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The School at Open Space offers professional dance training and fosters artistic development through collaboration, inclusiveness and performance.  Current classes are designed for students 3-19 years of age.

Cooperative Organization:

Franco Nieto, Charlene Hannibal,  and Maeve Dougal founded Open Space on the principles of cooperation, communication and celebration.  Our shared vision was to create an “Open Space” for dancers, artists and movement enthusiasts in Portland, Oregon.  The School at Open Space works in partnership with the performing company, faculty and our students along with their families, to offer authentic and nourishing experiences with dance and one another.   


As an arts education center, we want to honor the quest for new knowledge and authentic experiences.  We offer regular weekly classes in ballet, pointe, contemporary and jazz technique, with additional weekend workshops in choreography, somatics and hip-hop. Through ongoing rehearsals, performances and educational seminars, we aim to bring the lessons learned in the classroom to life through interactive performance experiences.


An integral part of dance is that it is a performative art.  Performances have many facets and we want to explore all the ways community members can engage with our moving art form.  Whether it’s a ticketed theater event, a site-specific outdoor performance, or an interactive experience, performing is an important facet in sharing dance with each other and allowing young artists to grow.



We celebrate diversity and giving back to our community! Through building a strong sense of community within The School, and providing multiple access points for our larger community, we put our shared interest at the center of what we do.

Affordability and Access:

We want everyone to be able to MOVE! The School offers scholarships based on financial need, merit and creating a diverse student body.

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Franco Nieto

Artistic Director

Princess Grace Award winner Franco Nieto was born and raised in the Pacific Northwest. He made the unconventional switch from football to ballet in his teenage years and has now taught and danced in over 10 different countries and performed with the likes of Lady Gaga and Sir Elton John. He spent 10 years as a principal dancer with NW Dance Project in Portland, Oregon, where he toured the world and worked hand in hand with the leading minds in choreography to create and bring to life countless original works. His early training came from the Vancouver School of Arts & Academics and Columbia Dance, and his formative line of choreography was born from his mentorship with Tracey Durbin. He graduated with his BFA in Jazz from Point Park University. Franco brings his big heart to every class at Open Space.

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Charlene Hannibal

Executive Director

Born and raised in Portland, Charlene trained at The School of Oregon Ballet Theatre for over a decade until joining OBT as an apprentice.  She danced professionally with Company C Contemporary Ballet, The Oakland Ballet, Imagery and Berkeley City Ballet.  In addition to her classical and neoclassical repertoire, Ms. Hannibal has performed the work of Twyla Tharp, Antony Tudor, James Canfield, Patrick Corbin, Charles Anderson, Gregory Dawson, Michael Smuin, Paul Taylor, David Parsons, Amy Seiwert, Paul Vasterling, and Thaddeus Davis.


Charlene was interested in teaching dance from a young age.  She assisted children’s classes during her tenure as a student at OBT and notated the school’s entire syllabus under Haydée Gutiérrez. Ms. Hannibal has taught ballet for Marin Dance Theatre, Contra Costa Ballet, Berkeley City Ballet, Portland Festival Ballet, Post:Ballet, BodyVox, and OBT.  She was the Youth Ballet Director at NW Dance Project from 2018-2021.  Her teaching is heavily informed by the wonderful artists and teachers at Alonzo King LINES Ballet.


Charlene is a classically trained pianist, and holds an English degree from UC Berkeley.  She became a certified yoga instructor in Pahoa, Hawaii in 2001.  She taught yoga in San Francisco throughout her career as a professional dancer.  In 2011, after studying extensively with posture guru Esther Gokhale, Charlene became a posture coach.  An anthropologically-based practice aimed at helping those with back pain, Charlene has led hundreds of Gokhale Method seminars throughout Portland and the Bay Area.  Currently, Ms. Hannibal resides in Portland with her husband Colin and their children Winston and Millie.


Maeve Dougal

Director of Education


Maeve Dougal holds an MA in Dance Education/American Ballet Theatre (ABT) Ballet Pedagogy from New York University and a BFA in Dance from Utah Valley University. She is honored to be a member of the Artistic Board of Examiners  for American Ballet Theatre’s National Training Curriculum.  Maeve previously directed the Mason Gross Extension Division’s ABT Certified School of Ballet at Rutgers University. She serves as the Education + Outreach Coordinator at NW Dance Project, has directed the Rutgers Summer Dance Programs, and was a lecturer in the Department of Dance at Rutgers University.

Maeve is an ABT® Teaching Fellow who has successfully completed the ABT® Teacher Training Intensive in Primary through Level 7 and Partnering of the ABT® National Training Curriculum. She has taught on faculty at NW Dance Project, the Harlem School of the Arts, Princeton Ballet School, Washington Rock Dance, the Huntington Center for Performing Arts, The Bridge for Dance in New York City, and ABT’s Dance Bermuda Summer Program. She has taught in outreach and after-school programs for ABT Kids, the Northside Center for Childhood Development, and the Wardlaw + Hartridge School.

Maeve danced with Utah Metropolitan Ballet while earning her undergraduate degree. She received her early dance training at The School of Oregon Ballet Theatre in Portland, Oregon and at Columbia Dance in Vancouver, Washington. Maeve attended the Vancouver School of Arts and Academics from 1998–2003. She has attended summer programs with Boston Ballet School and American Ballet Theatre. 

Maeve Dougal has worked with the nation’s leading ballet companies as a teaching artist and administrator. She held administrative positions for Youth America Grand Prix (YAGP), the world’s largest ballet scholarship organization, and fulfilled internships with The George Balanchine Trust, The New York Choreographic Institute at New York City Ballet, and  with the ABT Studio Company.

Maeve welcomed her son Luka to the world in January 2021.




Little Artists

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Young / Little Artists


Young Artists


Little Artists


Little Artists

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Young Artists


Young Artists

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Little Artists


Young Artists


Young Artists

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