Our Mission

Ballet Mississippi seeks to enhance our state’s cultural life by providing quality performances, developing artistic and technical proficiency of our students, and promoting an appreciation of dance through education, outreach, and audience development.

Our Organization

Ballet Mississippi is governed by a Board of Directors whose responsibilities include fundraising, oversight, and ensuring that our artistic vision is continually developed. As a 501(c)3 non-profit, tax-exempt organization, we depend not only on revenue from tuition, production, and grants, but also on the generous donations of money and time by corporations and individuals.

Our History

In 1964, a group of citizens joined forces to promote ballet, one of the world’s most beautiful and expressive art forms. The Jackson Ballet Guild was formed under the artistic direction of Albia Kavan and Rex Cooper. Their commitments to the success of Jackson’s first ballet company resulted in countless hours of training, direction, and artistic development.

 

In 1975, at the request of the Jackson Ballet Guild, Thalia Mara was appointed Artistic Director.

 

In 1983, members of the Board of Directors of the Jackson Ballet and Mississippi Ballet Theater merged to establish Ballet Mississippi whose primary focus was to further develop a professional school and company.

 

In 1994, the Ballet Mississippi Board of Directors appointed David Keary, a Mississippian and former member of New York City Ballet, as the Artistic Director. Under his leadership, the school has grown to over 300 students.

 

 

Artistic & Executive Director

David Keary

David Keary began his ballet training with the Jackson Ballet under the direction of Albia Kavan Cooper, and later the first professional dancer under the direction of Thalia Mara. He completed his training at the School of American Ballet, the official school of the New York City Ballet. Mr. Keary was invited by George Balanchine to join the New York City Ballet where he performed the extensive repertoire of the NYCB and performances on the PBS series Dance in America

 

While a student at the School of American Ballet, he was invited to perform as guest artist to honor Princess Grace of Monaco. Before joining NYCB, he performed with Natalia Makarova’s Company Makarova and Company at the Uris Theatre in New York.

 

He also appeared in the film, Reflections of a Dancer: Alexandra Danilova. Mr. Keary later joined the Fort Worth Ballet as principal dancer, where he performed ballets by George Balanchine including Allegro Brilliante, Concerto Barocco, Rubies (Emeralds), Scotch Symphony, Square Dance, Who Cares, and works by choreographers such as Lew Christiansen, Lambros Lambrou and Michel Rahn.

 David Keary Artistic & Executive Director David Keary began his ballet training with the Jackson Ballet under the direction of Albia Kavan Cooper, and later the first professional dancer under the direction of Thalia Mara. He completed his training at the School of American Ballet, the official school of the New York City Ballet. Mr. Keary was invited by George Balanchine to join the New York City Ballet where he performed the extensive repertoire of the NYCB and performances on the PBS series Dance in America. While a student at the School of American Ballet, he was invited to perform as guest artist to honor Princess Grace of Monaco. Before joining NYCB, he performed with Natalia Makarova’s Company Makarova and Company at the Uris Theatre in New York. He also appeared in the film, Reflections of a Dancer: Alexandra Danilova. Mr. Keary later joined the Fort Worth Ballet as principal dancer, where he performed ballets by George Balanchine including Allegro Brilliante, Concerto Barocco, Rubies (Emeralds), Scotch Symphony, Square Dance, Who Cares, and works by choreographers such as Lew Christiansen, Lambros Lambrou and Michel Rahn. Upon returning to Mississippi, he completed his undergraduate studies at Millsaps College and later received a Juris Doctorate from Mississippi College School of Law. He was the first legal intern at the Court and later served as a law clerk to Justice James W. Smith at the Mississippi Supreme Court. In 1994, Mr. Keary transitioned and restructured Ballet Mississippi from a professional company into a professional school. He was appointed Artistic Director of Ballet Mississippi and he choreographed a full-length production of The Nutcracker. Ballet Mississippi presents an annual Spring Gala, which highlights the emerging talent in the school while presenting classical, neoclassical and emerging choreographic works. Guest artists from the New York City Ballet, American Ballet Theatre, Boston Ballet, Miami City Ballet and many other companies have performed with Ballet Mississippi. Ballets performed include Le Jardin Animee from the ballet Le Corsaire, Act II from Giselle and Swan Lake, Act III Sleeping Beauty. Mr. Keary served on the faculty International Dance School of the 2006 USA International Ballet Competition, where he has also taught classes for the competitors since 1998. Mr. Keary teaches throughout the United States and provides consulting work for many ballet schools and performing artists. Aside from his work at Ballet Mississippi, he is a jazz guitarist with Swing de Paris, Jackson’s version of a Hot Club of France which features the gypsy jazz music of Django Reinhardt.

