EXECUTIVE AND ARTISTIC DIRECTOR - MICHAEL FOTHERGILL
Michael was introduced to dance at the young age of 7 while attending the Betty Hill Dance Studios in Des Moines, Iowa. He furthered his training with Robert Thomas and Miyoko Kato of the Harkness and Joffrey Ballets at the Robert Thomas Dancenter. He was a full scholarship recipient of the Milwaukee Ballet School, Boston Ballet School, and the School of American Ballet and completed his training with American Ballet Theatre following an early graduation from high school,
Michael's 20-year's career as a dancer took him across the United States, Europe, and Asia. He performed leading roles in the classics and in prominent works by Ashton, Balanchine, Baryshnikov, De Mille, Dow, Duato, Fokine, Fosse, Gamonet, Kylián, Massine, MacMillan, Nureyev, Prokovsky, Robbins, Tharp, Tudor, Van Fleteren, and others. Michael graced stages from Milwaukee to Tokyo until his retirement as a principal dancer and choreographer with the Alabama Ballet in 2017. Succeeding Michael Bearden, Michael was named Artistic Director of Ballet Arkansas in the same year, and appointed Executive and Artistic Director in 2018.
Since that time, Michael has transformed the organization's vision, image, and programming, eliminated its debt, and doubled its gross operating budget to exceed 1M USD. As Executive Director, he managed all elements of the organization's 40th anniversary gala, presented in Dassault Falcon Jet's airline hangar - the most successful in the organization's history. Ballet Arkansas now presents a vibrant repertory of the classics, celebrated works of American dance, and premieres by some of the world's most daring dancemakers. In 2017, Michael launched the highly popular Ballet Arkansas Children's Series, a series of interactive and educational productions designed for young audiences, and the Motion on Main Event Series - including the Splash Winter Wine Taste, a series of special events designed to engage young professionals within the Ballet's 520 Main Street Studios. Michael founded Live at the Plaza and Movement in the Parks, two highly successful free concert series housed in public spaces throughout Little Rock and in North Little Rock's Argenta Plaza, and his drive-by Winter Wonderland Nutcracker at the height of the pandemic received accolades from CBS national for its unique and innovative approach to pandemic-era programming. Under Michael's leadership, the organization's audience base has increased by more than 60% and more than 30 partnerships have been forged in healthcare, human services, education, and the arts. Since 2017, the Arkansas Time's twice named Ballet Arkansas "Best Performing Arts Organization in Arkansas," and the Dance Data Project ranked Ballet Arkansas among the top 100 ballet companies in America.
Michael is 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 Japan. Michael's work for film was featured within the international documentary “Dance the Dream at 50” produced by acclaimed filmmaker Richard Karz. For Ballet Arkansas, Michael created full-length productions of The Nutcracker Spectacular, Dracula, Sleepy Hollow, Cinderella, and The Great Gatsby, each to rave reviews. Under Michael's direction, Ballet Arkansas is the first company in the nation to premiere a fully immersive multimedia infused full-length productions featuring dynamic lighting, 360 sound, and vivid cinematic projection of the company's professional dancers during performance (Dracula/Sleepy Hollow/Great Gatsby). In 2022, Michael's Dracula was awarded the region's Best Multi-Media Performance by global syndicate Broadway World.
Michael is the founding director of the Cecchetti Council of America's Enhanced Men's Training Program and serves on the faculty of its International Summer School. He works extensively for Japan Ballet Association member schools and has served on the juries of the Hokkaido Ballet Competition and CCA Classical Ballet Competition. Over the years, Michael has taught at Steps on Broadway, Peridance Capezio Center, and on faculties for hundreds of summer intensive programs. Most recently, Michael served on faculty of Samford University, was a guest artist in residence at Belhaven University, and 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.
As a freelance consultant, Michael holds specializations in program development, strategic planning, and branding. In recognition of his business savvy, Arkansas Money & Politics Magazine named Michael as one of the Top 100 Professionals in Arkansas in 2020, and as one of the Top Influencers of 2022. He is an active member of the Association of Fundraising Professionals and Americans for the Arts. Michael is listed among other accomplished entrepreneurs, business owners, and professionals from the State of Arkansas within Marquis Who's Who in America 2022.