William Whitener was appointed Artistic Director of the Kansas City Ballet in 1996. He has been active in professional dance for over three decades as a preeminent dancer, teacher, choreographer and director. He previously served as Artistic Director of the Royal Winnipeg Ballet and Les Ballets Jazz de Montreal.
As a choreographer, he has created over forty dances for stage, television and Broadway. His ballets have been performed by such companies as Kansas City Ballet, Pacific Northwest Ballet, Boston Ballet, Royal Winnipeg Ballet, Les Ballets Jazz de Montreal, Seattle Opera, Lyric Opera of Kansas City and Olympic champion John Curry’s Ice Theatre. Mr. Whitener also staged the debut of American Ballroom Theater at the Kennedy Center and Brooklyn Academy of Music. For musical theatre, he created solos for Ann Reinking and Tommy Tune and choreographed Guys and Dolls starring Faith Prince at Seattle Repertory Theater. His television work includes Alive from Off-Center with the new vaudevillian Bill Irwin for PBS.
Mr. Whitener began his ballet training with Karen Irvin at the Cornish School in Seattle. At age eleven, he was the recipient of a Ford Foundation scholarship to study at the San Francisco Ballet School. As a teenager, he trained with Robert Joffrey. In 1969, he made his professional performing debut as a dancer with the New York City Opera and later that year joined The Joffrey Ballet where he danced a variety of principal roles for the next eight years. He also performed with the original cast of Bob Fosse’s Dancing and Martha Clarke’s The Garden of Earthly Delights. Mr. Whitener joined Twyla Tharp Dance in 1978. While dancing in her company, he toured worldwide and performed for President Reagan at the White House. His television and film performances include Amadeus, Bye Bye Birdie! and The Catherine Wheel. Mr. Whitener assisted Twyla Tharp with ballets created for Mikhail Baryshnikov at American Ballet Theatre. He also assisted Jerome Robbins with the re-constructions for Jerome Robbins’ Broadway.
William Whitener has been a member of the faculties of Harvard University Summer Dance, University of Washington, Concord Academy and Pacific Northwest Ballet. He has served as an evaluator for the International Ballet Competition in Jackson, Mississippi and been a member of dance panels for the National Endowment for the Arts, Pew Charitable Trust Fund, Bush Foundation, New England Foundation for the Arts and the Herb Alpert/CALARTS Foundation. He is a member of the Board of Trustees of Dance/USA.