Adagio Dancer and Co-founder of Nevada Ballet Theatre
Date of Birth: February 26, 1935
Place of Birth: Piedmont, California
Arrival in Las Vegas: 1966
Interviewed by: Caryll Dziedziak
A passionate and talented performer, Nancy Houssels has left an important mark on the development of arts programs in the Las Vegas valley.Nancy Claire Wallace was born in Piedmont, California in 1935. She started dancing at age of three and spent her youth practicing dance and synchronized swimming. Her passion for performing continued and in 1957 she earned a Bachelor’s degree in Theatre Arts from UCLA.After Nancy obtained her degree she went on the road with the Hollywood Bowl, a local dance troupe. Shortly after joining the Hollywood Bowl she met Francois Szony, who became her dance partner for the next ten years. The pair rehearsed together in New York and then went on to London to perform. The team appeared together across Europe, in places like London, Copenhagen, Paris, Vienna, Rome, and Milan.
Upon returning from their successful performances in Europe, Nancy and Francois performed across the United States on stages at Radio City Music Hall, Carnegie Hall, and Madison Square Garden. The pair even appeared on the Ed Sullivan Show.
In 1966, the duo came to Las Vegas to work in the growing Las Vegas entertainment industry. Their first job was at the Dunes Hotel in Casino de Paris. Two years later, in 1968, they joined the cast of the Folies Bergere at the Tropicana. Nancy’s time performing at the Tropicana proved short when she left the show to marry the president of the Tropicana Hotel, J. Kell Houssels Jr., in 1970.
After she married, Nancy left show business and devoted her efforts to her new family. She had two children and also raised three stepchildren. She continually looked for ways to help her community. She served on many local agencies and boards including Child Haven, the local PBS affiliate, and the UNLV Foundation. She chaired the Nevada State Council of the Arts for seven years and helped establish a Folk Arts program in the state. She has also worked to increase funding for arts organizations.
Despite her retirement, Nancy’s passion for dance remained strong and led her to establish the Nevada Dance Theatre in 1972 with Vassili Sulich. Through Nancy’s hard work the Nevada Dance Theatre was able to provide important community service by providing lessons to low-income students from the city. In 1998, the company was renamed the Nevada Ballet Theatre and moved into a new facility in Summerlin and continues to play an important role of outreach and uplift in the city of Las Vegas.
For further biographical information, see:
- Nancy Houssels, “Nancy Houssels: A Collaborative Memoir,” an interview by Caryll Batt Dziedziak [transcript], Las Vegas Women Oral History Project, 2006, Special Collections, Library, University of Nevada, Las Vegas.