Ballet Arts Ensemble
The mission of Ballet Arts Ensemble, a youth ballet company, is to provide educational and performing opportunities for its members while perpetuating the art of dance, with an emphasis in ballet.
Established in 1982 by Jerre James and Bette Joachimi, BAE is a nonprofit organization created to promote and perpetuate the art of dance. With the retirement of Jerre James in 2001, ballet mistress Cathleen Huling became BAE’s artistic director. And in the fall of 2014, former BAE member Erin Rafferty was selected as ballet mistress.
Chosen in open auditions each May, a group of 14-20 dancers of middle through high school age is selected for membership in this exceptional dance group. Ensemble members must take two classical ballet classes a week in addition to the weekly 4-hour Ensemble class (with live accompaniment) and rehearsal block. They also benefit from outstanding instruction by a variety of guest artists and visiting teachers from such organizations as American Ballet Theatre, American Repertory Ballet, Ballet Quad Cities, Blue Lake Fine Arts Camp, Boston Ballet, DanceWorks Chicago, Education for the Arts, Grand Rapids Ballet, Hubbard Street 2, Royal Ballet (London), Rutgers University, Tokyo Ballet, Wellspring/Cori Terry & Dancers, and Western Michigan University. Frequently, guest choreographers set new works for mixed repertory concerts on BAE members.
The BAE Board of Directors plans and implements the season’s program, which is designed to include full-length ballets as well as mixed repertory and collaborative events with area dancers, musicians, and singers in various Southwest Michigan venues. In December of odd-numbered years, BAE presents a fully staged Nutcracker—in collaboration with the Kalamazoo Symphony Orchestra and the Children’s Chorus—at classical Chenery Auditorium.
Enrichment activities are an important part of our history. In 2002, the BAE board established the W. Dale and Geraldine Crooks Scholarship to provide assistance for those serious dancers who wish to pursue summer studies outside Ballet Arts School of Dance. The scholarship supports programs in dance-related fields that enrich and further the recipient’s dance education.
In the past 13 years, 116 girls have received awards totaling $32,146 for summer intensives and attended programs at American Ballet Theatre Michigan, Blue Lake Fine Arts Camp, Cecchetti Council of America International, Children’s Ballet Theatre, Complexions Contemporary Ballet, Grand Rapids Ballet, Indiana University Ballet, Joffrey Ballet Dance Lab, Minnesota Ballet, Point Park University International, Syracuse University, Texas Christian University, and Turning Pointe School of Dance.
BAE also funds annual field trips that enable Ensemble members to attend professional dance productions in and out of Michigan, including performances by American Ballet Theatre, Ballet Quad Cities, Dayton Ballet, Grand Rapids Ballet, Joffrey Ballet, Miami City Ballet, MOMIX, and Western Michigan University Department of Dance.