Choreographer and founder of the Ohio Ballet, Poll was born in Oberhausen, Germany, and was a champion ice skater before he became a dancer. His experience on the rink imbued him with a love of speed that he expressed in his athletic baroque ballet, Cascade (1985).
After World War II, he studied dance at Jooss’s Folkwang School in Essen, and began his professional career at the Municipal Theatre in Goettingen. He later became a principal dancer with the Berlin State Opera Ballet.
In 1951, he joined the National Ballet of Chile as a dancer, ballet master, and teacher. The company’s tradition of bringing serious programs to indigenous people in remote mountain villages served as the model for Ohio Ballet’s Summer Festival of free outdoor performances.
In 1962, Poll joined Ballet de Jeunesse Musicales de France as ballet master. Two years later, he came to the United States as a guest artist with the Chilean company. He performed in the American Dance Festival the following summer and stayed in New York to teach at Thalia Mara’s National Academy of Ballet.
In Akron, he developed Ohio Ballet into one of America’s most polished, respected, and widely traveled chamber dance troupes. Poll was awarded the Association of Ohio Dance Companies Award in 1983, the Cleveland Arts Prize in 1995, and the Ohio Arts Council’s Governor’s Award in 1999. After his retirement, he wrote his memoir and has conferred a number of his ballets to former Ohio Ballet dancers.
In 1974, with lighting designer Thomas Skelton, he founded Akron’s first professional company, the Chamber Ballet, which eventually became Ohio Ballet.
"Besides creating a professional dance company of national stature and taking it to New York City for five seasons, Heinz Poll created this special summer experience," says Jane Startzman, director of the Heinz Poll Summer Dance Festival. " Everyone told him that he was crazy, but he was accustomed to accomplishing what others thought impossible. This year’s festival is a perfect tribute to Heinz’ legacy and a wonderful gift to the community."
Heinz Poll died in April, 2006.