Rhythm & Groove Winter Recital

Congratulations to our Rhythm & Groove and Neenah Park & Rec divisions for a successful winter recital. The students did a terrific job and the event was enjoyed by all! Thank you to our instructors, Miss Tracy, Miss Courtney, Miss Rebekah and Mr. Tom and to the First Presbyterian Church of Neenah for sharing their space with us.

Nutcracker Tea Party

Thank you for all those who made our inaugural Nutcracker Tea Party at the Ballroom at the Reserve. We had a spectacular event hosted by Jessica Pfister, Event Coordinator for the Ballroom and her staff with custom cookies provided by Whisk & Arrow Sugar Studio with Valley Academy for the Arts’ dancers performing selections from the Nutcracker ballet. It was a close and intimate event with over 100 young girls and their parents attending. We look forward to this becoming an annual event and partnership between VAA, the Reserve and Whisk and Arrow.

The History of the Nutcracker

The origin of the Nutcracker, a classic Christmas Story, is a fairy tale ballet in two acts centered on a family’s Christmas Eve celebration. Alexandre Dumas Père’s adaptation of the story by E.T.A. Hoffmann was set to music by Tchaikovsky and originally choreographed by Marius Petipa. It was commissioned by the director of Moscow’s Imperial Theatres, Ivan Vsevolozhsky, in 1891, and premiered a week before Christmas 1892. Since premiering in western countries in the 1940s, this ballet has become perhaps the most popular to be performed around Christmas time. The story centers on a young girl’s Christmas Eve and her awakening to the wider world and romantic love. The composer made a selection of eight of the more popular pieces before the ballet’s December 1892 premiere, forming what is currently known as the Nutcracker Suite, Op. 71a, as is heard in Moscow Ballet productions. The suite became instantly popular; however the complete ballet did not achieve its great popularity as a Christmas performance event until almost 100 years later. (extracted from www.nutcracker.com)


Please join Valley Academy for the Arts in partnership with the Paine Art Center for our annual Nutcracker in the Castle.  Guided tours feature dancers from Valley Academy for the Arts in their presentation of select pieces from the Nutcracker ballet.  Make your reservations today HERE.



Founder and Artistic Director - Anne Marie Abderholden

Anne Marie Abderholden is the founder and Artistic Director for Valley Academy for the Arts. Anne Marie does not like to toot her own horn and prefers to stay out of the spotlight.  She is, however the backbone of our organization and deserves to be recognized for her talent, her experience, her education and the profound gifts she brings to the dance community.  


Anne Marie was born in Holland and spent most of her childhood in Switzerland. At age seven she joined the Opera Ballet School in Zurich. Upon graduation at age 18, she joined the Opera Ballet in Zurich, performed with the Volksopera Ballet in Vienna, the Stadttheater Badden and toured with Munich Opera. She has worked with the accomplished and world renowned choreographers Patricia Neary and Hans van Manen. Anne-Marie holds an advanced degree in the teaching of classical ballet, (extended Vaganova) from the Music College in Cologne. She taught at the Opera Ballet School in Zurich, at the Swiss School for Professional Dancers and at the Theater Ballet School in Krefeld and Monchengladbach, Germany.

In 1991 she moved to Madison, Wisconsin where she taught for the Monona Academy of Dance. She was a choreographer for the Wisconsin Dance Ensemble and the Performing Arts for Children. She was co-owner and artistic director of Turning Pointe School of Ballet before starting Valley Academy for the Arts in Neenah, WI.

Anne Marie  currently  holds a position on the Board of Directors for the Wisconsin Dance Council, An organization founded in 1966 to promote dance and dance education in the state of Wisconsin.  To help promote the Arts locally she serves as a board member on the Neenah Arts Council.

Throughout Anne Marie's Dance Career many children under her instruction  have been accepted into prestigious programs such as Kirov Academy Washington DC, The Nutmeg Conservatory, Gelsey Kirkland Academy of Classical Ballet, Bolshoi Academy, and the Milwaukee Ballet summer program. Many of her students have gone on to acclaimed college dance programs and professional dancing careers such as Principal Dancer with the Charleston Ballet Theater, Hamburg Ballet in Germany and Morgan Scott Company in New York. 

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Rhythm & Groove Program Openings

Valley Academy Rhythm & Groove Programs and


Dance appreciation classes with basic instruction, technique and choreographed routine with costume and performance.


