A native Memphian, Katie Smythe returned to the city in 1997 after a 17 year career as a professional dancer in Minneapolis, performing with Loyce Houlton's Minnesota Dance Theater, as an actor in New York and in Los Angeles and as a performing and teaching artist for the Los Angeles Music Center Outreach and Education wing where she toured L.A. schools with a 'condensed' Cinderella ballet. As a performer, she was known for her portrayal of Bob Dylan's character, Toby Celery, in the innovative production of Tarantula at the Powerhouse Theater in Santa Monica, California directed by Darrell Larson. She was the principal ballet teacher of the Santa Monica Dance Theater at age 26.
Moving back to Memphis in 1997, she identified the need for a community dance program with a high standard of ballet training for children throughout the city, with a focus on those who have little access. She founded the non-profit school that is now New Ballet and graduated the first students into a professional company, offering opportunity and presenting role models to Memphis children who have dreamed of a vocation in the arts.
Placing the program in the heart of the city, New Ballet formulated a strategic plan around a comprehensive program and new facility to provide the proper environment for training, concurrently raising funds for scholarships for those youth who sought excellence in training but could not afford the tuition to a school with the expertise to help them reach their full potential.
Ms. Smythe remains the Principal Teaching Artist, instructing young dancers daily in the studios and providing professional development to upcoming instructors.
Under Ms. Smythe’s leadership, New Ballet has worked and continues to work collaboratively with numerous organizations including Buckman Art Center, St. Mary's, BRIDGES USA, Girls Inc., KIPP Diamond Academy, Southern Avenue Charter School, Memphis Athletic Ministries, Memphis City Schools, Shelby County Schools, Memphis Brooks Museum of Art, Rhodes College, Opera Memphis, Arts in the Park and the Memphis College of Art, Dixon Gallery to name a few.
A four year community partnership in Orange Mound has brought boys and girls into the New Ballet Ensemble and School for after school training in the core program, only 2.8 miles from their school.
Ms. Smythe serves on the Board of Directors of the Levitt Pavillion Memphis, the Board of Artistic Advisors to the Salvation Army Kroc Center, The City of Memphis Youth Guidance Commission and the Cooper Young Business Association. She has been an invited speaker at the American for the Arts' annual Arts marketing conference, 2007 in Miami, Florida and was one of four panelists and Master "Arts" teachers invited to participate in the 2008 Rhodes College Children and the Arts study funded by the Mike Curb Family Foundation. She has twice been named a "Teacher of the Year" by the Tennessee Governor's School and is a facilitator for the Dance Round Table at the 2011 National Guild of Community Arts Education in Boston.