The History of Ballet Arts, Inc.
The formation of any organization begins with a vision to the future. The idea that Jackson, Tennessee, could be the environment for a civic ballet company was discussed by a pair of local ballet teachers, Pat Brown and Jackie Ralls, in 1972. A committee was formed and they established a mission and purpose that would educate the community to appreciate the lovely art of ballet, to provide an opportunity to area dancers to participate in quality performances, and to provide qualified teachers for the future. A set of by-laws and a charter was registered with the state and Ballet Arts, Inc. was a reality in October 1975.
The very first company consisted of 14 members. Its first performance was shared with a modern dance class at Lambuth College. The budget for the performance was $200 for costumes, and there were 35 people in the audience.
The early years were spent giving lecture demonstrations to civic groups, private groups in homes, and participations in local fairs. The education of Jackson audiences proved to be a never-ending program. Audiences grew slowly as the company performed classics like The Sleeping Beauty, Snow Maiden, and Cinderella.
When in 1981 Ballet Arts teamed with a Memphis company to do The Nutcracker, the city of Jackson took a more serious notice of the struggling company. Audiences began to increase, the quality of dancers climbed, and local donations were added to the company coffers.
Since then Ballet Arts has presented The Nutcracker annually, as well as a spring production featuring ballets such as Cinderella, Coppélia, The Tales of Beatrix Potter, Sweet Lips Suite, Dorothy in the Emerald City and many others.
The company has presented guest dancers from New York City Ballet, American Ballet Theatre, San Francisco Ballet, Paris Opera Ballet, and Royal Birmingham Ballet from England as well as many others.
Company members have moved on to teach in their own schools and to dance in regional and state ballet companies, both in the U.S. and Europe. As students they have been accepted into summer courses of study presented by major companies.
From those humble beginnings in 1975 the budget has grown to $85,000, a membership of 60 dancers, and audiences of 5,000 plus per year.
The dedicated people that have served as board members, both past and present, work tirelessly with the artistic director to continue the growth of the company and the commitment to its mission and to Jackson.
The photos above are (left) members of the original ballet company and (right) founder-directors, Mrs. Jackie Ralls and Mrs. Pat Brown Seltzer.