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Omaha Academy of Ballet - thanks for joining!

Monday, October 26, 2015   (0 Comments)
Posted by: Kelly Koepsell
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Omaha Academy of Ballet


Valerie Roche at work, circa 2001

The organization that today is the Omaha Academy of Ballet was founded in June 1962 by a group of community leaders headed by Emmeline Skinner, Robert D. MacIver, and John Reddick Jr.

Emmeline Skinner was the new Academy’s first director. Later that same year, an English dance teacher named Valerie Roche joined the faculty. When Emmeline Skinner moved on to other interests, Valerie became the Academy’s director, and its driving force for the next 40 years.

The group’s initial goal was to develop a company of professionally trained dancers for Omaha, but its initial focus was solely on teaching. By 1965, it had progressed to the point that its performing unit, known as the Omaha Ballet Company, was ready to give public performances. Among those performances was Omaha’s first production of the classic holiday ballet The Nutcracker, beginning a tradition that has continued to the present day.

Academy-trained dancers performed in productions by the Omaha Opera Company and the Omaha Community Playhouse. The Academy also started a one-week summer dance camp in 1964, at Camp Esther K. Newman near Omaha. The camp brought in top dancers from major companies as faculty, and Nebraska Arts Council assistance made it possible to offer camp scholarships to talented young dancers throughout the Midwest.