Tag Archives: Ballet Nebraska

Ballet Nebraska

October 6, 2017 by

The Big Give was published in the September/October 2017 edition of Omaha Magazine. To view this sponsored content as it was printed, click here: https://issuu.com/omahapublications/docs/omahamagazine_1017_2_125/70

MISSION STATEMENT

Ballet Nebraska provides enrichment through quality professional dance performances, educational programs, and community outreach.

BACKGROUND

Ballet Nebraska’s talented professional dancers hail from around the nation and abroad, making the Midwest their home to share the excitement of dance with others. Through the company’s expressive performing artists, acclaimed choreographers, and skilled teachers, Ballet Nebraska plays a key role in the cultural vitality of the region.

BRAG LINES

  • Founded by visionary artistic director Erika Overturff
  • The Nutcracker attracts 7,000 mainstage viewers
  • Outreach programs attract an additional 7,500 students
  • Coming season highlights Broadway superstar Ann Reinking to stage a Bob Fosse medley for its fall Momentum
  • Spring performances of A Midsummer Night’s Dream
  • Repertoire includes Swan Lake, Giselle, and Valse Fantaisie
  • Outreach tickets and learning opportunities for 1,000 underserved
  • Partnerships with 23 social service agencies
  • Collaborations with other leading organizations

PAY IT FORWARD

  • Ballet Nebraska is a 501(c)3 non- profit organization.
  • Become a season subscriber
  • Donate as an individual or corporation
  • Become a sponsor
  • Join the Ballet Nebraska Guild
  • Attend a performance
  • Partner with the company to bring dance to your audience
  • Follow Ballet Nebraska on social media for updates and news

WISH LIST

  • Season sponsorships
  • Production sponsorships
  • Education and outreach sponsorships
  • Artist, costume, and scenic sponsorships
  • Individual donations
  • In-kind donations
  • Guild volunteers

UPCOMING EVENTS

Ballet Nebraska presents Momentum: Fosse Style!
Oct. 20 and 22, 2017

The Nutcracker Gala

Dec. 1, 2017

The Nutcracker

Nov. 19, and Dec. 2 and 3, 2017

A Midsummer Night’s Dream

May 5 and 6, 2018

 

 

 

 

BALLET NEBRASKA
P.O. Box 6413 Omaha, NE 68106
402-541-6946
balletnebraska.org

The Big Give

September 6, 2016 by
Illustration by Kristen Hoffman

Omahans give. That is no secret. Just consider the amount generated by the Omaha Community Foundation’s fourth annual Omaha Gives campaign. The 24-hour funding drive amassed almost $9 million, a new record.

In each September/October issue, Omaha Magazine helps our readers determine where to spend their charitable donations through a special advertorial called The Big Give. Inside this section, you’ll find information on a variety of charities, including their mission statements, wish lists, event dates, and more. Click here to view the entire Big Give.

This year, The Big Give spotlights:

100 Black Men of Omaha

Abide

The ALS Association Mid-America Chapter

American Red Cross

Assistance League of Omaha

Autism Action Partnership

Ballet Nebraska

CASA for Douglas County

Children’s Scholarship Fund of Omaha

Completely Kids

CUES

Diabetes Education Center of the Midlands

Empowerment Network

Film Streams, Inc.

Food Bank for the Heartland

Gesu Housing, Inc.

Global Partners in Hope

Green Omaha Coalition

Heartland Family Service

The Hope Center for Kids

ICARE Youth Services, Inc.

The Jewish Federation of Omaha

The Kim Foundation

Lutheran Family Services of Nebraska

Nebraska Children’s Home Society

Nebraska Humane Society

The Nebraska Urban Indian Health Coalition

Ollie Webb Center, Inc.

Omaha Against Hunger

Omaha Children’s Museum

Omaha Home for Boys

Omaha Public Library Foundation

Open Door Mission

Outlook Nebraska, Inc.

Phoenix Academy

Project Harmony

Rejuvenating Women

Release Ministries, Inc.

The Salvation Army

Santa Monica House

Siena/Francis House Homeless Shelter

Together

United Way of the Midlands

Youth Emergency Services

Ballet Nebraska

September 8, 2015 by
Photography by Bill Sitzmann

This article appears in the Fall 2015 issue of B2B.