Session One: September 10 – December 15, 2018


Mommy/Daddy & Me           SAT                   10:00 – 10:45 am

3 yr old Ballet Tap                 M                      11:30am – 12:15pm

4 yr old Ballet Tap                 W                    11:30am – 12:15 pm

5/6 yr old Ballet Tap             TH                       5:15 – 6:00 pm

7-12 yr old Jazz                      M                         5:15 – 6:00 pm

7-12 yr old Lyrical                   M                        6:00 – 6:45 pm

7-12 yr old Tap                        T                         5:30 – 6:15 pm

7-12 yr old Irish                       T                         4:15 – 5:30 pm

5-6 yr old Hip Hop                TH                        5:30 – 6:15 pm

7-12 yr old Hip Hop              TH                         6:15 – 7:00 pm

Pre-Ballet                               M                         4:00 - 4:45pm


Tuition only $88.00 per session.

$10.00 registration Fee and $55.00 recital costume fee.

Printable Registration Form HERE.  


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Guest Instructor Fredrick Davis

Valley Academy for the Arts is honored to welcome guest instructor, Fredrick Davis to our studios September 17 - 21, 2018.  This special teaching opportunity is free to Valley Academy students and open to the public for a fee of $45.00 per day.  Classes will be held 4:30 - 7:30 pm (details to follow). The week will culminate in a showcase performance on Friday evening.  (details to follow).  

Born in Brooklyn, NY and raised in Chattanooga, TN, Mr. Davis began his training as a full scholarship recipient with Ballet Tennessee. 

Then he moved to New York City where he was given a full scholarship to train with the Joffrey Ballet School. 

He also has been given opportunities to study at summer intensives on full scholarship such as American Ballet Theatre, Boston Ballet, Charlotte Ballet, Joffrey Ballet School of NYC and Ballet Academy East of New York City. 

Fredrick joined Roxey Ballet dancing leading roles as "The Moor" in William Shakespeare's Othello, "The General" in Carmen and the "Pas de deux" from Diana and Acteaon.

Mr. Davis was accepted by Dance Theatre of Harlem Ensemble to have the privilege to work with Arthur Mitchell and then was promoted Company member under direction of Virginia Johnson dancing numerous such as the "Pas de Deux" from George Balanchine' s Agon, the "Pas de Deux" from Alvin Aliey's Lark Ascending, "The Male Duet" from Ulysses Dove's Dancing on the Front Porch of Heaven, the "Pas de Deux" from Darrell Grand Montre's Vessels, Christopher Huggins "Pas de Trios" In The Mirror of Mind, "Four Men's Variation" from Freddie Franklin's Pas de Dix of Raymonda and Donald Byrd's Contested Space.

In October 2016, Fredrick was invited by Mary-Beth Cabana Artistic Director of Ballet Tucson be a Guest Principal Dancer to have opportunities to dance major roles such as the Sugarplum Cavalier in The Nutcracker, Romeo in "The Balcony Pas de deux" from Romeo and Juliet, Lead male dancer in Daniel Precup's "Love Songs", Basilio in 3rd Act Grand Pas de deux from "Don Quixote", and Solar in Kingdom of the Shades of "La Bayadere".

He has performed with Dance Theatre of Harlem company on National and International tours, and was also a U.S. Ambassador for Dance Theatre of Harlem in Kingston, Jamaica, St.Thomas, and Honduras. Performed at the Apollo Theatre in Harlem, has been a guest artist for Dallas Black Dance Theatre, Donald McKayle honors performance in Irvine, CA, The Kennedy Center and Honors in DC, The Paramount Theatre in Seattle, WA, danced the "Pas de Deux" with Emiko Flanagan from George Balanchine's ballet Agon for Wendy Whelan's documentary private presentation of "The Restless Creature" and has performed for Arthur Mitchell's DTH Vision Gala with Ashley Murphy (Washington Ballet) alongside with Misty Copeland (ABT) and Matthew Prescott (International Freelance Artist).

