​Our Mission

​Dedication To Excellence

Canton Ballet is a nonprofit organization committed to fostering an appreciation of the art of dance within the local community and dedicated to providing the highest artistic quality of instruction by operating a school for all age and skill levels and a pre-professional company with performance opportunities for the serious or career-oriented student at the advanced level.

Our Rich History

Founded in 1965 by Suanne Ferguson and Jane Bingham Fawcett, Canton Ballet has evolved into one of Ohio’s oldest and most successful arts institutions. The company debuted with a performance for MacDowell Music Club, and in 1968, the first public showing of The Nutcracker was held at Timken High School to sold-out audiences. In 1970, John Begg became the first full-time Artistic Director with Ferguson as Associate Artistic Director, and the Ballet became a founding member of the Midwest region of the National Association of Regional Ballet.

In 1972, at the invitation of Dean Jack Morehart, the School of Canton Ballet opened at Kent State University Stark as company-in-residence and moved six years later to the former First Christian Church with offices at the Cultural Center for the Arts. At that time, then-Artistic Director, John Wilkins, choreographed Peter and the Wolf—an outreach program that has continued on for Stark County school children for 45 years.

After a studio fire in 1981 completely destroyed the church studios and full costume inventory, major support from the Timken Foundation helped establish a permanent home for Canton Ballet at the Cultural Center for the Arts in 1983. Also during this timeframe, the Ballet joined the northeast region of Regional Dance America (RDA) in 1982. The Ballet then became an honor company in 1984, an elite status which it holds to this day. Throughout its history, Canton Ballet has hosted three regional ballet festivals and participated in an international festival, Tanzsommer!, in Austria five times.

Significant artistic and administrative leadership changes have occurred over the Ballet’s rich history. Cassandra Crowley was appointed to Artistic Director in 1981, serving in this position for 42 years before retirement. Angelo Lemmo became Choreographer in Residence in 1991, creating countless short and full-length works for the Ballet over 36 years. Jennifer Catazaro Hayward joined the faculty in 1990, later becoming Assistant Artistic Director, and Julie Mizer Grasse was hired as Early Childhood Specialist in 2000. In 2008, Deborah Sherrod Barath was promoted to Business Manager, and Jeanne Coen stepped into the role of marketing/development director.

During her tenure, Crowley worked to raise the artistic bar for the Ballet and each year strove to further enrich the school and the company technically, artistically and financially. World renowned master teachers regularly worked with the faculty and the company, providing challenging learning opportunities and international experiences. Guest choreographers brought unique diversity of dance styles and teaching styles to expand both the repertoire and the experience for the company dancers. From the beauty of classical ballet to the debut of world premieres by acclaimed choreographers, the exhilarating repertoire was designed to keep the company vital, while enticing audiences to explore all aspects of dance. In 2022, Crowley was honored with the title of Artistic & Executive Director Emeritus upon her retirement.

In 2023, the Ballet entered a new and exciting chapter of leadership under two Canton Ballet Company alumnae: Artistic Director, Jennifer Catazaro Hayward and Executive Director, Joy L. Raub. This new season is filled with great promise with some of its greatest assets pointing toward a future of even greater success for the Ballet, including its loyal and enthusiastic faculty and staff, an ensemble of dedicated and talented young dancers, and a fresh artistic view for the future.


​Support the Art of Dance

As a nonprofit institution, our mission thrives on the generous support of our community. Your contributions play a vital role in the ballet's success, ensuring that dance's transformative power continues to grace aspiring artists' lives. Join us in supporting the arts in Northeast Ohio and the dedication and dreams of our students.