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

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 :

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 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



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  

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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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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