021 production of Modern Night was cancelled due to several uncertainties: safety, attendance, funding, access, etc. In 2022, after deliberation and alignment with the organization's strategic plan to program work east of Troost Ave, Modern Night re-emerged at the Gem Theater in the historic 18th and Vine district.

"Modern Night" has since become a cult-classic. A one-of-a-kind evening where audience members can see 9 different choreographers speak 9 different languages on one stage. This performance sets a higher bar for artistry in our region, and actively creates an atmosphere for modern dance in Kansas City.

Special thanks to contributors to this post:

  • Andrea Skowronek, CIM original company dancer Former Artistic Co-Director, Choreographer, Youth Dance Theater Director, School Director, and keeper of all the posters

  • John "Moose" Kimball, Former Technical Producer for Modern Night, Folly Theater Advocate, and man who coordinated crazy parts of the process (like cleaning up thrown eggs on-stage)

  • Beth Byrd-Lonski, Kansas City's clown & Mime, Founder of Byrd Productions, Living Theater advocate, Former CIM Stage Manager & Founding Modern Night Tech Director, Back-of-House extraordinaire

Quotes provided by original Modern Night Historical program write-up by Randy Barron, 2004

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