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Dean Mary Margaret Holt Honored with Lifetime Achievement Award

Dean Mary Margaret Holt Honored with Lifetime Achievement Award

Mary Margaret Holt, dean of the Weitzenhoffer Family College of Fine Arts at the University of Oklahoma, has been selected for a lifetime achievement award in honor of her significant contributions to ballet excellence in higher education.

Each year, the CORPS (Congress on Research in Pedagogical Studies) de Ballet International presents its Lifetime Achievement Award to an individual who has furthered the growth of ballet in higher education and/or made valuable contributions to ballet departments, through administration, teaching, choreography, mentoring or research. Candidates must have worked for or with an academic institution for at least five years, and also must have a prior or current relationship with the professional world of ballet.

Holt will be formally honored at the CORPS de Ballet International’s annual conference in July in New York City. 

As a Lifetime Achievement Award recipient, Holt joins 20 other past recipients of the prestigious honor, including Miguel Terekhov, a principal dancer with Ballet Russe de Monte Carlo who, with his wife, Yvonne Chouteau, founded the OU School of Dance in 1961.

As a student at OU, Holt studied dance under Terekhov and Chouteau, who would later be instrumental figures in bringing Holt back to OU to join the dance faculty in 1982.

Holt’s professional training actually began before college with a Ford Foundation grant leading to an apprenticeship with the San Francisco Ballet at the age of 15. One year later, she was awarded an additional Ford Foundation grant to study at George Balanchine’s School of American Ballet, where she performed as an apprentice with the New York City Ballet. 

Upon earning her Bachelor of Fine Arts in Ballet Performance from OU, Holt joined the Houston Ballet as a soloist and danced a wide variety of solo and principal roles in the classical and contemporary repertoire by world-renowned choreographers. She has performed as a guest artist, teacher and choreographer with ballet and opera companies across the United States.

She was appointed chair of the OU Department of Dance in 1990, and over the years has served the College of Fine Arts in several administrative roles. Under her leadership, the Department of Dance was elevated to the School of Dance in 1998. Holt holds the John and Mary Nichols Chair in Dance at OU, where she is also a Presidential Professor and Regents’ Professor. She is also the recipient of the Governor’s Arts Award.

As director of the School of Dance, Holt instituted a number of initiatives to raise the stature of OU’s dance program. She also oversaw planning for the dance wing of the Donald W. Reynolds Performing Arts Center, which opened in 2005.

In 2015, she was named dean of the Weitzenhoffer Family College of Fine Arts. 

Holt has taught every course in the ballet curriculum at OU and has led Oklahoma Festival Ballet on numerous international tours to France, Austria, South and Central America, Taiwan and China. She has choreographed over 40 ballets, and her students have gone on to achieve successful careers in dance companies all over the world.


By Melissa Caperton

Dean Mary Margaret Holt

Article Published: Wednesday, February 26, 2020