Upon returning to Mississippi, he completed his undergraduate studies at Millsaps College and later received a Juris Doctorate from Mississippi College School of Law. He was the first legal intern at the Court and later served as a law clerk at the Mississippi Supreme Court with Justice James W. Smith.

 

In 1994, Mr. Keary transitioned and restructured Ballet Mississippi from a professional company into a professional school. He was appointed Artistic Director of Ballet Mississippi.  He choreographed a full-length production of The Nutcracker which has become a celebrated holiday event.  Ballet Mississippi also presents an annual Spring Gala, which highlights the emerging talent in the school while presenting classical, neoclassical and new works by emerging choreographers. Guest artists from the New York City Ballet, American Ballet Theatre, Boston Ballet, Miami City Ballet and many other companies have performed with Ballet Mississippi. Ballets performed include Le Jardin Animee from the ballet Le Corsaire, Act II from Giselle and Swan Lake, Act III Sleeping Beauty and Paquita Grand Pas Classique.

 

Mr. Keary began working with the USA International Ballet Competition in 1994 as assistant stage manager, taught the competitor classes in 1998, 2002 and 2006.  He joined the faculty of the USA IBC International Dance School during the 2006, 2010 and 2014 competitions.  He was appointed Director of the International Dance School in 2018 and currently for the 2023 USA IBC.  Mr. Keary is a consultant and teacher for many artists and ballet schools throughout the United States.  

 

In 2017, Mr. Keary was nominated by the USA International Ballet Competition and awarded by the Mississippi Arts Commission as the recipient of the prestigious Mississippi Arts Commission Governor’s Arts Award for Leadership in the Performing Arts in February 2018.  

 

Aside from his work at Ballet Mississippi and the USA International Ballet Compeition, he is an accomplished acoustic jazz guitarist in gypsy jazz music of Django Reinhardt, the swing music of the American Songbook as well as acoustic blues and music of America’s outstanding singer songwriter artists.  He has studied with some of the finest musicians in the acoustic jazz genre including Tommy Emmanuel, Frank Vignola, Woody Mann, Martin Taylor and many others.  He enjoys living in the quiet life of the country with his beautiful English Setters!

Board of Directors 2022-2023

Lynn Wentworth, President

Mary Helen Bowen, Secretary

Karen Holmes, Treasurer

 

Megan West Allen

Shailee Bhatt

Keri Cosmich

Carolyn Erwin

Patrice Guilfoyle

Sherwin Johnson

Joanna Roberts

Margaret Taylor

Libba Wilkes

Doris Brickell, Emeritus

Cora Jeanne Miller, Emeritus

David A. Keary, Ex-Officio

Faculty & Staff

Lisa Hess Jones

Lisa Hess Jones
Faculty

Lisa Hess was born in Amarillo, Texas. She received her early training from her parents, Neil and Camille Hess.

At the age of 10 years old she was the youngest dancer to receive a scholarship to study at The San Francisco Ballet School.  She trained with Harold Christiansen, Anatole Vilzak, and Ludmilla Schollar.

She also received scholarships to study at Harkness Ballet School working with David Howard and Ben Stevenson, American Ballet Theatre School, and School of American Ballet.

At School of American Ballet, she trained with Alexandra Danilova, Felia Doubrovska, Stanley Williams, and Suki Schorer. While a student at SAB Miss Hess was chosen to perform with Rudolph Nureyev at the Uris Theatre in George Balanchine’s “ Apollo “!