How is it that Midlands Choice has come to make an investment in, of all things, a ballerina?

Sure, the bottom line of any insurance entity is driven by risk management—the investing of premium revenues to hedge against claims.

But taking stock in Claire Goodwillie, a company dancer with Ballet Nebraska?

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Erika Overturff

The Midlands Choice example is repeated all across the metro as area businesses support a broad array of arts nonprofits, ones that dwell in everything from tutus to tempura.

And the table is set for a new era of collaboration between business and the arts  because philanthropic giving in America has finally returned to pre-recession levels.

Contributions, which totaled $358 billion in 2014, surpassed 2007’s pre-recession level of $355 billion. Additionally, giving was up from all major sources—individuals, corporations, foundations and bequests—according to Giving USA, an annual report compiled by the Indiana University Lilly Family School of Philanthropy and the Giving USA Foundation of Chicago.

“Eight out of nine types of charitable organizations we measure saw increased contributions, and that’s good news for the philanthropic sector as a whole,” W. Keith Curtis told Omaha Magazine in an email. Curtis is chair of Giving USA Foundation and president of the nonprofit consulting firm The Curtis Group. “The 60-year high for charitable giving in 2014 is a great story about resilience and perseverance.”

Themes of resilience and perseverance define the Ballet Nebraska story.

Erika Overturff was 27 years old when the ballet company of which she was a dancer and resident choreographer appeared doomed. She had no money. She had no business acumen.

That was 2009. Flash forward to 2015 and Overturff, now 33, founder and artistic director of Ballet Nebraska, is leading the region’s only professional dance company into its sixth season.

In a city known for its “can-do” spirit, this story could be about almost any local arts nonprofit, but the unlikely saga of Ballet Nebraska is told here because it is perhaps the most improbable of tales, one that best reveals what a business community and the arts can do when they share a common vision.

Like settling into your seat with a program before the lights dim at any performing arts venue, it’s probably best to start by reviewing the cast of characters:

The Connector

Hal Daub knows people. Especially in a city of six degrees of separation that is, in reality, much more like two or three degrees, the former Omaha mayor (1995-2001) and U.S. Congressman (1981-1989) who has served on countless nonprofit boards and is now a partner at Husch Blackwell…knows people.

“When I was first introduced to Hal and he offered to help,” Overturff says, “I assumed that meant he was going to maybe make a few calls and do a little name-dropping.” Daub, it turned out, would become a key player in the often delicate pas de deux that is the coupling of business and the arts. “He not only made those calls, but he set up the appointments…and then he came along to personally introduce me and stand by my side in front of those who would become some of the most generous funders of Ballet Nebraska.”

“The reason I am so fascinated by what Erika has done,” says Daub, “is that Omaha is a city that has clearly evolved to become a place that is not just metropolitan, but truly cosmopolitan.” And investing in the arts, Daub believes, makes good business sense. “The social environment of a city—its arts and entertainment—is critical in attracting and retaining the best workforce. Ballet Nebraska, Opera Omaha, the Omaha Symphony, Omaha Performing Arts…those and so many others are the organizations that help keep the best talent in Omaha.”

The Advocate

Michelle Clark is Union Pacific’s general director of information technologies, which means she probably knows more than a little about computer viruses. As a three-year board member of Ballet Nebraska, she’s also seen how supporting the arts can go viral.

“Employee generosity is furthered by the use of the company’s matching gifts program,” Clark explains. “This creates a sense of pride for employees, and Union Pacific is supportive of the communities in which we live and work. The employees of Union Pacific are very generous and have supported fundraising drives not only for Ballet Nebraska, but a number of organizations such as the Women’s Center for Advancement and JDRF.”

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Employees should never underestimate their power to play a key role in advocating for nonprofits within their organizations.

“I am passionate about the art of dance, especially ballet and Ballet Nebraska,” Clark says. “Dance inspires my creativity and provides insights to see beyond the obvious. My hope is that by providing individuals with the awareness of opportunities to experience and support the art of dance they will find their own inspiration to apply to their own life.”

