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. Western Arkansas Ballet has an Executive Artistic Director, Ballet Master, Dance Faculty, Dance Instructor, Administrator, and Administrative Assistant. Western Arkansas Ballet is governed by a Board of Directors from the Fort Smith community with input from our National Artistic Advisory Board and our Community Advisory Board.
For the past thirty-one years, the Board of Directors has introduced and implemented outreach and educational programs to fulfill the mission of Western Arkansas Ballet. The Board of Directors is proud of the unique characteristics of Western Arkansas Ballet: it is the only dance organization in the area with membership in Regional Dance America/Southwest, an Association of Regional Ballet Companies; the only dance organization in the area to receive annual support from the Arkansas Arts Council; and the only nonprofit dance school and company in the area. The mission of Western Arkansas Ballet is to create a community dedicated to the Fine Arts through quality dance education, training and performance.
Focus on Quality Dance Education
WAB’s Executive Artistic Director, Melissa Schoenfeld, holds a Bachelor’s Degree and a Master’s Degree in Fine Arts from the University of Oklahoma. As a part of its mission to bring quality dance education to the community, Western Arkansas Ballet has developed and implemented many community outreach programs. In addition to teaching classes for The Academy of Western Arkansas Ballet during the school year, Mrs. Schoenfeld teaches classes for the Fort Smith Girls, Inc. Summer Program and Lincoln Child Care Center. Western Arkansas Ballet absorbs the total cost of providing these lessons as a part of its vision and commitment to community outreach.
In June 2016, Western Arkansas Ballet offered the 25th annual Lorraine Cranford Summer Dance Workshop. Named after the founder of Ballet Arkansas, this week-long workshop features a staff of various professional instructors from across the nation with teaching support from Arkansas. The week concludes with a demonstration performance by the workshop dancers. The 2017 Summer Dance workshop will be held June 4-9.
Focus on Quality Dance Training
The Academy of Western Arkansas Ballet, a nonprofit organization, offers classes for company and non-company members in ballet, pointe, tap, jazz, modern, hip hop, and creative movement at the Western Arkansas Ballet studios in Fort Smith.
The Nancy Wood Scholarship Fund was established in 1993 to provide funds to young people who had the desire to pursue the art of dance but not the financial means to do so. The scholarship was named in honor of the founder of Western Arkansas Ballet, Nancy Wood. The Ray Moore Scholarship Fund was established in the spring of 2005 by the children of Ray Moore. At his request, the fund was established to help children ages 4 to 9 to be able to participate in dance that might not otherwise be able to participate because of financial difficulties. Monies from these funds pay for dance tuition, shoes, workshops, and camps. The Amanda Dooly Scholarship Fund was established in 2012 by the family of Amanda Dooly, a former Western Arkansas Ballet company member, to encourage any dancer interested in exploring the art of choreography. The Rachel Campbell Smith Scholarship Fund was established in memory of Rachel Campbell Smith in 2012 by her family in order to support and encourage a young person in the dance arts. Young people across the state have received scholarships from these programs, but the majority of the recipients are students at the Academy of Western Arkansas Ballet.
The 2016-2017 Western Arkansas Ballet Company and WAB II Company are comprised of 27 members under contract for all productions with members selected from an annual open audition. Company members take class and rehearse at the Western Arkansas Ballet studios.
The Western Arkansas Ballet Company realized a long time dream in 1995 by being accepted into Regional dance America/Southwest, an Association of Regional Ballet Companies. Western Arkansas Ballet is the only dance school and company in the area with RDA membership. As a result of this membership, the company members have an opportunity to attend RDA Spring Festival and take classes from renowned faculty from across the United States. WAB’s company is adjudicated annually. The process is extremely demanding and difficult and only the best companies in the region are asked into membership. In April 1999 at the RDA/SW festival in San Antonio, Western Arkansas Ballet auditioned and became a performing company member. In April 2008 Western Arkansas Ballet was honored to receive the STREAM AWARD from RDA/SW. This award is presented to one company each year that exemplifies outstanding artistic excellence and growth as well as service above and beyond to the region. In April 2013, Western Arkansas Ballet hosted the Regional Dance America/Southwest Festival here in Fort Smith, Arkansas.
Focus on Performance
The Western Arkansas Ballet Company presented The Wizard of Oz, a brand new ballet choreographed especially for WAB in March 2012. WAB Company presented the new full-length ballet, Peter Pan in May 2014, and in April 2015 excerpts from the ballet Sleeping Beauty were brought to the stage by Jared Mesa, Ballet Master of WAB. Alice in Wonderland returned to the stage of the ArcBest Performing Arts Center in April 2016. Each May, the Academy of Western Arkansas Ballet presents its annual Spring Dance Concert which provides a “window view” of the discipline of dance to the Fort Smith Community.
The Nutcracker is in its 31st year of production by Western Arkansas Ballet. An abbreviated program is provided to area elementary schools in Fort Smith as a part of WAB’s continuing community outreach programs. The “Meet the Artists” event after each performance allows children to meet the cast in costume. Not only does the performance give Western Arkansas Ballet an opportunity to showcase local dance talents, but it also allows Western Arkansas Ballet to present performing professional dancers to the Fort Smith community. As part of the goal for community outreach, reduced-rate tickets are distributed to nonprofit children and youth groups.
Support for Western Arkansas Ballet is provided, in part, by the Arkansas Arts Council, an agency of the Department of Arkansas Heritage, and the National Endowment for the Arts.