 "From the streets to the stage the Journey of Fredrick Davis" documentary from WTCI-PBS production that also won an Emmy last January at the 31st Midsouth Regional Awards. Watch the documentary here:  http://www.pbs.org/program/streets-stage-journey-fredrick-davis/


Master Ballet Workshop with Jennifer Miller and Karl Von Rabenau

Please join us in welcoming Karl Von Rabenau and Jennifer Miller who will be presenting a Master Ballet Workshop for both Valley Academy students and the general public.  August 20 - 24, 2018


August 20 - 24, 2018

Levels 3 & 4 students:  12:00 noon - 3:00 pm

Levels 5 & 6 students:  12:00 noon - 4:00 pm

Performance Showcase on August 24th starting at 4:00 pm.

FREE to Valley Academy for the Arts students

For Non-VAA students:

$180.00 (for the week) for Level 3 & 4 students

$240.00 for Level 5 & 6 students


Jennifer Miller

Jennifer Miller

Jennifer Miller

Ms. Miller received her formal dance training from the Central Pennsylvania Youth Ballet under the tutorage of  Marcia Dale Weary.  Ms. Miller continued her studies at Joffrey Ballet and with the San Francisco Ballet. Ms. Miller danced for the Milwaukee Ballet Company, rising through the ranks to the level of Principal Artist. She has had the privilege of dancing a wide range of  roles in such ballets as, Swan Lake, Nutcracker, Romeo and Juliet, Hunchback of Notre Dame, Scherazade, Giselle, Coppelia, Midsummer Night's Dream, Sleeping Beauty; and works by Trey McIntyre, Choo San Goh, David Parsons, George Balanchine, Gerald Arpino, Peter Anastos, Antony Tudor, Lila York, Margot Sappington, Alvin Ailey and Michael Pink.

    In the summer of 2005, Ms. Miller was invited to dance for inagural season of the Trey McIntyre Project, performing in such places as Vail International Dance Festival and Jacob's Pillow Dance Festival.
    Ms. Miller is currently on faculty at the Milwaukee Ballet School, Danceworks in Milwaukee, Dance Arts Center in Racine, and Steps of Grace in Brookfield. For the past 20 summers, Ms Miller has had the honor to be invited back to teach at Central Pennsylvania Youth Ballet; she also teaches for Point Park University's International Summer Dance and Valley Academy for the Arts. Ms. Miller is also an established private coach, working with pre-professional dancers of all ages and levels including Youth America Grand Prix performers, ballroom dancers, gymnasts and irish step dancers.
    As a choreographer, Ms. Miller has created works for Milwaukee Ballet, Milwaukee Ballet II, Central PA Youth Ballet, Point Park University's International Summer Dance, Dance Arts Center and Erie Dance Conservatory. She received the Monticello award for emerging choreographers.

Karl Von Rabenau

Karl Von Rabenau

Karl von Rabenau:

Raised in Duluth, Minnesota, Mr. von Rabenau received his early dance training at the Duluth Ballet. He continued his training at Minnesota Dance Theatre, the Boston Ballet School, and the San Francisco Ballet School. Mr. von Rabenau danced for ten seasons as a soloist for the Milwaukee Ballet. During his tenure with MBC he danced such roles as Iago in Jose Limon’s The Moor’s Pavane, and The Blue Bird Pas de Deux from Sleeping Beauty. Mr. von Rabenau has also performed the lead roles in Choo San Goh’s In The Glow of the Night and Unknown Territory as well as George Balanchine’s Rubies, The Four Temperaments, Tchaikovsky Pas Deux, Serenade, and Allegro Brilliante. While with Milwaukee Ballet, Mr. von Rabenau also had the opportunity to dance in works by Petipa, Eugene Loring, David Parsons, Jean–Paul Comelin, and Lisa de Ribere.

     Prior to dancing with MBC, Mr. von Rabenau danced for five seasons with the Pittsburgh Ballet Theatre. While with PBT, he toured to Taipei, Taiwan, and fulfilled the dream to dance Balanchine’s Tarantella Pas De Deux. He also performed the role of Lucentio in John Cranko’s The Taming of the Shrew. Other highlights of his time spent with PBT include dancing many works by George Balanchine including the 3rd Movement from Western Symphony, Benvolio in Bruce Wells’ Romeo and Juliet, as well as Agnes De Milles, Fall River Legend, and Falls in Alvin Ailey’s The River. 

