Tyrone Aiken, Chief Artistic Officer for Kansas City Friends of Alvin Ailey is a Choreographer, teacher, dancer, and arts administrator. He is a graduate of the Ailey School’s Certificate Program in 1983. Tyrone began his professional dance career with the Cleo Parker Dance Ensemble in 1983. Tyrone’s choreographic credits include “Summerland” commissioned by Dance Theater of Harlem’s Virginia Johnson. In Kansas City Tyrone has choreographed for The Lyric Opera, The Coterie Theater, The KC Symphony, Wylliams/Henry Dance Theatre, KC Ballet, the KC Rep, and the Nelson Atkins Museum. Tyrone created AileyCamp the Group in 1995, Setting the Stage in 1997 and a second AileyCamp serving Kansas in 2000. He successfully launched KCFAA’s move to the Jazz District in 2007 and lead KCFAA through a strategic plan with Michael Kaiser creating a new Festival and Symposium series. Tyrone received a Pinnacle Award for Arts excellence from the Johnson County Library, Neighborhood Hero Award from Bank of America, the Robert A. and Dr. Phyllis Bernstein Humanitarian Award from the Jewish Family and Children Services and traveled to the White House to accept the Coming Up Taller award presented to KCFAA for AileyCamp. Tyrone is a member of the African American Artist Collective of Kansas City Missouri, Kansas City Municipal Arts Commission, and received an MFA in dance from Hollins University in 2020.
Kennedy Banks was born and raised in Chicago, IL, began her training at The Chicago High School for the Arts and received her BFA in Performance and Choreography at The University of Missouri-Kansas City (2021). During her time at UMKC she has worked with numerous world-renowned choreographers and instructors. Kennedy has choreographed multiple works, most notably “The Story of 400 Years” which premiered at the Chicago Hyde Park Jazz Festival. She has also collaborated with composers and instrumentalists, Angel Bat Dawid and Isaiah Collier. She is currently based in Kansas City, MO as a freelance choreographer/performer and full-time teaching artist with Kansas City Friends of Alvin Ailey. Kennedy is also a co-founder and member of The Chicago Black Artist Union. This is Kennedy’s sixth year participating in Setting The Stage.
Courtney Collado is a professional dancer, choreographer, Master Pilates instructor and educator from New York City. After training at the Colorado Ballet (Denver, CO), Boston Ballet, Walnut Hill School for the Arts (Natick, MA), Contra Costa Ballet (Walnut Creek, CA), Cleo Parker Robinson Dance Ensemble (Denver, CO) and Jacob’s Pillow (Lee, MA) she earned her BFA in Dance from New York University. In 2018, Courtney began earning her MFA as part of a low-residency program at Hollins University, training in Roanoke, VA, Frankfurt and Berlin, Germany, with celebrated artists and teachers from around the globe. In January of 2020, Ms. Collado was invited to complete a course of study in pedagogy at the Zurich University of the Arts in Switzerland with Naomi Perlov, Director of the Maslool – Bikurey Ha’Itim in Tel Aviv, Israel. Switzerland, She completed her master’s thesis in 2021, graduating in person in 2022.
Ms. Collado has danced professionally with companies in New York City, Denver CO, Topeka KS, and Kansas City, MO, where she currently resides with her husband, Byron, and son, Kellan. She is on faculty at the Kansas City Ballet School, and teaching 8th grade at Académie Lafayette. Ms. Collado performed with KCFAA for the first time in early 2020 and is thrilled to take the stage with KCFAA for her third season with Setting the Stage.
Simone Davis began her training at age 4 in Omaha, Nebraska at Adair Dance Academy. While training, she received merit scholarships to attend the Kansas City Ballet School, Ballet Chicago School, and the University of Missouri-Kansas City Conservatory of Dance. During her collegiate career, Simone has performed as a guest artist with various dance companies and organizations, including Wylliams Henry Contemporary Dance Company, Störling Dance Theater, Tristian Griffin Dance Company, and the Next Paige Agency. Simone will graduate from UMKC’s Conservatory of Music and Dance with a BFA in dance. She currently performs with Quixotic. This is her first year with Setting the Stage.
Marcus Johnson (Chicago, IL) was introduced to dance through the dance ministry at New Life Covenant Church Southeast. He later began his formal training at Hubbard Street Dance and Deeply Rooted dance Theater where he received his most influential training under the tutelage of Nicole Clarke-Springer, and Jessica Miller-Tomlinson. He has performed with companies including Deeply Rooted Dance Theater; Hubbard Street Dance; and The Joffrey Ballet of Chicago and has danced in popular musicals in Chicago including Testimony (Mahdi Theater Co.), and Black Nativity (Congo Square Theater Co.). Mr. Johnson is currently a first-year student at the conservatory for dance At the University of Missouri Kansas-City. This is Marcus’s first season with Setting the Stage.
Abram Hawkins was born and raised in Kansas City, Missouri. Abram began dancing at a young age doing hip-hop, tap, and acrobatics. He was introduced to modern dance in 2012 at KCFAA where he received his training and auditioned for the UMKC conservatory where he continued his studies in modern dance and ballet. After completing his first year at UMKC, he performed with the Lula Washington Dance studio in Las Angeles, California. During his sophomore year at UMKC, he performed Memoria with the Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater.
Abram also received a full scholarship to attend the Ailey School in New York City for their summer intensive program. This is Abram’s sixth season with Setting the Stage.
Jillian Kramschuster is from Kansas City and trained with Kansas City Friends of Alvin Ailey’s AileyCamp the Group before attending college. She is currently a senior at the University of Missouri-Kansas City Dance Conservatory and is excited to graduate in May with a B.F.A. in dance performance and choreography. During her time in school, she has performed the works of professors including Gary Abbott, Michael Blake, Nicole Clarke-Springer, and Karen Brown. This is her first season with Setting the Stage.
Latra Ann Wilson is a Tyler Texas native and graduate from University of Missouri at Kansas City with a BFA in dance. Ms. Wilson has since danced with artist and institutions across the creative spectrum from Paul Taylor 2 (NY), Opera Theater St. Louis (MO) to The PublicTheatre annual Shakespeare In The Park (NY). Ms. Wilson also shares dance with the community at large as a teaching artist with both the Kansas City friends of Alvin Ailey (MO) and Ailey Arts in Education (NY). Ms. Wilson, in addition to singing, dancing, and teaching continues to hone her craft by assisting the brilliant and upcoming artist Stefanie Batten Bland (Eve’s Song) Josh Prince (Dance Lab New York) and Karen Sieber to name a few. Lastly Ms. Wilson is profoundly excited about TheDynamitExperience, a dance project she recently co-founded with her husband in 2018. Ms. Wilson is represented by LDCArtists.