EL PASO, Texas (KTSM) – Noted professional ballet teacher, choreographer, and designer, Ingeborg Heuser, passed away on February 14, 2022, in El Paso, surrounded by her loving family and caregivers.

Family members share that, although her journey began in Germany, she was a “true El Pasoan and loved the Paso del Norte region with all of her heart. It is fitting that she left this world on Valentine’s Day – one of her last productions was “To El Paso With Love,” performed at the Coronado Country Club on a Valentine’s Day weekend.”

The former professor in the music department of the University of Texas at El Paso and artistic director of Ballet El Paso, Ballet of the Americas, UTEP ballet, and Texas Western Civic Ballet, her productions graced the stages of El Paso’s performance venues with local ballet students and dancers for over five decades.

According to family and friends, after completing her student years at the Ballet School of the Deutsche Oper in Berlin, Germany, the German-born Ingeborg Heuser became a member of the corps de ballet and received her first solo contract a year later. With this company, she toured Europe and appeared in six German and Italian movies. Her most important teacher was the famous pedagogue and choreographer Tatjana Gsovsky.

Arriving in the United States in 1948, she arrived in El Paso in 1953 when her husband, Joe Weissmiller, was stationed at Fort Bliss. She began teaching at the YWCA while working in the advertising department at the White House department store. She opened her first studio, the Ballet Centre, on Federal Street in 1955, which moved to Reynolds Street in 1956, and later was housed on Cincinnati Street.

ngeborg Heuser became ballet director of the Texas Western Civic Ballet in 1960 and was asked by Dr. Thormodsgaard, chairman of the Music Department at that time, to formulate a ballet program at Texas Western College.

In 1962, George Balanchine invited her to participate in his teacher Seminars and regional assistance programs. Guided by Doris Hering and Jean Gordan of Dance Magazine, as well as her trusted friend, Ruth Page, Ms. Heuser set the course for the company that was to become Ballet El Paso.

She brought guest artists, most of whom were friends, from around the world: Gert Reinholm, former Director of the Berlin Ballet (Deutsche Oper), Alan Howard from Ballet Rrusse de Monte Carlo, Scott Douglas from American Ballet Theatre, Davide Lichine, Ruth Page, Sonja Arova, Robert Lindgren, Robert Barnett, John McFall, Oleg Skibine, Nathalie Krassovska, James Clouser, Ana Merida from the Ballet Nacional de Mexico, and many others.

She also brought gold medalist Medhi Bahiri to this country, as well as Maximilian Guerra and Elenora Casssano from Argentina, Dariusz Blajer from Mexico City, Pablo Savoy from England, Egon Bischoff, Director of the Deutsche Staatsoper Ballet, and Christine Fagundes from American Ballet Theatre. Dariusz Blajer was a long time guest artist in Heuser’s ballets and is the former Artistic Director of the National Ballet of Mexico. 2 As a pedagogue, Ingeborg Heuser taught at the Berlin Academy, in Mexico City, Houston, Dallas, and Los Angeles. She was invited to replace David Lichine for two months in Rome at the National Academy of Ballet.

As the first professor of ballet and director of the ballet division in the University of Texas at El Paso
Music Department, Ingeborg Heuser created and framed the El Paso dance landscape.

As children grew and developed as dancers in her private studio, they were invited to join the UTEP Young Dancers School and became apprentices and performers in her many ballet productions. Thousands of El Paso children and young people passed through her studio doors.

The UTEP ballet department flourished until her retirement, as adult ballet students developed into dancers and fulfilled their dreams of becoming ballet dancers. Many of her students went on to become professional dancers in all genres, ballet teachers, company artistic staff members, artistic directors, and choreographers, as well as writers, business owners, school teachers, doctors, lawyers, artists, homemakers, accountants, architects and other professionals.

Many of her students were accepted into major companies of the world, including San Francisco Ballet, the Royal Danish Ballet, the Royal Swedish Ballet, Bejart’s Ballet of the XXth Century, Pittsburgh Ballet, New York City Ballet, Ballet West, Ballet Arizona, Grand Ballet Canadien, Ballet San Antonio, and several smaller American European ballet companies.

