The North Dakota Ballet Company was founded in 1961 by Mrs. Kata Novak and Rogers Barnes. The mission of the company was to achieve a wider appreciation for the art of dance among the children and adults of Grand Forks. Its desire was to encourage a more complete culture in the fine arts for people of all ages.
Mrs. Novak, founder of the Company, served as the Ballet Mistress while also performing as the Prima Ballerina. She also owned the Kay School of Dance, donating the space for auditions, rehearsals, and classes.
Over two years of professional work and planning were undertaken before the first performance was held. During the Company’s first years, there were a total of fifteen girls and four young men among its members. It was successful in expanding in the Grand Forks area, as membership in the Company, as well as audiences at performances grew, which was made possible through more productions, scholarships, variety shows, festivals, and summer camps being offered.
The North Dakota Ballet Company enjoyed a successful cooperative venture with the University of North Dakota’s orchestra and dance groups. Mimi Marr, a modern dance instructor at UND, who held BA and MA degrees, as well as attended several dance schools, became the new owner/director of Kay’s School of Dance. Having previously conducted the Marr School of Dance, which served children in preschool through high school, Mrs. Marr became one of the finest directors and choreographers of her time during her tenure with the Ballet Company.