And just as stubborn computer viruses are often cloyingly messy to eradicate once discovered, Union Pacific’s relationship with Ballet Nebraska has a “stickiness” of its own. Clark was preceded on the Ballet Nebraska board by Gayla Thal, the company’s senior vice president and general counsel.

The Bulldog

Don’t let the gentle demeanor of Midlands Choice vice president Greta Vaught fool you. Supporting the arts is often a visceral experience, and Vaught’s passion for dance exerted itself on multiple levels in the early stages of growth at Ballet Nebraska.

“Midlands Choice has always been supportive of my work in the community,” says the board chair of Ballet Nebraska.

“We like to listen to our people when making such decisions,” says Midlands Choice President and CEO Thomas E. Press. ”It is important for us to know that our giving has real meaning for them, their families, and their communities.”

“I looked at what Erika was trying to do,” Vaught continues, “and I thought it was brave, but impossible. But all along the way I just kept going back to the thought that if one of my daughters [Mia, now 15, and Hannah, now 19] wanted to try something so bold one day that”…insert long pause…“I’m sorry, this is making me cry. I would just hope that people with experience and connections and dollars would shepherd my daughters along like so many people have done with Erika and Ballet Nebraska.”

Okay, so maybe “The Bulldog” wasn’t such a great character name for this role after all.

The Artist

“I had to do a lot of on-the-job learning when I decided to try to launch a dance company,” Overturff says. “We were lucky in that we got our nonprofit status right away, but I didn’t know anything about the business side of things, and really nothing about raising funds. I was moved by every $5 check that came in, but it took a lot of mentoring, advice, and counsel to get us to where we are today as a fully funded, professional performance company.”

Ballet Nebraska now has a paid staff of 22, including nine salaries paid to company dancers. Today, Overturff’s once-nonexistent business connections run deep. Personal contributions from the likes of philanthropists Richard Holland, and Fred and Eve Simon, further fuel the growth of ballet in Omaha. Foundations also play a major role in funding. A recent gift of $124,000 from the Iowa West Foundation is the largest in Ballet Nebraska history.

“Talented professionals from all over the world that have trained their whole lives to pursue a career in dance now come to Omaha in the hopes of performing with Ballet Nebraska as we serve the state and western Iowa in performances, education, outreach, and more” she says. “A ballet company—any performing arts company, any arts organization—is about its people…the artists, the staff, and hardworking, selfless volunteers. But it is the people of Omaha, from the smallest donations to the relationships we have with such great businesses, that makes it all happen.”

BalletNebraskaCover

Playing Big

August 20, 2015 by

Compiling this issue of B2B magazine got me thinking about Scott Anderson’s 2013 book, Playing Big. In it the founder of Anderson Partners who is now the CEO of Doubledare speaks of forgetting your limitations and remembering the powerful person you are.

Erika Overturff was 27 when she realized that the ballet company of which she was a member was doomed. She was an artist, a professionally trained dancer. Business savvy? Management skills? An understanding of how to fund a new performance company? Not so much.

Overturff had a list of limitations a mile long, but today she is a founding member and artistic director of Ballet Nebraska, the region’s only professional dance company, as it enters its sixth season. She discovered the powerful person that she was and, with a lot of help in mentoring and connecting along the way, she’s learned to play big in elevating the cultural landscape of a city.

Our cover story is not about a dance company so much as it is about a community’s ability to get things done when its people and its businesses share a common vision. Omaha has always been a special place, one with a “can do” spirit. While other cities struggle, we survive, even thrive.

Omaha knows how to play big.

That theme is reflected throughout the stories on the pages that follow, stories of creativity, passion, talent—even faith.

The same motif, that of playing big, is mirrored in The Firm Deal Review, the magazine-within-a-magazine found beginning on page 35. No one setting out to purchase a business thinks small, and the stories told by The Firm represent microcosms of the very definition of what it means to think, dream, and play big.

Anderson’s book pays particular attention to smaller cultures, which is fitting because most of the entities profiled in this magazine dwell in the arena of small business. It’s a strata where core values are perhaps most critical, but how is it that, even in the smallest of businesses, the simple maxim of “staying true” can remain so very elusive?

Read on to uncover what has worked for some of the most compelling entrepreneurs in Omaha.

