Remembering Kennet Oberly’s Legacy of Love, Inspiration and Art

LACROSSE, WI — January 15, 2016 —  Ballet Nebraska advisory board member and guest choreographer, Kennet Mitchell Oberly, 59, passed away peacefully at home following a valiant battle with ALS. He leaves behind a legacy of love, inspiration and art that will touch countless lives for years to come.

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ABOVE: Many remember Kennet’s visit to Omaha as he staged his original work ‘Alice in Wonderland’ on Ballet Nebraska (April 2013)

Those who were influenced and inspired by Kennet — as well as those who simply admired him from afar — remember him with fondness. Two members of our Ballet Nebraska family share their thoughts about Kennet below.

Bret Samson, company dancer at Ballet Nebraska:
“Mr. Kennet was one of the best mentors I ever had. He was a dear friend and the most beautiful human. His love and dedication for ballet was larger than life. I will miss him. He was and will always be a legend to me. I only dream about what he is doing now.”

Jim Williams, company photographer and balletomane:
“A lot could be said about Kennet Oberly, who died this week after a long struggle with ALS, but what I’m going to say about him is the same thing Balanchine said about August Bournonville: he was gifted with the ability “to entertain with steps.”

That may sound like trivial praise, but Balanchine knew very well that it wasn’t. Steps, after all, are the elemental molecules of ballet. And to “entertain” — from two Latin words meaning “to hold among” — is the core accomplishment of art: to take us out of ourselves and hold us among the creations of the artist’s imagination.

To use these two things well demonstrates a deep, fundamental understanding of an art form, and that’s what Bournonville had… and so did Kennet. RIP to a great entertainer and one of the genuinely good guys of the ballet world.”

Jim also shared some of his photos of Kennet and his works:

Des Moines Ballet in 1989: balletmistress Gigi Oerter and artistic director Kennet Oberly.

Kennet Oberly during his time as artistic director of Des Moines Ballet with ballet mistress Gigi Oerter (1989)

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Kennet Oberly’s joyous recreation of the seldom-seen full-length version of August Bournonville’s ‘Konservatoriet’ (1990)

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Dancer Annette Maynard as the street dancer in Kennet Oberly’s recreation of ‘Konservatoriet’ (1990)

Rest in peace, friend.