Letter to the editor: A ‘thank you’ to Edmonds from Olympic Ballet founder


To the dear friends, families and supporters of Olympic Ballet — as Founding Co-Artistic Director of Olympic Ballet from 1981 to 2011, I write to thank you.

After John’s passing in 2003 and my retirement at 30 years, I look back and feel we left this community with a huge resume of accomplishments, but thanks to you, during our growth, this community never left us! However, I am now leaving Edmonds and feel the desire to express a huge appreciation from John and me to everyone in Puget Sound. After great fortune with loving this work, I repeat — thank you!

With creative and dedicated people all around us, the time of growing Olympic Ballet flew by. Collaborations with motivated students, high-quality artists, excellent live orchestras, exciting artistic events everywhere, deep personal friendships, and extraordinary restaurants made for a special and unique life experience (with mountains, ocean and ferries). These exceptional and diverse organizations, building great reputations together, made Edmonds a little Sausalito! How proud we were to be part of this creative and beautiful community.

John and I bought a well-established ballet school from Dorothy Fisher in 1981, but her teachers had opened their own schools with her students before we met them, so we began our journey from scratch. Our three children grew up at your amazing Anderson Center, all building professional careers that contributed to establishing our proud reputation.

After losing John, which devastated us all, Olympic Ballet continued with loving support from so many. Two of our children, Daniel and Julia, moved back from New York City. Both helped me through our loss until making choices to return to their own careers, with Julia returning to her professional work in NYC.  After staying as Associate Director in our classical school, Daniel’s contemporary energy eventually inspired him to establish his own great school and company in Seattle. Our eldest, Darrell, changed his career as a lawyer in Manhattan and moved to Berlin, Germany as a writer/translator in five languages.

In a timely surprise, high-level guest teachers from Pacific Northwest Ballet, Oleg Gorboulev and Mara Vinson — who were ready for a new adventure –emerged to buy the school. What a success that became! More than 10 years later, with great pride in that decision, I see they have turned Olympic Ballet into an extraordinary school and professional company. Wow!

This left me ready to move to Seattle, because turning 80 is a great time to find a little spot by family. I am desperately eager to give my inexpressible thanks, not just to students and parents who made our growth possible, but to the diversity of our community leaders who extended encouragement over a 30-year era, especially in naming the stage for John with the renovation of the Edmonds Center for the Arts.

Also, importantly, my successful move would never have happened without the untiring, unbelievably dedicated energy of arts/community supporter Greg Hoff of Windermere. This warm and extraordinary man, talented and inspiring beyond all expectations, made the difficult decisions for me, with confidence and patience. His generous incredible gifts made all the difference!

With unconditional love for this beautiful community, I extend my trust that Edmonds will always continue to encourage and develop its people! Thank you, Thank you!

With love

Helen Wilkins

  1. You gave us so much; your time, talent and energy. Thank you! Enjoy the next adventures in your life.

  2. Helen, you and John will forever be carved in my heart. Thanks to you two for the wonderful gift you gave to Edmonds. I feel honored to have been on your board to have worked alongside John with the PR and Marketing, and all the adventures we shared. Also, fun knowing I had been a student myself of Dorothy Fisher. I wish you every blessing in this next chapter of your life Helen.

  3. What a beautiful letter. While I do not know Helen, I can see what an extraordinary person she is and can imagine how much joy she has passed and continues to pass to others.

    1. Dear Helen, We are the ones who have been incredibly blessed to have you and John as headliners in making Edmonds a cultural mecca. Thousands of families have had their lives enriched–fellow-community leaders, parents, students, attendees at the many wonderful performances year after year. We are grateful this is a lasting legacy that never ends.
      Stay safe, healthy and enjoying life with family and friends.
      Much love,
      Barbara Kindness

  4. So happy for you for this new chapter, Helen. Since the pandemic I haven’t seen you, but enjoyed our friendship through dance and exercise. Love and blessings. Marcia Marsh

  5. All I can say is that you are so very awesome, Mrs. Wilkens. Thank you for your service to the community. You made a great difference in my life as a person and a dancer. My time at Olympic Ballet Theater was amazing. I am grateful to you and Mr. Wilkins. I began my studies in ballet with you all around the time in which you purchased the school. I remember all the life lessons and ballet you taught. When I was at DTH in NYC. I remember going to the Library at the Met and seeing on the sign in form that I had missed seeing you and Mr. Wilkins by an hour. I was so disappointed that I didn’t bump into you. Thank you for teaching me the love of ballet and giving me a strong foundation of ballet. It has taken me to some great places. When I teach ballet I teach it with kindness and respect the way that you taught me and my fellow classmates. Thank you again. Continue to enjoy your much deserved retirement.

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