And don’t forget to play big.

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Bohemian Rhapsody

October 6, 2014 by

Thunderous applause ushered in Ballet Nebraska’s fifth season when the blood-red Orpheum curtain dropped on the company’s beautifully staged production of the hauntingly macabre Giselle.

The classic work first staged in 1841 was a perfectly spectral prelude to the Halloween season, and the ballet’s eerie second act sent shivers down this reviewer’s spine.

Erin Alarcón, in perhaps her meatiest role yet, soared as the naive, coquettish peasant girl swept of her feet by Albrecht, a Rhineland Duke (Matthew Carter) who is sowing his last wild oats before marriage to one of his high-placed peers. The omnipresent castle looming on a hill in the background was a constant reminder of the young nobleman’s caddish behavior, and it didn’t take long for local huntsman Hilarion (the electrifying Sasha York) to expose Albrecht’s ruse in a love triangle that had fatal consequences for the weak-hearted title character.

Erin Alarcón as Giselle
Featured Image: Matthew Carter (Hilarion) and Erin Alarcón

The first act was a vividly playful splash of frivolity saturated in bright hues, thanks in large part to Deborah Overturff’s vibrant costumes. It all played out like some Technicolor throwback to the Golden Age of Hollywood—think The Adventures of Robin Hood or Seven Brides for Seven Brothers.

The diminutive dancer was marvelous as the carefree peasant girl, but Alarcón really turned up the heat in the final scene of the first act when the Duke’s betrayal literally breaks the tender heart of the grief-stricken Giselle. Her finely acted, wild-eyed, hair-pulling anguish painted a disturbing scene, one that was no less harrowing than the very best renditions of the famously blood-soaked mad scene from the opera Lucia di Lammermoor.

The second act was the polar opposite of the first. Set in a darkly monochromatic, fog-shrouded forest that veritably drips with ominous foreboding, it was there that we were introduced to the veiled Queen of the Wilis (a splendid turn by Erika Overturff) and her gaggle of gossamer ghouls who possess the spirit of the now undead Giselle.

Fueled by Carter’s gravity-defying artistry, the tug of war between Albrecht and the Wilis sets the stage for some of the most ethereally stunning choreography delivered to date by the still-young company. Torn between allegiances to both her lover and her sisterhood of sylphs, Giselle and Albrecht must dance feverishly until dawn to break the spell so that she may finally rest in peace.

Joining Alarcón in demonstrating the power that great acting can have on a ballet was Judith Leppek. Her expressive take on the role of Giselle’s mother drove much of the narrative elements of the first act, and this fine actress can elevate to high art the seemingly throw-away machinations of a simple nod, grimace, or shrug.

Alarcón is now well on her way to establishing herself as one of the stars of Ballet Nebraska, but it was Vivi DiMarco that delivered a breakout performance on the Orpheum stage the other night. Her unforgettable solo in the first act had this reviewer wanting more from the young Chicago native who is in her third year with the company.

The only missteps involved a premature entrance (A Wili with a case of the willies?) and a minor wardrobe malfunction, a mere trifle involving a wayward tuft of tulle.

In this exquisite production of Giselle, the once fledgling Ballet Nebraska—the region’s only such outfit—entrenches itself as a thoroughly professional troupe capable of pulling off the sort of magic that one would normally expect only from more seasoned, bigger-budget touring companies.

A Life in Dance

April 30, 2014 by
Photography by Bill Sitzmann

Her ethereal rendition of Mikhail Fokine’s “The Dying Swan” is a to-die-for delight. His gracefully rugged athleticism—not to mention a mop-top of untamed curls—makes him among the most recognizable figures in Omaha dance.

Bret Samson and Sasha York fell in love with the ballet at an early age, but it was as company dancers with Ballet Nebraska that they fell in love with each other.

Omaha Magazine caught up with the couple during a reception following the company’s performance of Duets, where Samson’s gossamer swan met its poetic demise.

“It’s kind of weird,” says Samson, “because work is work and home is home. We don’t often dance together in productions, so we can really get lost in rehearsals and forget that we’re even in the same room. Then we get home and it’s like, ‘Oh, hi! How was your day’?”

