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updated: 1/25/2013 7:20 PM

Ballet teacher Boehm's 100th birthday feted in Elgin

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  • Lisa Boehm holds a portrait of herself when she was a young ballerina in this 2005 photo.

    Lisa Boehm holds a portrait of herself when she was a young ballerina in this 2005 photo.
    Daily Herald file photo


The name Lisa Boehm is familiar to many, if not most, families who raised daughters in Elgin in recent decades.

Boehm, who died at age 94 in January 2008, taught ballet to thousands of young dancers at the Lisa Boehm School of Ballet Elgin. She is also credited with bringing "Nutcracker" performances to Elgin for 33 years until 2002.

A group of Elgin residents is organizing a centennial celebration in Boehm's honor on Sunday -- which would have been her 100th birthday -- at the Elgin History Museum.

"It's going to be kind of a reunion of former students and their families, and Lisa's friends," said Jean Keltner of Elgin, whose daughter and granddaughter studied under Boehm.

Clare Ollayos, a trustee at Elgin Community College, is the driving force behind Sunday's event, Keltner said.

Boehm was born Jan. 27, 1913, as a Swiss citizen in Germany, and she became a prima ballerina at the Berlin Opera as a teenager. Her family eventually fled Nazi Germany. Boehm met her future husband on a train ride to Switzerland; they moved to New York and eventually Elgin.

Boehm was the among the first inducted into the Fox Valley Arts Hall of Fame in 2002. She closed her dance studio in late 2004.

Boehm was a strict disciplinarian and had a profound influence on her students, most of whom were girls, Keltner said.

"When we came to Elgin in the late 1960s, early 1970s, I was told almost every family that had girls had someone that studied with Lisa," she said. "Other students are still professional (dancers), but a lot of her students went on to become doctors, nurses, dietitians, business people. They are very successful, and probably it has something to do with the discipline she taught."

The celebration on Sunday Nutcracker display with programs and photographs, and likely another display with items that belonged to Boehm, including pictures of her over the years, Keltner said.

The celebration is 3 to 5 p.m. Sunday at the Elgin History Museum, 360 Park Street, Elgin. The event is free, but donations to the Elgin History Museum are encouraged.

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