Katie Smythe (CEO and Artistic Director, Ballet)
In addition to her responsibilities as CEO and Artistic Director, Ms. Smythe serves as Principal Teaching Artist, instructing young dancers daily in the studios and training the professional Teaching Artists.
Katie began her training with Memphis Ballet under Michael and Judy Tevlin, traveling to the Royal Academy of Dance and the Banff Centre of Performing Art in the summers to train with teachers from around the world. She performed with the Tennessee Ballet company at age 13, the only non-professional artist selected for the ensemble. At the Banff School of Fine Arts she performed as a soloist and the youngest member of the Master Class. Katie’s history as a young working dancer deeply informs her approach to teaching dance and the whole child.
After graduating from Memphis’s Central High School she joined the Minnesota Dance Theater at 17, where she performed roles in major classical and contemporary works. As a touring member of the MDT Young Audiences program, she danced Little Red Riding Hood from The Sleeping Beauty and the Peasant Pas de Deux from Giselle for tens of thousands of Minnesota children.
Ms. Smythe broadened her work into acting, first with the Guthrie Theater in Minneapolis and then in New York, appearing in soap operas and commercials while dancing and training with Richard Thomas (U.S. Terpsichore). After moving to to Los Angeles, she served as Principal Ballet Instructor at the Santa Monica Dance Theater, and appeared in Bob Dylan's Tarantula, a performance piece that incorporated dance, theater and video.
Ms. Smythe renewed her interest in reaching public school students through dance, co-choreographing and performing a new version of Cinderella, touring throughout Los Angeles county for the Dorothy Chandler Pavilion and Los Angeles Music Center.
Back in New York City, she honed her teaching skills, studying intensively in the professional class of the late Christina Bernal, alongside dancers from American Ballet Theater, Joffrey, Paul Taylor, Twyla Tharp and New York City Ballet. Ms. Bernal was renowned for her work with as a recuperative coach and re-constructor of technique, helping seriously injured dancers return to the stage. When Smythe founded NBE in 2002, she incorporated Ms. Bernal’s methods in the studio’s instruction at every level, to give students a solid foundation of techniques that help them avoid injury. Smythe is one of only five sanctioned teachers of the Bernal Technique.
Ms. Smythe's choreographic works are influenced by the artists on whom they are created and almost all are collaborative; they include The Swan© (in collaboration NBE graduate Charles “Lil Buck” Riley) which has attracted millions of views on YouTube, and Nut ReMix®, which NBE has performed annually since 2003. In 2014, New Ballet Ensemble was commissioned by the John F. Kennedy Center and National Symphony Orchestra to create a new work for the New Moves: Symphony + Dance series. It was heralded in the Washington Post as “simply dazzling,” and another critic wrote, "Smythe's ‘Harlem’ was a riot of imagination and color, a powerful, memorable conclusion." (DanceTabs)