All in the Family: BARBARA'S CONSERVATORY OF DANCE
RAISING THE BARRE: BARBARA’S CONSERVATORY OF DANCE She made her debut in Ballet Midwest’s Nutcracker at one week old and spent the next 18 years training in all styles of dance at Barbara’s Conservatory of Dance, under the instruction of the ballet studio founder and her mother, Barbara Ebert. During that time, Lacee began to realize her dream of turning her passion for dance into a lifelong career, just as her mother and her grandmother had done. That dream has now become a reality.
“I grew up watching my mother change people’s lives through dance,” Lacee said. “I wanted to continue that tradition and make a difference in the lives of youth in my community.”
Lacee officially took ownership of the dance studio this past June. After receiving her bachelor’s degree from the University of Missouri-Kansas City Conservatory of Music and Dance, Lacee knew that if she wanted to continue the tradition of excellence begun by her mother at Barbara’s Conservatory of Dance, she would need to dance professionally. She toured for two years with Paradosi Ballet Company, and then another two years with The Thorn Productions Tours Cast before deciding it was time to come home and do what she really loves: teach.
Fortunately for Lacee, the legacy built by her mother was ready and waiting for her. Barbara has spent the past 50 years creating a safe, educational environment where young people can express themselves through all styles of dance, and the past 40 years giving students the opportunity to perform on stage through their nonprofit organization, Ballet Midwest. “Dance is wonderful,” Barbara said. The transition of the business from mother to daughter was as natural as dance itself. Lacee knew by the time she was a freshman in high school that she wanted to eventually take over the studio, so the two began talking about what that would look like. They agreed that Lacee needed to continue her education and dance professionally. They agreed that she could strengthen the educational offering at the studio by earning her certification as an American Ballet Theater (ABT) Certified Teacher, one of the few teachers in Kansas to earn that honor. They also agreed that Lacee could step away if she decided the business wasn’t for her.
“There was never any pressure,” Lacee said. “If I hadn’t wanted it, it would have been just fine.”
However, the joy of Barbara watching her daughter continue in her footsteps cannot be ignored.
“I’ve been saving it for her,” Barbara said. “I know this is going to be a wonderful career for Lacee, just as it has been for me.”
To smooth the transition process, Barbara brought Lacee in as a co-director for the past three years. She has slowly transitioned more of the responsibilities and decision making to Lacee, mentoring her until they both felt it was the right time to pass the torch.
“I admire her,” Barbara said. “She is a better teacher than I am, and that makes this transition even easier.”
While Lacee intends to continue the legacy her mother built, she plans to change the dance steps a little along the way. She is in the process of implementing an updated curriculum to incorporate the ABT training; she is adding liturgical performances and a company gala; she is also putting her own artistic spin on the choreography, costumes and sets of the Nutcracker, Ballet Midwest’s longest running production. But those changes don’t offend Barbara in the least.
“Whatever new direction she wants to take it will be fine with me,” Barbara said. “She knows what she is doing.” Understanding the succession plan, working together to ease that transition, and knowing when to walk away has made this business transfer from one generation to the next as beautiful as a grand jeté.
However, Lacee credits something else to easing the transition fears.
“She is not really leaving,” Lacee said. “I will hire her to teach as long as she wants to come in and teach. And I know she will always be there to answer my questions and give me advice.”