Mr. von Rabenau began his career as a member of Boston Ballet II and apprentice to Boston Ballet. He has also performed with the Omaha Ballet and Central Pennsylvania Youth Ballet where he had the privilege to dance such roles as Harlequin pas de deux, Tarantella pas de deux and the lead in Divertomento No.13. 

Mr. von Rabenau’s second passion in life is teaching ballet. He has had the true pleasure to do this for the past 21 years throughout the Midwest and Eastern United States. He is currently a principal faculty member at the Milwaukee Ballet School. Mr. von Rabenau has also works with the Milwaukee Ballet II. It has been a great privilege for him to teach class and set choreography on the talented dancers that have passed through this program. During the summer months Mr. von Rabenau returns to Pennsylvania where he has been invited to teach at Point Park University for the past 15 years and Central Pennsylvania Youth Ballet in Carlisle, PA for the past 21 years.

    As a choreographer, Mr. von Rabenau has created numerous works for Point Park University’s International Summer Dance Program. He has had works performed in the Regional Dance of America Festivals in both the Northeast Region by CPYB and Lake Erie Ballet School, and Southeast Region by Classical Ballet of Memphis. In 2002, Mr. von Rabenau was invited to choreograph a pas de deux, Speranza for a Milwaukee Ballet presentation at the Milwaukee Art Museum.

Karl & Jenny and their beautiful family

Karl & Jenny and their beautiful family

Vision Dance Theatre

Vision Dance Theater

Vision Dance Theater is a non-profit, semi-professional ballet company led by Valley Academy’s Artistic Director Anne Marie Brunner-Abderholden. The dance company is striving to further enhance the training and artistic experience of an extraordinary group of young dancers. Vision Dance Theater serves as a stepping stone for young committed people toward a professional career, along with providing enriching experiences to those young dancers who may not aspire to a professional career, but are dancing for pleasure. Valley Academy for the Arts is the resident Ballet School for the Vision Dance Theater.

Current company members range in age from 10-17 years old.  Auditions for the company are in early September and are open to any child age 10 and up, with previous dance experience. 

Company members get a range of performance opportunities throughout the year, such as “Nutcracker in the Castle”, a collaborative effort with the Paine Arts Center and Gardens (Oshkosh WI), the Spring Concert (full length feature ballets) and performances with Badger State Girl Choir. Past productions include “Hansel and Gretel”, “Where the Wild Things Are”, “Twelve Dancing Princesses”, and “Sleeping Beauty”.  Vision Dance Theatre can also be found sharing their talents through a wide variety of performance throughout the community.  

For information on the Vision Dance Theater, contact us.

For more information on the Nutcracker in the Castle, click here.

Note:  Some featured dancers also members of the K2Move Project facilitated by Katharina Abderholden. 

Welcome our Wellness Director, Lauri Ann Lumby

Wellness Director, Lauri Ann Lumby, MATS

Photo Credit:  Che Correa Photography

Photo Credit:  Che Correa Photography

Lauri Ann Lumby, MATS, comes to Valley Academy for the Arts with over twenty-five years of experience in the field of human development.  With a Master’s Degree in Transpersonal Psychology and certificates in Spiritual Direction/Counseling and Adult Education/Pastoral Ministry, Lauri has supported hundreds of women and men in their journey toward self-actualization and vocational discernment. 

As the owner of Authentic Freedom Academy, Lauri has developed and implemented a curriculum in human development which Lauri has taught both locally and online, and which has been facilitated by trained instructors across the country.  Lauri is a teacher of mindfulness and meditation practices for relaxation and stress relief and has studied the therapeutic benefits of an on-going mindfulness practice.  Lauri is a published author in the field of self-improvement and has been highly published in such media as: National Catholic Reporter, Edge Magazine, Reiki News and is a featured writer at Kosmos Journal and East Sivana.  Lauri is also a Reiki Master Practitioner.  Lauri lives in Oshkosh and is the proud mother of two young adults.  You can learn more about Lauri and her work in the field of human development at www.authenticfreedomacademy.com.

Lauri will be providing one-on-one transformational counseling and mentoring; vocational development and discernment; and Reiki sessions.  She will also be offering classes, workshops and retreats and will be coordinating ongoing wellness offerings for Valley Academy for the Arts. 

You may reach Lauri regarding wellness services or to schedule an appointment at :  lauri@authenticfreedomacademy.com

July/August Wellness Special

Schedule a 60 minute Reiki or Transformational Counseling Session with Lauri Ann Lumby, and pay the introductory rate of $90.00 per hour (usually $150.00 per hour). 

