The Staff of Western Arkansas Ballet


Melissa Schoenfeld, Executive Artistic Director

Mrs. Schoenfeld is in her 26th year with Western Arkansas Ballet. Previous to coming to WAB, she earned her Bachelor and Master Degrees in Fine Arts Ballet Pedagogy from the University of Oklahoma, one of the top dance departments in the country. 

While at the University of Oklahoma, she studied under Yvonne Chouteau, one of the five famous Indian Ballerinas from Oklahoma, Mary Margaret Holt and Miguel Terekhov, Professor Emeritus of Dance at OU. She was also afforded the opportunity in 1985 to travel to Russia and study ballet from Clara Nicolayevna, an instructor with the Byelorussian State Academy, USSR.

During her tenure with Western Arkansas Ballet, she has attended many continuing education workshops including a Russian Ballet Seminar in Denver, CO, Teachers’ Workshops in conjunction with the International Ballet Competition in Jackson, MS (90, 94, 98, 02 and 06). Faculty for these workshops included David Howard and Finis Young. She attended the International Ballet Teachers’ Workshop in Vail, CO, which was in conjunction with Vail International Evenings of Dance in 90, 94, and 98.  Mrs. Schoenfeld has attended the Community Development Institute at UCA in 2013.

With Western Arkansas Ballet, she believes that children should have the opportunity to dance for exercise, self esteem, and self confidence. 

Marica Porter, Administrator and Ballet Instructor

Miss Porter is in her fifth season with Western Arkansas Ballet. She began her formal training with Liz Dimmel and Tobin James at Dramatic Truth School of Ballet in Lee’s Summit, MO. There, she was a founding member of the Dramatic Truth Touring Company, traveling across the U.S. and Israel to perform. She attended Stephens College in Columbia, MO, where she received a BFA in Dance Performance, along with a BA in Business Administration and a Minor in Mathematics.

She has danced with Collin County Ballet Theatre in Plano, Texas, under the direction of Kirt Hathaway, and Western Oklahoma Ballet Theatre in Clinton, Oklahoma, under the direction of Penny Askew, performing in Peter & The Wolf, The Nutcracker, Cinderella, Alice in Wonderland, and many original works.

Miss Porter is an ABT® Certified Teacher, who has successfully completed the ABT® Teacher Training Intensive in Primary through Level 7 of the ABT® National Training Curriculum.

Brittany Whitford, Dance Instructor

 Miss Whitford is in her first season at Western Arkansas    Ballet. She grew up dancing and teaching at MJM Studios in  Kentucky. She has taken various workshops from teachers  such as Bob Fosse, Jason Samuels  Smith, Al Gilbert and  Frank Hatchett. She then went on to the University of Buffalo in New York where she  received a BA in Dance.

 While studying at the University she was able to study under HT Chen and John Lehrer. She was also  selected to perform in a traditional Chinese dance showcase, taught by professional Chinese dancer  Xingqiong He, for the grand opening of the Confucius Institute.

Through the university Miss Whitford studied dance at the Chichester University in England for four months. As part of her choreographic studies she created a piece, “Low”, that was later chosen to tour with the 3Fall Dance Company around England. She was the technical assistant at Chichester University for the dance department while in England.

Miss Whitford has choreographed award winning dances for competitive teams in Kentucky and Kansas. She is excited to bring her passion for dance to Arkansas.

Nikki McDaniel, Administrative Assistant

Nikki McDaniel has joined us as Administrative Assistant.  She is a Fort Smith-area native who graduated from Southern Methodist University in Dallas, Texas, with degrees in Advertising and Management.  She has previously worked in public relations, customer service, and office administration and is very excited to bring her talents to Western Arkansas Ballet!






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