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Distinguished Alumnae

Jane Startzman ’70

Co-founder and Director, Heinz Poll Summer Dance Festival

While still in Upper School at Laurel and passionate about dance, Jane Startzman ’70 identified the path her life would take and traveled after school to Akron studying with noted choreographer and ballet teacher Heinz Poll. In 1969 she joined Poll’s company in its second year–it officially would become the Ohio Ballet in 1974–and where, for the next 20 years, she danced principal roles in many of his ballets as well as those choreographed by Paul Taylor, George Balanchine, Laura Dean, Robert Joffrey, Anna Sokolow, Ruthana Boris and Pilobolus. She toured with Ohio Ballet throughout the United States, South America and Central America and performed as a guest artist with the Ballet Puertoriqueno and the Tampa Ballet.
In 1989 Jane put away her toe shoes for good, but retiring as a dancer did not mean retiring from the world of dance. For the next decade she served as the artistic administrator and company manager of Ohio Ballet. Jane was so integral to the company that Poll bequeathed her five of his ballets to continue to stage for the world; she has restaged two of them for the Ohio Ballet and for Verb Ballets.

Continuing to preserve his legacy, she co-founded in 2007 and is the Director of the Heinz Poll Summer Dance Festival, a gift to the people of Akron. The Heinz Poll Summer Dance Festival, sponsored by the City of Akron, the National Endowment of the Arts, the Ohio Arts Council, the Akron Community Foundation and the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation, brings respected professional contemporary and classical ballet dance companies from Ohio and around the country to Akron each summer for 18-20 free public performances in parks throughout the City. As part of its outreach program, the Festival also offers free beginners dance classes for children ages 6-10 before each performance.

Jane taught dance at the University of Akron and its Dance Institute for many years and in addition to her work as Festival Director is the Director of Events at Akron Civic Theater. In 2021, she was recognized “for her passion and influence in Akron’s arts landscape” and received the Arts Alive Award as an Outstanding Artist in Dance, given by Summit Artspace.
For her lifelong devotion to the arts, sustaining a career in it for over 50 years, and for making the arts accessible and meaningful to a diverse audience in her community through the universal language of dance, the Alumnae Association honors Jane Startzman ’70 with its 2022 Lifetime Achievement Award.
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