New clients only!

Email lauri@authenticfreedomacademy.com to schedule your session. 

Valley Academy for the Arts Announces Musical Theatre!

Valley Academy for the Arts is excited to be adding Musical Theatre to our list of offerings.  It has long been our dream to expand beyond dance instruction, providing a full spectrum of artistic and creative instruction and performance opportunities for both children and adults.  Learn more about our Musical Theatre Division HERE and allow us to introduce Jessica L. French, Director of our Musical Theatre Division:

Jessica L. French, Director Musical Theatre Division

Jessica L. French, Director Musical Theatre Division

American singer, actress, and director Jessica Lynn French began performing professionally at the age of eleven in the National Tour of Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat alongside Donnie Osmond.  After completing her studies at Interlochen Arts Academy, she received her Bachelor of Music in Vocal Performance from The Boston Conservatory of Music.  She went on to do a fellowship with the Nashville Opera while getting her Masters of Music in Vocal Pedagogy and Voice Performance from Belmont University.

During her time in Detroit, Boston, Nashville, and New York she has performed with and coached artists signed with/managed by: Sony, Curb Records, Word Records, Disney, William Morris Agency, Simeon Studios, and Graffiti Records to name a few.  In order to better understand the demands on her recording artist clients, she recorded a contemporary Bilingual EP with a full band, which is available on itunes.  Favorite performance roles include: Mother Abbess in The Sound of Music, Miss Hannigan in Annie, Augusta Tabor in The Ballad of Baby Doe, La Zia Principessa in Suor Angelica, and Kate in The Pirates of Penzance.  In 2016, Ms. French launched a music theatre album entitled "Songs I Can Sing from Roles I'll (Probably) Never Play" on iTunes and Spotify.  She performed a Cabaret style album release concert at The Laurie Beechman Theatre on 42nd Street.

Ms. French is also a sought after clinician.  She travels the US and Internationally performing and teaching vocal masterclasses raising awareness of vocal health.  She helped to facilitate The Metropolitan Opera's National Educator Conference and was a masterclass instructor for The Carnegie Hall Association.  In the summer of 2017, Ms. French taught a music theatre masterclass at the newly opened Studio Paulsen, the first ever professional actors training center in Guayaquil, Ecuador.  She also enjoys voice over work, recording with MTI (Music Theater International) and serving as a vocal coach for Sockeye Media.  

During her time as a New York City resident, Ms. French served as Teaching Artist for Broadway Bound Kids and The Metropolitan Opera Guild  She is a proud member of AGMA (American Guild of Musical Artists) and currently serves as the Director of the LCA Musical Theatre Intensive, a national training program for Broadway hopefuls in middle and high school.  She maintains a private vocal studio based out of Neenah.  Her past students have been cast in national Broadway tours and major motion pictures, seen on American Idol and The Voice, as well as accepted to top performing arts collegiate programs.


Jessica L. French  Director

Musical Theatre Division | Valley Academy for the Arts

p: (920) 886-9330

w: www.valleyacademyarts.org

e: jfrench@valleyacademyarts.org

a: 139 N Lake St, Neenah, WI 54956

Community Service: Discover Neenah Family Day

Community Service is a significant part of the Valley Academy for the Arts mission.  Toward that end, Valley Academy of the Arts dancers who are part of our Vision Dance Theatre Company shared their choreography, teaching and dance skills as part of the Discover Neenah Family Day on Saturday, June 16th.  Our dancers were charged with the responsibility of researching line dancing routines, learning them, teaching and then performing them with children and adults from the Fox Valley who attended the Discover Neenah Family Day event.  As you can see from the images below, our students and those in the community who participated (either in dancing or simply watching) had a blast!  

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Moving Beyond the Battlefield - Lake Arts Project

The Mission of Lake Arts Project is to give young people an experience immersed in art, teaching them that art is an essential part of life. We accomplish this through creative and collaborative performance-based projects.

