Cathleen Huling
Artistic Director

Cathleen holds a Bachelor of Arts Degree

from Marietta College (Ohio).  She grew up

in Grand Rapids (Michigan) and studied with Sally Seven, soloist with Ballet Russe de Monte Carlo and founder of the Grand Rapids Civic Ballet.  While in Grand Rapids, Cathleen was active with the Civic Theatre and summer stock’s Circle Theatre.  She continued her dance studies at Western Michigan University where she appeared both as a performer and guest teacher.  

A 7-year participant of the Russian Seminar with Jurgen Schneider and Janina Cunovas, Cathleen continues her education at workshops presented by leading dance professionals around the country.  

Cathleen has been teaching ballet and character dance at Ballet Arts since 1982 and became co-owner of the studio in 1991.  In 2001, she became Artistic Director of Ballet Arts Ensemble (BAE) after serving as performer and Ballet Mistress since its inception in 1982.  Her love for ballet is reflected in BAE’s repertoire.  She is most noted for her productions of full-length ballets includingNutcracker, Cinderella, Peter and the Wolf, The Magical Toy Shop, The Skaters, Pas de Quatre, Les Sylphides, Red Shoes, Aladdin’s Magic Lamp, andCafé Parisian.  

In 2010, Cathleen premiered a brand new production of the fairytale, The 12 Dancing Princesses.  This father-daughter artistic creation—with original piano music composed by W. Dale Crooks, Cathleen’s father—brought together BAE and members of the Kalamazoo Symphony Orchestra (KSO) under the baton of Dr. Barry Ross. 

In addition to full-length ballets, Cathleen's choreography encompasses many musical styles and subjects.  Spanish Concerto, A Wee Bit of Irish, Friends, A Right to Spring, and Southern Suite are a sampling of her many works.  Her mini ballet, Just Playing Around, was performed with live violin and piano accompaniment; and It's All About . . . , a piece in three sections, was created in collaboration with local artist Kirk Newman and the Kalamazoo Institute of Arts. 

Her choreography has been selected on numerous occasions for performances with the KSO’s Youth Concert Series and Family Discovery Series as well as the Michigan Youth Arts Festival.  The movie debut of her choreography can be seen in Cherry, which was filmed in Kalamazoo and featured at the 2010 Saugatuck Waterfront Film Festival.

In 2016, Cathleen received the annual WMU Partners in Dance Community Dance Advocacy Award that celebrates significant accomplishments in advancing and supporting dance in the greater Kalamazoo area through volunteerism, artistic achievement, teaching, and administrative leadership. She is also a member of Partners in Dance and Dance Masters of America.



Erin Hall Rafferty
Ballet Mistress

Erin was raised in Portage (Michigan) and

began dancing at Ballet Arts School of Dance

in 1986 at the tender age of 3.  She studied for 15 years under Judi Holland, Jerre Locke James, Suzie Stambeck, and Cathleen Huling.  When she turned 12, Erin was selected to become a member of Ballet Arts Ensemble (BAE) and performed with the company for 6 years.  In high school, she participated in Kalamazoo’s Education for the Arts program and studied with Elizabeth Brown and Patricia Plasko.   

To further her dance education, Erin attended summer programs at Cecchetti Summer School, David Howard Student Intensive, Blue Lake Fine Arts Camp, and Grand Rapids Ballet.  In 1996, she traveled to Europe, performing with Blue Lake Dance Ensemble.

Erin’s most memorable performances and roles include La Boutique Fantasque, Aladdin in Aladdin’s Magic Lamp, Arabian soloist in BAE’s first production of Nutcracker, and principal dancer in Café Parisian.  In 1997, she was chosen to perform at the ceremony when Jerre Locke James received the Kalamazoo Community Medal of Arts Award.

​​Erin continued her studies at Western Michigan University, receiving her Bachelor’s Degree in dance and nursing.  She credits WMU for the opportunity to experience many genres of dance and strengthening her capabilities in teaching and choreography.  Erin’s WMU performance credits include Martha Graham’s Steps in the Street, Giselle, various Orchesis concerts, and a world premiere piece by Nina Nelson at the university’s Centennial Celebration in 2003.  

In 2004, Erin was a featured choreographer and dancer in two pieces for BAE’s Autumn Gala: BAE and Friends.  She taught at Ballet Arts School of Dance for 4 years, leaving to focus fully on her nursing career.  In 2012, she became a member of Ballet Arts Ensemble’s Board of Directors; and in 2014, she accepted the position of BAE’s Ballet Mistress.  Erin continues to enjoy taking dance class and performing in the Ensemble concerts.

Jerre Locke James 
Founder and Artistic Director Emerita

Jerre studied ballet in Kalamazoo with

Lillian Malone, then with Edna McRae

in Chicago.  In New York, she studied with Robert Joffrey and Ana Roje at Ballet Russe.  Jerre was selected to accompany Ana Roje to Yugoslavia to train and perform with its National Company.  Returning to Los Angeles, she studied with E. Loring, Oleg Tupine, and Carmelita Maracci.  She also danced professionally with Hollywood Bowl Dancers, Moro-Landis, and Music Circus.

Jerre holds a Master’s Degree in theater from USC.  In 1982, her interest in working to develop talent in young dancers led her to found Ballet Arts Ensemble.  In 1997, she was awarded the Kalamazoo Community Medal of Arts; and in 2007, she became the first recipient of the Community Dance Advocacy Award bestowed by the WMU Partners in Dance.

A former member of the Western Michigan Cecchetti Council, Jerre is currently a member of the Kalamazoo Institute of Arts and Partners in Dance.

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Ballet Arts Ensemble

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