Western Arkansas Ballet was founded July 23, 1979 as the Fort Smith Civic Ballet and reorganized in August 1985 under the present logo and code of ethics. Mrs. Nancy Wood founded Western Arkansas Ballet (WAB) under the direct influence of Mrs. Lorraine Cranford, founder of Ballet Arkansas. Mrs. Wood’s dream was to have an organization that offered quality dance education, training and performance in a professional yet local venue. WAB was housed in a “one-room” school house until 2004 when the organization moved into a 7,000 square foot three studio, state of the art facilities. Mrs. Wood firmly believed in “giving-back” to the Fort Smith and surrounding communities. There have been numerous projects to benefit our local community over the years and some still continue today.
- Annual classical ballet performances of The Nutcracker have become a Fort Smith community tradition; currently in its 31st year of production.
- This production brings in professional classical ballet dancers to continue to expose the local patrons to the profession.
- Pre-visits and Post-visits to area third grade classrooms by our Executive Artistic Director explaining ballet in depth have been a part of our spring performance for the past twelve years. These visits have been instrumental in shaping our spring performance directly toward the third grade students.
- Offer a season of two major productions; the first being The Nutcracker, a full length classical ballet since 1996; the second being a full-length classical ballet, chosen each season.
- Dance Camps are provided for every age group each summer. These consist not only of their specific dance discipline, but also dance history, nutrition, performance and dance vocabulary specific to each age group.
- For the past three years we have also collaborated with the Fort Smith Symphony in their concert for area sixth graders entitled Earquake!. Our dancers perform to one specific piece of music for the program. This helps the sixth graders have a visual to watch and also helps to expose WAB to an audience that just saw them three years prior in their third grade year. The past two years, the Fort Smith Symphony has also taken the concert to the Bentonville/Rogers area.
- The Fort Smith Regional Art Museum has been most helpful with our annual Nutcracker Art Contest in providing new artwork for posters, t-shirts, programs and other promotional material. The art center always displays the winning artwork the month before the show in their gallery. The art center staff has also been known to give input on selecting the artwork. The art contest is open to all area junior high and high school art classes and the winner receives a cash prize, two tickets to The Nutcracker and a free t-shirt displaying the winning artwork.
- Collaboration with the University of Arkansas – Fort Smith. Currently, WAB is teaching fundamental courses, including ballet, jazz, tap and modern, which are required for the Theatre Arts degree program.
WAB strives to reach communities in our local area that traditionally would not be exposed to dance as an art form, especially classical ballet. We have a variety of programs to help expose our organization to the Fort Smith Community.
- Lincoln Child Care – free classes are offered on a weekly basis during the school year. This is a preschool whose main focus is preparing low income household children for the public education system. The executive director of Lincoln Child Care has commented that these children develop better and work harder having been a part of WAB’s creative movement classes. These creative movement classes are meant to develop the musicality and coordination of young dancers.
- Free instruction to Girls, Inc. summer programs
- We have offered a portion of a classical ballet to area public, private and homeschooled third graders for the past 13 years. In 2011, we presented Act II of The Nutcracker ballet on the Friday before our public performances.
- Reduced ticket prices for non-profit youth groups and students.
In 2008, we began a program in rural junior high school physical education classes, offering ballet as an arts appreciation class. This class was received well in the Mansfield school district and it is our hope to continue the program and possibly offer to other rural school districts that do not have immediate access to Fort Smith.