Michael Fothergill, Executive and Artistic Director
Michael's journey in the world of dance began at the Betty Hill Dance Studios in Des Moines, Iowa. His training continued under the guidance of Robert Thomas and Miyoko Kato from the Harkness and Joffrey Ballets at the Robert Thomas Dancenter, and later on full scholarship at the Milwaukee Ballet School, Boston Ballet School, and the School of American Ballet.
Graduating from high school ahead of schedule, Michael completed his training at American Ballet Theatre and began a performing career that spanned two decades. His artistic pursuits took him across the United States, Europe, and Asia. As a member of the Milwaukee Ballet, Alabama Ballet, Charleston Ballet Theatre, and City Ballet of San Diego, Michael performed leading roles in the classics and in works by Ashton, Balanchine, Baryshnikov, De Mille, Dow, Duato, Fokine, Fosse, Gamonet, Kylián, Massine, MacMillan, Nureyev, Prokovsky, Robbins, Tharp, Tudor, Van Fleteren, and others. His presence was highly sought after across Europe and Japan, where he performed extensively as a guest principal dancer and and worked closely with esteemed companies affiliated with Japan Ballet Association. Michael retired from performing in April of 2017 and was appointed Executive and Artistic Director of Ballet Arkansas in July of the same year.
Ballet Arkansas has since evolved into a dynamic institution, curating an eclectic repertoire that includes the classics, masterworks of American Dance, and original works by the world's most daring dancemakers. In fewer than 5 years, Michael transformed the organization's vision and programming, eliminated its debt, and doubled its gross operating budget to exceed $1.3M. Today, the organization is ranked among the Top 100 Ballet Companies in America and has been twice named Best Performing Arts Organization in Arkansas by the Arkansas Times.
In his role as Executive and Artistic Director, Michael oversees all elements of operations for Ballet Arkansas's 16 member professional company and its affiliated school, the Ballet Arkansas School for Dance. He's added vibrant works by George Balanchine, Christopher Wheeldon, Gerald Arpino, Agnes De Mille, Ma Cong, Madison Hicks, Simon Kuban, FLOCK (Alice Klock and Florian Lochner), Yuka Oba-Muschiana, Maddie Falconer, Yury Yanowsky, Yoshito Sakuraba, Ashley Green, and Mariana Oliveira to Ballet Arknasas's repertoire, showcasing a dynamic blend of classical and contemporary works that captivate audiences and critics alike. Michael has created several full-length productions for Arkansas audiences including Dracula, Sleepy Hollow, The Great Gatsby, The Nutcracker, Wonderland: Alice's Epic Adventure, and Cinderella, each to rave reviews. In the fall of 2017, Michael launched the Ballet Arkansas Children's Series, a highly-popular series of interactive and educational productions designed for young audiences, and subsequently founded Live @ The Plaza and Movement in the Parks, two free concert series that activate green spaces through the arts across Little Rock and North Little Rock. His pandemic-era holiday programming received national accolades from CBS for its innovative and inclusive approach, and the organization's broadcasts reach audiences in all 50 states and in more than 60 countries.
In addition to his work at Ballet Arkansas, Michael is a sought after choreographer, dance educator, and consultant. His choreography has been performed throughout the United States and in Iceland, Australia, France, Romania, Dubai, Spain, Puerto Rico, Mexico, and in Japan, and his work for film was featured within Dance the Dream at 50, an international documentary produced by acclaimed filmmaker Richard Karz. Michael is the founding director of the Cecchetti Council of America's Enhanced Men's Training Program and regularly serves on the faculty of CCA's International Summer School. He has sat on the juries of the Hokkaido Ballet Competition and CCA Classical Ballet Competition and has coached numerous dancers to success at national and international competition. Over the course of his career, Michael has taught for dozens of professional companies and schools across the USA and abroad. Notable teaching engagements include Steps on Broadway, Peridance Capezio Center, Samford University, and Belhaven University, where he was most recently a guest artist in residence. In Arkansas, Michael has lectured at UA-Little Rock, the Arkansas Museum of Fine Arts, the Walton Arts Center, and UA-Pulaski Technical College's Center for Humanities and Arts. In recognition of his business acumen, Michael has received accolades, including being named one of the Top 100 Professionals in Arkansas in 2020 and recognized as one of the Top Influencers of 2022 by Arkansas Money & Politics Magazine. Soirée Magazine further acknowledged his impact by naming him one of only 25 Men on a Mission statewide in 2023. His accomplishments were further underscored with his induction into Who's Who in America in 2022, solidifying his status as an influential figure in today's dance world.