In 1975 she was invited by George Balanchine to join the New York City Ballet. While a member of the corps de ballet, Miss Hess was chosen by Mr. Balanchine to dance the role of The Sugar Plum Fairy and The Dewdrop Fairy in the production of “ The Nutcracker. “  She was promoted to soloist in 1983 and danced principal roles in ballets by George Balanchine, Jerome Robbins, Bart Cook, and Peter Martins.  She also appeared as a soloist in the filming of Bournonville Divertissements, staged by Stanley Williams.  She appeared with Peter Martins and Patricia McBride in Ruth Page's The Merry Widow.   Ms. Hess-Jones also toured with Peter Martins and Mikhail Baryshnikov.

As a Guest Artist, she appeared throughout the United States, Australia, and Asia. In 1987 she followed her husband to Texas where she joined the Fort Worth Ballet as Principal Dancer under the direction of Nannette Glushak and Michele Rand.

After leaving her career as a dancer in order to start a family, Mrs. Hess focused on her interest in choreography. She received an invitation to participate in the Carlisle Project directed by Barbara Weisberger, founder of the Pennsylvania Ballet.  Her work with the project was showcased in Philadelphia and Aspen, Colorado.

Mrs. Hess has created works for The San Antonio Symphony, Central Pennsylvania Youth Ballet, Brigham Young University, West Texas State University, Ballet Theatre of Annapolis, Cumberland Dance Company, The Lonestar Ballet, Chamberlain Dance Company, and Lake Cities Ballet.  Recently two of her ballets were chosen by the judges at the Youth America Grand Prix to be performed at the New York Finals.

Currently Mrs. Hess freelances as a choreographer, ballet teacher, and competition coach.  She and her husband, Wayne Jones, are active in their community and church congregation, and the lives of their two adult sons and one wonderful daughter in law.

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Mary-Michael Garrison
Marketing Director

Mary-Michael found her love for dance at the young age of three years old as a Creative Movement student with Ballet Mississippi under the direction of David Keary. She attended summer intensive programs including Boston Ballet, Nashville Ballet and the USA IBC’s Dance School. While dancing with Ballet Mississippi, she performed in Swan Lake, Act II Giselle, and The Nutcracker. She’s performed almost every role in The Nutcracker but Mother Ginger will always be her favorite.

She continued studying dance during college at Loyola University Chicago where she obtained an integrated major of Advertising and Public Relations and Marketing minor. She was also very involved in her sorority, Chi Omega, and held leadership positions including Vice President and Director of Alumnae Relations. While in Chicago, Mary-Michael also was trained to teach barre fitness classes at The Barre Code where she taught Barre classes beginning most mornings before the sun came up.

Her previous work experiences include Account Executive at The Ramey Agency, External Affairs at the Mississippi Emergency Management Agency, and marketing agencies during her time in Chicago.

She is a member of the Junior League of Jackson and is married to Coyt Garrison.

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Sarah Beth Clement
Lower & Upper School Instructor

Sarah Beth Clement started dancing as soon as she could walk. A native of Northern California, Sarah Beth studied Ballet, Pointe, Tap, Modern, and Jazz at Juline’s School of Dance, Modesto CA, and Central West Ballet Company. She attended Central West Ballet’s summer intensive, as well as the Central California Summer Dance Conservatory. She also pursued her love of Musical Theatre and Opera through high school with Merced Community Theatre and California State University, Stanislaus.

Sarah Beth attended Belhaven University and Anderson University, SC, to study Musical Theatre, Dance, and Theology. She participated in multiple dance showcases and theatre performances, including playing Titania in A Midsummer Night’s Dream.

She is passionate about herself and others expressing themselves and emotions through dance, and enjoys working with people of all ages to find their way in this art form. This is her first year teaching with Ballet MS and she is so excited to create meaningful relationships with her students.

Sarah Beth is married to her husband, Michael Clement, and resides in Clinton, MS.