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Ballet Arts Ensemble is a nonprofit, youth ballet company established in 1982 by Jerre James and Bette Joachimi. With the retirement of Jerre James in 2001, ballet mistress, Cathleen Huling became BAE's artistic director. 

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 was co-owner of the studio from 1991-2022.  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.

Lauren Wertz

Artistic Assistant

Lauren has been dancing at Ballet Arts School of Dance since 2001 and was a member of Ballet Arts Ensemble from 2012 to 2015. Throughout her years at Ballet Arts, she danced in a number of Nutcracker productions, Cinderella, The Dinner Party, Peter and the Wolf, and many other performances.  She continues to take classes at Ballet Arts and has appeared in several alumnae pieces.

After graduating high school, Lauren attended Kalamazoo Valley Community College and graduated with honors earning a degree in Culinary Arts and Sustainability. 

She is excited to be selected as BAE’s Artistic Assistant and looks forward to serving in this position.

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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