Ballet School Founder Frank Ohman Dies At 80

Ballet school founder Frank Ohman of Centerport died on July 22.

Ballet school founder Frank Ohman of Centerport died on July 22.

Frank Ohman, a former New York City Ballet soloist, founder and artistic director of the New York Dance Theatre and the Ohman School of Ballet on Long Island, and internationally known dance professional, died suddenly on July 22 at home in Centerport.  He was 80 years old. 

Ohman began his critically acclaimed dance career with the San Francisco Ballet in 1959, moving quickly through the ranks while also serving in the U.S. Army Reserves.  He joined the New York City Ballet in 1962, and was a soloist for 22 years.

During his performing career, Ohman studied professionally with icons of the American ballet world including George Balanchine, Lew and Harold Christensen, Ernest Belcher, David Lichine, André Eglevsky, and John Taras. He appeared in leading and soloist roles in ballets of Balanchine, Jerome Robbins, Frederic Ashton, Antony Tudor, and Jacques d’Amboise among others. He partnered many of the world’s leading ballerinas including Maria Tallchief, Suzanne Farrell, Allegra Kent, Patricia McBride, Gelsey Kirkland, Kay Mazzo, and Suki Schorer. Ohman performed with the New York City Ballet at the New York State Theater, Kennedy Center, Marinsky Theater, Bolshoi Theater, the White House, and Jacob’s Pillow.

With the blessing of his mentor George Balanchine, Frank Ohman established New York Dance Theatre, Inc. in 1974 to bring classical ballet to a broader audience. Five years later, The Frank Ohman School of Ballet was founded as a training ground for young dancers, teaching the art of classical ballet in the style of Balanchine.

Frank Ohman as a principal with the New York City Ballet dances Balanchine’s "Western Symphony!” with Gloria Govrin.

Frank Ohman as a principal with the New York City Ballet dances Balanchine’s "Western Symphony!” with Gloria Govrin.

Ohman’s commitment to the Balanchine legacy extended to his company’s annual production of “The Nutcracker,” an annual tradition for families throughout the region.

A prolific choreographer, Ohman created more than 200 original ballets which were performed by his New York Dance Theatre, Boston Ballet, Edmonton Ballet, Syracuse Ballet (where he was director), the Cassandra Ballet of Toledo, the Long Island Philharmonic, the Long Island Lyric Opera, the School of American Ballet workshop performance, and American Movie Classics, among others. 

Ohman was still actively teaching at his eponymous classical ballet school in Commack until his death. His teaching career also included stints at prestigious programs including the School of American Ballet, the Boston Ballet, the St. Louis Ballet, the National Dance Institute and as guest Ballet Master at Ballet Philippines.

Beyond his career as a dancer, choreographer and teacher, Ohman was a gifted fine artist whose paintings have been featured in art shows at libraries throughout Long Island and Queens. Ohman encouraged his students to be well-rounded students of the arts.  In his 2014 memoir, Balanchine’s Dancing Cowboy, Ohman wrote, “To be a great artist, one must care deeply and completely about something, and to work devotedly to contribute that artistry to the world.”

Ohman is survived by his son Johan (Soumala) and grandson, Luke, as well as his ballet family of students and colleagues who carry on his legacy. 

A private funeral service is being held for immediate family.A public memorial service is planned for late summer, details to be announced at ohmanballet.org.