For the past 4 years, Valley Academy for the arts instructor, Katharina Abderholden has been an active participant, guest choreographer and performer in the Lake Arts Project. This year, Katharina played a key role in the Lake Arts Projects Moving Beyond the Battlefield. Moving Beyond the Battlefield was a joint effort between Lake Arts, Feast of Crispian and DNAWorks, providing support through the creative arts for military veterans who are suffering with PTSD.  The end result of Moving Beyond the Battlefield was an interdisciplinary production incorporating storytelling, poetry, spoken word, visual art, and dance.

Katharina Abderholden was commissioned to choreograph and lead the production entitled, “13 Folds” and participated as a dancer in the final piece. Valley Academy for the Arts students, Akiwela Burayidi, Margot Sanderfoot, Daria Thielen and VAA graduate Imogene Gillard also participated as paid, professional dancers.

Moving Beyond the Battlefield was presented at DanceWorks Studios in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, May 12-13 to rave reviews. 


Twelve Dancing Princesses Spring Performance Photo Blog

Valley Academy for the Art's production of Twelve Dancing Princesses was performed before a nearly sold out audience on May 18, 2018 at the Jane Bergstrom Performing Arts Center in Neenah, WI.  Please enjoy the photo blog below....all images by Che Correa Photography. Please contact Che at che@checorreaphotography.com.  

Valley Academy for the Arts Summer classes begin Monday, June 11, 2018.  Click HERE to learn about all classes offered this summer for youth and adult.  



Graduating Senior Akiwele Burayidi

Congratulations Akiwele Burayidi!!!

Graduating Senior and UW Madison Scholarship Recipient


Akiwele began dancing as a young child and has been a part of the Valley Academy family since 2010.  Aki is committed to the discipline of ballet and spends no fewer than 15 hours a week in our studio.  She has spent several summers participating in many intensive programs to further her dance education – most recently with the San Francisco dance conservatory.  Outside the classroom, Aki devotes her time to youth symphony, the Forensic team, private dance instruction through Lawrence University, National Honor Society, and several community service projects within the Fox Valley.  She has received numerous awards to fund her dance education throughout the past several years and is a two-time scholarship winner with the Wisconsin Dance Council. Akiwele maintains a rigorous academic schedule and will be graduating with highest academic merits from Oshkosh North High School on Sunday, June 3rd.  

Akiwele’s academit merits, community involvement and extracurricular activities are the direct result of relentless determination.  The University of Wisconsin- Madison has offered Aki a full-ride merit scholarship which covers tuition, fees, room and board for four years of undergraduate study.  This fall, Aki will begin a new chapter in her life in Madison – double majoring in Dance and Pre-Physical Therapy Kinesiology.

Akiwele Burayidi is the daughter of Jelka Cucuz.


Congratulations to Akiwele for her outstanding achievements.



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Photography credit:  Che Correa Photography

Student Testimonial: Gabrielle Muller

I walked into the Paine ballroom at age eight for the first time, adorned red cheeks to match the red of my solider coat. My first year of Nutcracker in the Castle was filled with marching steps and learning to sit still while the “big girls” filled the room with their dances. I sat in awe, imagining that one day I’d wear the Sugar Plum Fairy’s tutu, hold the Spanish dancer’s fan, hypnotizing my audience as the Arabian dancer. I learned patience sitting between tours and learning the different dances. I grew into the Harlequin’s bouncing pigtails, the Chinese dancer’s jingling chop sticks, the Marzipan's sugared skirt. I learned how many homework problems I could complete between tours, how many stitches I could knit, how many Christmas thank you cards could be written, and how many crackers I could eat. I also found the stamina to dance my heart out for each audience. I grew into the Russian dancer's swirling skirts, the Doll’s puffed sleeves, and learned that much can be said through a simple smile to a bright eyed little girl. I also learned that sometimes the smallest audiences are the most engaged. Now age 18, I wear the Sugar Plum Fairy’s tutu, hold the Spanish dancer’s fan, and try my best to hypnotize my audience as the Arabian dancer. Just like the last ten years, I know that this year’s winter weekends will be spent in the beautiful ballroom I have spent so many happy hours in. I look forward to my last year and will carry the lessons I have learned through Nutcracker in the Castle with me for the rest of my life. 

Gabrielle Muller, Age 19

Valley Academy for the Arts Graduate



Valley Academy Community Outreach

Community Outreach

Community Outreach is a significant part of the Valley Academy for the Arts mission.  Through community outreach our instructors and students have an opportunity to bring the art and beauty of ballet to those that cannot make it into our studios and provides performance opportunities for our instructors and students. Our students gain valuable performance experience and earn services hours towards high-school graduation.

