Founding Artistic Director

Nan Klinger, Founding Artistic Director of the Cuyahoga Valley Youth Ballet (now renamed Ballet Excel Ohio), was a pioneer of the concept of a pre-professional youth ballet company performing original ballets. An Akron native, her early ballet training was with her mother, Gertrude Holvey Harris. She also studied extensively at the American Theater Wing, and attended Kent State University.

Nan's first studio was in the basement of her home, where she taught ballet while raising her six children. An instructor during the early years of the University of Akron's Dance Institute, in 1966 she was chosen as one of forty ballet teachers nationwide for a Ford Foundation project to develop young ballet talents. This project included yearly professional adjudication of her students by the New York City Ballet. Nan's close contact with NYCB artistic director George Balanchine and his creative work with young dancers encouraged Nan to start her own youth ballet in 1975. In 2000 the Cuyahoga Valley Youth Ballet celebrated its 25th season.

Watch the video below of Miss Nan, former parents and students as well as her daughters discuss the importance of dance education and early life at the studio and the company.

Nan's teaching ability helped place many of her students in professional ballet companies in the United States and abroad. Northern Ohio Live honored Nan and the CVYB with an Award of Achievement Honorable Mention in Dance in 1990, '92, and '93, and in 2000 she received the Lifetime Achievement Award. In 1992 she led the CVYB on its first international performance tour in Taiwan as part of the First International Children's Festival, and in 1993 she received the Akron Woman of the Year Perseverance Award as part of Women's History Week Project.

In 2001 the dance community honored Nan by awarding her the Chautauqua School of Dance Artist Teacher Award in the amphitheater at Chautauqua Institution. Nan also received the OhioDance Award in Dance Education at the 25th Anniversary OhioDance Festival in Cleveland. In addition, the Akron Area Arts Alliance awarded Nan the Lifetime Achievement Award at its inaugural Arts Alive awards ceremony.

Miss Nan's goals for the CVYB remained constant: to teach talented children sound technical and artistic skills, coach them to use those skills in a professional-style performance environment, help them develop strong personal character, and develop young audiences who learn to appreciate and enjoy ballet.

Nan Klinger passed away on January 29, 2003. Miss Nan's love of ballet, her unerring artistic sensibility and creativity, her strength of character and determination will long be remembered. Over 230 young dancers have passed through the CVYB and graduates have gone on to professional dancing careers with Birmingham Royal Ballet, Miami City Ballet, American Ballet Theater, Cleveland Ballet, Pittsburgh Ballet, Ballet Florida, BalletMet, Boston Ballet, Richmond Ballet, Louisville Ballet, Fort Worth Ballet, Nashville Ballet, Memphis Ballet, Milwaukee Ballet, and Ohio Ballet. Other alumni are dance teachers or involved in arts programs across the country.


Mission Statement

Ballet Excel Ohio exists:

1. To provide professional level training and performance opportunities to talented young dancers.
2. To educate young audiences in the art of ballet through original children's ballets performed by children, for children.



Ballet Excel Ohio is one of the oldest youth ballets in the country. Founded in 1975 by Nan Klinger, we were the first youth ballet in the state and are one of the 10 oldest in the country. In fact, since Ballet Excel Ohio's first performance in 1976, we have brought professional quality, original children's ballets to young audiences throughout Northeast Ohio.
The company has a collection of more than thirty-five original, choreographed ballets in our repertoire, and is known throughout the country for our innovative, exciting and technically superior performances. Each year, choreographers travel to Cuyahoga Falls, Ohio to work with our dancers, and two to four repertory pieces are cast and performed each year. Past productions have included storybook favorites like The Little Mermaid, Madeline at the Circus, and Beauty and the Beast.

Watch the video below and see how Ballet Excel Ohio (formerly Cuyahoga Valley Youth Ballet) got it's start...

About Us

Ballet Excel Ohio, formerly Cuyahoga Valley Youth Ballet, is a nationally acclaimed pre-professional dance company which performs original works under the artistic direction of Mia Klinger. The 40+ classically trained male and female dancers, ages 8-18, are privileged to work with renowned choreographers from throughout our region and across the country. Ballet Excel Ohio company members are trained at Nan Klinger's Excellence in Dance Studio.

In addition to providing professional level training and performance opportunities to talented young dancers, Ballet Excel Ohio educates young audiences in the art of ballet through our performances. Our educational programs focus on making original, technically superior works of art accessible to young people through our company of dancers and our extensive arts outreach programs.
Arts education is a critical component of the overall academic success of young people. Studies show that students with an arts-rich education have better grade point averages, have lower drop-out rates and score better on standardized tests in reading and math. In support of these findings, Ballet Excel Ohio offers a variety of outreach programs to educate and engage local children and their families. 

Ballet Excel Ohio on Tour
Each season, since 1976, Ballet Excel Ohio travels throughout the region, performing annually for more than 9,000 audience members in schools, libraries, and civic venues. These performances are accompanied by a curriculum guide which addresses the themes, story and arts objectives suitable for Common Core Curriculum standards. 

Reach Out and Dance®
Since 1998, Reach Out and Dance® (ROAD®) has brought arts education to area schools through 30 week in-school residencies. ROAD®'s Broadway style residencies bring professional dance and voice instructors and pianists into 4th grade classrooms, and culminate with an in-school end of session performance for parents and peers. ROAD®, our largest community outreach program, utilizes the energetic instruction of dance, voice and drama to help children experience teamwork, self-discipline and increased self-esteem in the classroom. Ballet Excel Ohio is fortunate to have partnered with many community foundations to bring ROAD® to the community at no cost to participants.
Team Excel, ROAD®'s performance troupe, consists of children 5th grade and above who have auditioned to participate. This Broadway themed program allows young people from the community to experience the thrill of performing at the Akron Civic Theatre each year, and in many other community venues. 

Community Tickets Program
Ballet Excel Ohio provides free tickets to children and their families who might otherwise be unable to attend our annual storybook performance series at the Akron Civic Theatre. Each year, more than 30 community organizations partner with us to bring the magic of ballet to as many young audience members as possible.

Go See It! Scouting for the Arts
Go See It! Scouting for the Arts is Ballet Excel Ohio's annual outreach program designed to bring scouts and their families to the ballet each year. Through participation in this program, Cub Scouts can earn their Good Manners belt loop, while Girl Scouts receive a participation patch as a SWAP. Special group rates are available through this program.