The Yellow Brick Road Leads to Dubuque for Wizard of Oz Ballerina

by Sara Steuer

“As a young student I really loved dance,” said Erika Overturff, Dubuque native and founder of the Omaha based American Midwest Ballet (AMB). As Overturff prepares to bring her 21-member professional ballet company to the University of Dubuque’s Heritage Center for performances of the company’s original full-length story ballet The Wizard of Oz, she fondly reminisces on the impact that her mentor Marina O’Rourke has had in her life. In collaboration with O’Rourke’s Dubuque Academy of Ballet, Overturff and the AMB will present two live performances (April 21 and 22) as part of the Heritage Center’s 10th anniversary celebration.

While collaborations between former students and their mentors isn’t uncommon – especially given Overturff’s resounding professional success – this current partnership came about largely by chance. While participating in a virtual conference over lockdown in 2020, University of Dubuque Heritage Center’s Executive Director Thomas Robbins saw something he liked in what Overturff’s company was doing and sent her an email of interest.

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