A few of our community outreach endeavors have included:

  • Wilson Elementary School in Neenah as part of the after school high risk program. We teach after school classes to preschool through elementary level children( a 2 year collaboration and continuing) through the TCCES ( Twin Cities Catholic Education System)  (5 year collaboration and continuing)
  • Our students perform 3-4 full length ballets at a variety of Nursing homes throughout the year.
  • Nutcracker in the castle in collaboration with the Paine Art Center in Oshkosh, WI.
  • Performances provided during the July 4th Community Fest in Neenah, Wisconsin- an ongoing 14 year collaboration with the City of Neenah
  • A Very Neenah Christmas – an ongoing 12 year collaboration with the City of Neenah.
  • Lake Arts Project collaboration with regional artists, select high school art programs, and dancers and choreographers from Milwaukee Ballet, Milwaukee Ballet School and Valley Academy for the Arts.
  • Valley Academy for the Arts provides teaching resources and dance space for the Neenah Parks and Recreation Dance Program. Please contact the Neenah Parks and Recreation Department at 920-886-6060 for class information.

Highlands Retirement Community

Our most recent community outreach was a FREE performance for the residents and staff at the Highlands Retirement Community at Mueller Park in the city of Neenah, WI.  Sixteen of our students participated in the performance to rave reviews from the residents and staff.  Thank you to the Valley Academy for the Arts students and their parents who dedicated time for rehearsal and volunteered their time for the performance.  The residents and staff at Highlands are grateful!


Meet Katharina Abderholden

Katharina Abderholden
Children’s Division/ Recreation Department Lead


As an instructor of Valley Academy for the Arts, I was instructed to review my biography as a dancer for updates to the website.  I hemmed and hawed over what I wanted to share and what was over sharing.  The main point of contention was that “I started dancing at 14….” which, of course, is not true.  I was blessed enough to have a dance teacher as my mother.  I would assume that my training started the moment I left the womb.

                My earliest memories of dancing take place when I was five years old in Madison, Wisconsin.  We had finally finished building my mother’s dance studio off of Willy Street.  I clearly remember my dad bribing me with pancakes from the local diner on Saturday morning just to get me into the building.  At that moment in my life, I truly despised dance.  Not only was my mother telling what to do at home, but now she got to call me out in front of the class.  I had also learned at the time that older dancers have snacks and are very willing to feed small children that pretend to be hungry.  In spite of my mother’s close scrutiny, my motivation to be present at the studio began to grow.

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                When I turned eleven, my family relocated to the greater Fox Valley area.  My mother still had her studio in Madison and we were commuting four times a week to take/teach classes.  I was exhausted from travelling and my tolerance for dance slowly dwindled.  After a year, my mother decided to close the studio in Madison and relocate to Neenah.  After jumping spaces for a bit, Valley Academy for the Arts found its home off of Main St. in Neenah.  Specifically, it was located across from Great Harvest.  With my love for carbs duly met, my love for studio time suddenly burst.

                My first summer intensive was at the Kirov Academy in Washington D.C.  The U.S government invited the famous Russian dance company to open a school in the United States that highlighted the teachers and dancers of the Kirov Ballet.  I was fourteen years old and it was the first time that I spent three weeks away from my family.  There was a strict schedule that the students followed while attending the program.  We started at 8AM with Pilates or yoga, moving to ninety minutes of ballet and ninety minutes of pointe work.  An hour lunch break and off to two hours of rehearsal with a final hour and half of alternative dance technique.  We finished the day with an hour of nutrition or history and then dinner.  I was in love with that experience.  I was being trained as a professional dancer and my body felt it.  For the first time, my ballet teacher was not my mother and my athletic needs were being satisfied.  I came home from that experience contemplating my future as a dancer.

                The remainder of high school was difficult.  I spend my time in the studio, which can be isolating because not many high school students commit for twenty hours a week in the studio.  My future career decisions were difficult because my father wanted me to explore a more stable career path.  I spent the four years of high school breaking-up and falling in love with dance.  My senior year, I decided that I was going to go to college for physical therapy and eventually become a sports medicine specialist with a focus on dance.  That decision was immediately changed by my first ballet class in college, and I have never looked back. 

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