Texas Tech University

In Motion: Remembering Suzanne Aker

Kyla Olson

March 1, 2022

Suzanne Aker

Suzanne Aker was my first dance teacher when my mother enrolled me in ballet classes at the age of four after I saw The Nutcracker. She would reminisce about the very first time she laid eyes on me, saying, “You were the most precious thing I had ever seen.” Little did I know that this sweet, kind woman would become one of my most important life-long mentors.

I have many fond memories of Miss Suzanne, from taking her classes and dancing in productions to talking to her about my upcoming artistic and teaching projects. As a teacher, she knew just what to say to push and challenge her students while making them feel safe and supported. She was always intentional with her words, finding just the right verbal combination to stimulate and inspire. I try to model that same behavior in my classes, because I want my students to feel the support I felt as her student.

One of my earliest memories of Suzanne was a performative project she created called “Story Dance Theatre,” where I was introduced to the choreographic process. I felt immediately drawn to the idea of storytelling through movement. Suzanne was wonderful at finding intentionality in movement and within the choreography. In fact, my experience in that project became the foundation for my love of creative storytelling, and Suzanne became a mentor for me on my choreographic projects. 

CatherineIn 2014, I had the opportunity to collaborate with Suzanne on a solo work for Flatlands Dance Theatre (“Catherine,” which explored the historic life and death of Saint Catherine of Alexandria). I learned much from her about her creative process, and it meant so much for me to work with her and perform her movement again.

We always joked that she was my pseudo-grandmother because she had known me since I was four years old. Every year, for birthdays and holidays, she would gift many of her dance books to me because she knew how much I loved to learn. Suzanne had a wonderful collection of books, many now out of print. She instilled in me a love for continual learning in our artform, to be informed and to continue to explore new ideas.

SuzanneSuzanne Aker led a wonderful and amazing full life, and she found many ways to make a difference in peoples' lives. Not only was she formative in creating a dance community in Lubbock, but she also continued to teach yoga classes in the community centers for seniors. She trained to become an iconographer, and now Suzanne's icons can be found in churches in the US and abroad and in many local homes. She was also an author who wrote a children's book. Her hand-painted Nutcracker ornaments and angels are beautiful and one-of-a-kind works of art. 

I am thankful to have shared many memories with this remarkable woman. She inspired any number of people, and her impact on the dance community is far-reaching. Without her hard work, determination and vision, the dance community of Lubbock would not exist. I will miss her sweet, bright smile and gentle hugs. 

Because of Suzanne, I will strive to be the type of teacher she was to her students. I will continue to create new opportunities for dance in my community. She instilled a deep love and respect for dance that I hope to pass along to my students. Her legacy lives on in me and so many others touched by her generous spirit. 

danceWe in the dance program at Texas Tech dedicate our production of DanceTech in loving memory to Suzanne Aker, founder of Ballet Lubbock and the dance program at our university. Her picture graces the entrance to our Black Box theatre, and we are honored to continue the legacy she built with each, new generation of dancers.

Thank you, Miss Suzanne.