KANSAS CITY, Mo. -- Doing any job for 20 years is quite an accomplishment. But doing a physically demanding job for 20 years, all while standing on your tip toes is nothing short of amazing.
Kimberly Cowen first put on ballet shoes when she was four years old and started performing on stage at age nine. She graduated from her St Louis area high school early so she could move across the state to dance professionally for the Kansas City Ballet.
And she's been here ever since.
The KC Ballet's latest production, "Romeo and Juliet," opens in about a week, and Cowen can't wait to take the stage as Juliet.
"As a ballet dancer it's one of the things you always dream of doing," said Cowan. She says that she can't believe she's been able to have dreams come true for the last 20 years.
"Looking back I can't believe it's been 20 years," said Cowan. "But at the same time I've grown a lot while I've been here, and I've done so many wonderful ballets."
She says 20 years is "definitely a gift" and she can't believe how much the KC Ballet has changed. When she first joined the company, they were still trying to draw a following.
"We even danced in malls," she says with a laugh. "Anything to get the name out there and get people coming to the ballet."
She says the ballet used to practice in a tiny shared space, and now they call the beautiful new Bolender Center home. And she says she was stunned the first time she saw the new Kauffman Center for the Performing Arts.
"I couldn't believe I was in Kansas City," she says.
KC Ballet artistic director William Whitener is glad Cowen is still here to be apart of this exciting time in the Kansas City Ballet's history.
"Her tenure here is notable because 20 years is a good chunk of your life to devote to professional work as a dancer and she has been stellar," Whitener says. "She is the jewel in our crown."
Cowen feels lucky that her body has held up for this physically demanding career. She doesn't know how many more years she has left but she says dance will always be in her life.
"It's very difficult, very difficult," she says. " But you put everything into it -- your heart and soul and at the end of the day you feel like you're connected to yourself and expressing yourself."
And connecting to the audience. Maybe even a little girl like her who dreams of being Juliet.
"Romeo and Juliet" opens Friday, February 17th at the Kauffman Center for the Performing Arts. Click here for more information and showtimes.