Ballet Arkansas is Setting the Barre

In recent weeks, Ballet Arkansas dancers took their final bows of the season, wrapping up an exciting 45th anniversary lineup. It’s a long way from 1966 when the company got its start as the Little Rock Civic Ballet, before then becoming a 501(c)3 nonprofit organization in 1978. It is currently the only professional ballet company in Little Rock and acts as the state’s official ballet company, reaching northwest, central and southern regions of the state.

“From classic performances to innovative new works, Ballet Arkansas continues to push the boundaries of dance and inspire audiences of all ages,” board president Ann Patel says, promising the 46th season will dazzle and “continue to uphold our legacy of excellence.”

That legacy is due in large part to the visionary leadership of husband-and-wife duo Michael and Catherine Fothergill who joined Ballet Arkansas in 2017. Michael serves as the executive and artistic director, and Catherine is the associate artistic director and media liaison.

Michael and Catherine entered the dance world as young children, and their paths converged at Alabama Ballet where they met and fell in love while playing the principal roles in “Romeo and Juliet.” They took the stage together regularly until Michael says his body told him it was time to move on from performing. The opportunity at Ballet Arkansas fortunately coincided perfectly with their retirement from dancing.

“This opportunity gave us the chance to stay involved in ballet on the artistic side, but also kind of dip our toe into business, marketing, patron management and all the other things that a nonprofit provides,” Catherine says.

“And to be able to do it together is great,” Michael says. “It’s hard to find a workplace as husband and wife where you can continue to work together. We had a partnership on the stage and off the stage, and it’s nice to maintain that sort of relationship.”

When putting together a program each season, the couple must consider a number of factors.

“The audience often has an idea of what they’re hoping to see from a ballet company, which is often narrative stories that people can relate to like ‘The Nutcracker,’ ‘Sleeping Beauty’ or ‘Cinderella’ — things people can visualize in their mind when they think of classical ballet,” Michael says.

“But there’s also so much work out there that is cutting edge that is changing the landscape for dance right now. We think it’s important that we find the balance that challenges people, excites them and ultimately brings people together.”

Credit: Matthew Sewell Photography | Ballet Arkansas

Accessibility to their performances is a big priority for the Fothergills. They are continually finding ways to bring their shows in front of new audiences. The company has the region’s only portable professional dance stage that mimics a theater floor so they can perform in a variety of venues.

One of the troupe’s new partnerships is with United Cerebral Palsy of Arkansas.

“It started out of a smaller conversation about how we could provide entertainment and fulfillment to these individuals,” Michael says. “But then it grew into finding what we could do to improve these individuals’ movement quality and improve their quality of life.”

“Our professional dancers will go there twice a month and have a 30-minute session where they work with them and turn on music and go through movement that will benefit them. We also go into the adult center and perform,” Catherine says.

Dancing is accessible to the greater community through classes and camps the studio hosts for all ages. Michael says dance education teaches students to “creatively problem solve, develop communication skills, gain collaboration experience and find their own voice and confidence.”

“We have a lot of adult students who talk about how they have improved elasticity, strength and balance, especially within the aging population,” Michael says. “They have better understanding of where their thresholds are, and their daily activities are improved by learning how to make better use of the body.”

The Fothergills have big plans for the future of the organization, but their priorities will always lie with education and new community relationships.

“We’re going to continue to pursue more ways to put programming in front of people by way of collaboration,” Michael says, “meeting them where they are and trying to increase the offerings we have educationally and providing more opportunities for people to see us in different, less traditional venues.

“The premise of everything we do is to bring joy to people. We don’t just think of it as entertainment. We think of it as uplifting, enriching and inspiring Arkansans. We want to uplift, enrich and inspire and, most importantly, do it in a way where people feel like they’ve got a takeaway that will last a long time.”

“It has been a joy to witness Ballet Arkansas’ remarkable growth over the past nine seasons,” says Meredith Loy, a company artist. “The transformation of the company is truly amazing, and the organization has worked tirelessly to bring us to where we are today. From showcasing works by renowned choreographers and elaborate full-length productions, to nurturing young talent through Ballet Arkansas’ School for Dance, the journey has been incredibly rewarding to watch.

“I am filled with anticipation and excitement for the future of Ballet Arkansas.”

Ballet Arkansas 2024/2025 Season

“Bold New Moves”
Debut works by next-gen choreographers
Sept. 13-15
Argenta Plaza

Bizet’s “Carmen”
A fiery tale of passion and betrayal
Oct. 11-13 | Arkansas Museum of Fine Arts

Encore: “The Seven Deadly Sins”
An All Hallow’s Eve soirée
Oct. 24-26 | Arkansas Repertory Theatre

“Nutcracker Spectacular”
With the Arkansas Symphony Orchestra
Dec. 13-15
Robinson Center

“Romeo & Juliet”
The world’s greatest love story with the Arkansas Symphony Orchestra
Feb. 14-16
Robinson Center

“Nouveau: Modern Art in Motion”
Featuring “Rite of Spring”
April 25-27 | Arkansas Museum of Fine Arts

Turning Pointe Gala
Date & location TBA

Program details are subject to change. Learn more at

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