Valerie Richter, Director of Operations

Valley Academy for the Arts is pleased to introduce Valerie Richter as Director of Operations. Valerie has over 15 years in supply chain & operations management in both the private and public sectors. She has spent the past five years consulting nonprofit organizations through grant writing, event planning and operations in Kentucky and Wisconsin. Valerie will be responsible for strategic development and execution of program policies and procedures, human resources, database and financial management, client retention and community outreach.  Valerie will report to VAA Founder, Anne Marie Abderholden and will interact with the VAA Governing Board. 

“I have spent the majority of my childhood and adult life moving between the Midwest and Southeast. Ballet was my foundation and proved to be a  continuous opportunity to strengthen the practice of discipline. Ballet truly gave me a greater sense of community. As I progressed into competitive swimming and dance, ballet was either a pre-requisite or a requirement. I’m truly grateful for the dance education I received as it led to the exposure of culture and appreciation for other art forms. I am excited to be a part of the VAA team. I am passionate about its mission, vision and goals and look forward to serving students, parents, alumni and the greater Fox Valley community.”

Valerie completed a bachelor’s degree in Administration of Justice from Marian University and attends Kellogg School of Management at Northwestern University, studying Philanthropy and Non-profit Management with a concentration in Six Sigma. Valerie lives with her husband and daughter in Neenah.

Valerie may be reached via email at: 


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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The Vaganova Method of Dance Instruction


The Vaganova method is a ballet technique and training system devised by the Russian dancer and pedagogue Agrippina Vaganova (1879–1951). It was derived from the teachings of the Premier Maitre de Ballet, Marius Petipa, throughout the late 19th century. It was Agrippa Vaganova who perfected and cultivated this form of teaching classical ballet and turned it into a viable syllabus. The method fuses elements of traditional French style from the romantic era with the athleticism and virtuosity of Italian Cecchetti technique. The training system is designed to involve the whole body in every movement, with equal attention paid to the upper body, legs and feet. Vaganova believed that this approach increases consciousness of the body, thus creating a harmony of movement and greater expressive range.

The steps in Vaganova's syllabus builds on a carefully developed progression in which the "basic" or "preparatory" forms are mastered before the dancer moves on to more difficult forms. This can be understood as a codified technical approach when taught by qualified teachers following the syllabus closely. The syllabus is founded upon the idea that when a dancer is introduced to a step, he or she will have developed the correct strength in foundation in order for their steps and movements to be successful. Vaganova technique is one of the only instructional methods built specifically for age-appropriate movement and physical human development.  Tenets of the training method included development of lower back strength and arm plasticity, and the strength, flexibility and endurance required for ballet, and it incorporated a detailed instruction process that specified when to teach each topic and how long to teach it.

In 1934, Vaganova wrote "Fundamentals of the Classical Dance", which remains a standard textbook for the instruction of ballet technique. In 1948, Vaganova authored a book titled "The Foundation for Dance" (more commonly known as "Basic Principles of Russian Classical Dance") that outlined her training method and ballet technique. Following Vaganova's death in 1951, her teaching method was preserved by instructors such as Vera Kostrovitskaya and Vera Volkova.

Today the Vaganova method is the most widely used ballet teaching method in Russia, and it is also used in Europe and North America.  Valley Academy for the Arts is one of the few Ballet schools in Wisconsin using the Vaganova method of dance instruction. 


Benefits of the Vaganova Method of Dance Instruction include:

  • ·         Develops acute awareness of one’s physical body in its logical function
  • ·         Supports the development of powerful and expressive movement
  • ·         Provides the necessary foundation for enjoyment of dance as a lifelong pursuit
  • ·         Reduces likelihood and incidents of injury





"Ballet Teaching Methods". Russian Ballet History. Retrieved 2017-06-09

"About the Vaganova Syllabus". Ballet Fantastique. Retrieved 2011-10-27.

"The Vaganova Method". Retrieved 2011-10-27.



The View from a Parent - Why VAA for Dance Instruction?

I grew up with dance.  I studied dance as did my sisters and my cousin who grew up with us.  My choices of dance discipline were classical ballet, tap and jazz.  Growing up in Minneapolis and attending college at the University of Iowa, I was exposed to a wide variety of performing arts, including dance.  As an adult, I continued to pursue dance as a personal discipline and attended professional dance performances whenever I was able.  I have had the profound gift of attending performances by some of the greatest ballet companies in the U.S. and abroad.  I was never so moved, however, as when attending my first Valley Academy performance of Where the Wild Things Are.  In all those years of studying, performing and attending dance performances, I had only seen children dance in a line in rehearsed repetition.  Never had I seen children perform an actual ballet where their movements told a story.  It is one thing to see adults who have had a lifetime of study and practice perform classical ballet, but to see young children seamlessly narrate Sendak's classic tale through the art of ballet was quite simply, breathtaking.  More than this, however, I was in awe of the creative process of Annemarie Abderholden who created the entire ballet from the choice of music, to choreography, auditioning and training the dancers and envisioning the costuming.  I wept through my first performance and have through every performance I have attended since including VAA's performances of:  Hansel and Gretel, 12 Dancing Princesses, Pippi Longstocking and Peter and the Wolf.  When my daughter asked to attend dance classes, Valley Academy for the Arts was the only choice in my mind.  When my daughter was no longer a student, I have continued to support VAA as a patron, a fan and now as Office Manager.  The kind of dance education Annemarie and Katharina Abderholden offer at VAA is truly unique.  As I have watched their work throughout the years I have seen that they are not only producing great dancers, they are helping to build the future leaders of our world.  Thank you Annemarie and Katharina for all you do in making our world a better place through the arts.  

Lauri Ann Lumby

Authentic Freedom Academy

Oshkosh, WI  

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