“I’m just glad,” the Russian-born York demurs, “that I’m paid to lift pretty women for a living.”

Samson’s accompanying eye roll suggests that a sharp elbow to the ribs may have been in order had she not been surrounded by so many wine-sipping, canapé-noshing witnesses. Is it possible that York had just uttered one of his “Greatest Hits” lines, perhaps now for the hundredth time?

“Make that the millionth time,” Samson replies with a coquettish grin.

On tap (make that en pointe) for Ballet Nebraska, the state’s only professional ballet troupe, is Momentum, the award-winning mixed-repertory series that showcases a vibrant mix of shorter works in a broad array of styles and themes, both contemporary and classic.

The program includes Poseidon, an elegant, original ballet in the neoclassical style by company ballet master Matthew Carter. It is based on the Joslyn Art Museum exhibit Poseidon and the Sea: Myth, Cult and Daily Life. Also featured will be Party Animals!, where ‘60s beats meet African rhythms in a whimsical, high-energy work by company founder Erika Overturff.

Ballet Nebraska’s Momentum will be performed May 2 in the Joslyn Art Museum Witherspoon Hall and May 4 in The Arts Center of Iowa Western Community College. Visit BalletNebraska.org for additional information.

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Dance, Girl, Dance!

September 30, 2013 by
Photography by Ballet Nebraska

Judy Leppek’s performance was this reviewer’s favorite in Ballet Nebraska’s recent production of Snow White at The Rose Theater. Luppek’s regal bearing, perpetually pursed lips, and impossibly long neck made quite an impression. She performed miracles with an arched, cuts-like-a-knife eyebrow in bringing great drama to her character, the deliciously diabolical evil queen.

Which is all well and good, except for the puzzling fact that Leppek—the critic’s fave, mind you—was performing in a non-dancing role. It’s a point that, sadly, doesn’t bode well for a ballet review, where the focus is meant to be…well, ballet.

Sure, Ballet Nebraska founder and artistic director Erika Overturff was terrific in tulle during a memorable solo as the Queen of the Nymphs. And the oft-paired and always resplendent duo of Natasha Grimm-Gregory (the beguiling Snow White) and Sasha York (the charming Prince) provided a couple of magical moments. The problem was that they just weren’t allowed enough dance sequences for them to dish up more than a meager ration of those magical moments.

The second act of Snow White best illustrates this dilemma. Between a septet of darling dwarves and Snow White doing almost everything but dancing, it seemed an eternity before this ballet was allowed to be a ballet.

Guest choreographer Winthrop Corey, artistic director of the Mobile Ballet Company and a summer faculty member for both Joffrey Ballet School and American Ballet Theatre, now has the dubious distinction of being behind my two least favorite Ballet Nebraska works; this one and 2011’s Dracula, which exhibited similar symptoms hinting at a diagnosis of Dance Deprivation Disorder.

Now entering its fourth season, the once fledgling ballet company—the state’s only professional troupe—should be at a certain stage in its maturation. It is to be expected that the early years of any such performance company would be typified by efforts that are building blocks for the future. It should come as no surprise that a company’s initial works could be rather bare-bones-ish. After all, and just as with any launch of a new performance company, Ballet Nebraska started with little more than an artistic vision. Just imagine the tireless organizing, networking, and fundraising that had to unfold before a single dancer could even dream of donning a tutu.

But imagineering has an expiration date. Now is a time when the company should be expected to shine in a fully developed artistic mission, and an ambitious one at that. Snow White didn’t cut any corners when it came to beautiful costumes and sets, but this reviewer felt it did so with dance, the very core of what they do.

Which is all a cryin’ shame. The company has a magnificently talented cadre of artists, but the curiously choreographed Snow White didn’t give audiences much of an opportunity to appreciate their talents.

There’s a classic ballet/burlesque film from the golden age of Hollywood that pits Maureen O’Hara (ballet) against Lucille Ball (burlesque). My wish for Ballet Nebraska is for them to heed the advice from the movie’s title and just Dance, Girl, Dance!

David Williams, the recently named managing editor of Omaha Publications, has written hundreds of performing arts reviews for a number of area publications and formerly served on the board of the Omaha Entertainment and Arts Awards.