Nancy Houssels

Born in Piedmont, California, Nancy began dancing at age three. After graduating from UCLA with a BA degree in Theater Arts, she performed worldwide in theater and television as part of the famed dance team, “Szony & Claire” with partner Francois Szony. The duo appeared several times on the Ed Sullivan and Hollywood Palace television shows and performed at the London Palladium, Radio City Music Hall, and the Latin Quarter, among numerous venues throughout the world.

Szony & Claire first appeared in Las Vegas in 1966 in the Casino de Paris show at the Dunes Hotel. They returned to Las Vegas in 1968 as the closing act in the Folies Bergere at the Tropicana Hotel. Nancy retired and married J. Kell Houssels, then President of the Tropicana, Chairman of the Showboat Hotel and Vice-President of the Union Plaza Hotel. In 1972, she co-founded Nevada Dance Theatre (now Nevada Ballet Theatre) with Vassili Sulich and to this day, remains the driving force as Co-Chair of the Board of Trustees.

Although Nancy was no longer performing, she extended her career by working in the community, becoming involved with the arts and children. She has received numerous accolades including the Governor’s Art’s Award for Distinguished Service to the Arts, the Jameson Philanthropic Achievement Award, Chamber of Commerce Women of Achievement Award, the Chris Schallert Award from WE CAN for abused and abandoned children among many others. She has served on a diverse number of Boards such as the UNLV Foundation, the Meadows School, as Chair of the Nevada Arts Council, Bank of Commerce, Children’s Service Guild and The Smith Center for the Performing Arts.

Nancy’s dream of a world-class performing arts center in Las Vegas and a state-of-the-art performance home for the ballet has now become a reality with the opening of The Smith Center for the Performing Arts in 2012.

Nancy was a devoted wife to her husband Kell for 46 years. She continues to cherish her children, Kelly, Eric and Josh and her 7 grandchildren. Also, she has dedicated a great deal of time in the last forty years to breeding and raising Great Dane dogs.