Currently, former student Celia Fushille is the Artistic Director of the Smuin Ballet in San Francisco. Other students include noted El Pasoans Oskár Antuñez who danced with the Royal Danish Ballet and later served as Artistic Director of the Montgomery Ballet, and Ernest Tolentino former principal dancer with the Pittsburgh Ballet, Janine Bryant Kovak, DaLyn Chew, and Laura Tombosky who danced with the Smuin Ballet, and Andrée Harper who danced with Harkness Ballet and who is the premier ballet teacher in El Paso.

Ingeborg Heuser choreographed many ballets for Ballet El Paso, and in Rome, Italy, Utah and Alabama. Among her many works are The Firebird, Cinderella, The Red Shoes, The Miraculous Mandarin, Huapango, Carmen, Pineapple Poll, Pulcinella, Scheherazade, Peter and the Wolf, the Scott Joplin classic Easy Winners, and El Paso’s original and beloved The Nutcracker.

She choreographed the El Paso Opera productions of Aida, La Traviata, Romeo & Juliet, and Samson and Delilah, and ballet sequences for the original Viva! El Paso! directed by her former student, Hector M. Serrano, also providing dancers from her studio and company for the productions.

Through decades of public and school performances, Heuser introduced El Pasoans to the beauty of the ballet and laid a strong foundation for the arts community in our border region. Her love of Mexico led to close ties across Mexico and Latin America.

She had friends, colleagues and students in Cd. Juarez, Mexico City and Guadalajara. Her companies regularly performed in Cd. Juarez. Among her closest friends and collaborators was Arq. José Lizárraga, Director of the Museo de Arte e História. Ballet El Paso’s groundbreaking collaboration with the Instituto Nacional de Bellas Arte resulted in the historic first repertory exchange between the National Ballet of Mexico (Compañía Nacional de la Danza) and an American company, Ana Merida’s ballet La Balada de Venado y La Luna, which premiered in El Paso in March 1977

. She directed and arranged three highly successful tours of Mexico under the auspices of Bellas Artes, the first such tours by an American arts organization in Mexico. Her body of work included ballet and dance sequences for Mexican films, including the wide release biopic of Juan Gabriel, Noa Noa. She had a special place in her heart for Guaymas and the Sea of Cortez.

After her tenure as Artistic Director of Ballet El Paso in 1998, she continued her work with the cross border ballet company Ballet of the Americas. Also, under the auspices of the University of Texas at El Paso, teaching ballet classes and choreographing numerous works.

The UTEP Ballet presented her production of The Nutcracker until her retirement in 2007, with the collaboration of UTEP Dinner Theatre director, Gregory Taylor. Each year, over 10,000 audience members from the El Paso/Ciudad Juarez/Las Cruces community made the production an annual family tradition.

She also produced and choreographed Snow White, Peter and the Wolf, Sleeping Beauty and Cinderella for annual school performances, exposing tens of thousands of El Paso school children to the wonder of live ballet performances and providing performance opportunities to hundreds of El Paso young dancers.

Heuser served as a member of the Dance Advisory Panel for the Texas Commission on the Arts. She was honored as “Woman of the Year” by the El Paso Women’s Political Caucus and was a recipient of the City of El Paso Arts Resources Department’s first annual dance award. She was voted “Spirit of El Paso” by KDBC-TV in 1989. In 2005, the Mayor of El Paso and City Council presented her with the El Paso Star on the Mountain Award. In 2006, she was the recipient of the YWCA Reach Award for Outstanding Achievement in the Arts.

She was inducted into the El Paso Commission on Women’s Hall of Fame in 2009. Ingeborg Heuser was a consummate and versatile professional, designing (and sometimes sewing) costumes for her ballets, collaborating with theatre professionals such as Albert “Bert” Ronke, Mike Spence, Paul Enger, and Robert Phaup with scenic design, lighting and technical production.

She is survived by her sons, Joseph Weissmiller and Christian Blackwell, her daughter-in-law, Jorie Ewald Blackwell, and her grandsons, Alex Blackwell and Johann Blackwell. She also leaves behind hundreds of former students, admirers, friends and compatriots who celebrate her life and are grateful for the gifts of dance and friendship that she shared with them.

For local and breaking news, sports, weather alerts, video and more, download the FREE KTSM 9 News App from the Apple App Store or the Google Play Store.