Ballet Magnificat! was founded in 1986 by Keith and Kathy Thibodeaux.
Kathy Thibodeaux was born in Memphis, TN, but trained and has lived in Jackson, MS, most of her life. She went on to become one of the first contracted dancers for the Jackson Ballet Company (Ballet Mississippi) under the direction of Thalia Mara, dancing as principal until 1986.
Keith Thibodeaux is the former child entertainer best known as “Little Ricky” on the I Love Lucy television series and Johnny Paul Jason on The Andy Griffith Show. He was a drummer for the rock band David and the Giants which later became a groundbreaking Christian rock band, with Keith becoming a Christian in 1974.
Keith and Kathy married in October 1976, and together live out the mission that God put before them.
In 1985, a prophetic word was given to Keith and Kathy. They did not understand everything that was said at the time, but they did take it seriously and trusted God to direct them and to unfold His perfect plan for their lives. The prophecy said that their lives would be changing course, and that they would begin to see greater days and greater ways to use their testimonies for Him. The prophecy noted that God had set them apart for a special purpose, not only individually but as a team, and predicted that God would use Kathy as a pioneer in the arts to bring glory to Jesus. Another part of the prophecy was directed at Keith and said that he would have his past come to the forefront and that he should use that door of influence to have further opportunities for ministry. The beginning of the prophecy began to take shape in 1986.
A Touring Christian ballet company that would dance to the glory of God
After becoming a Christian in 1979, Kathy’s desire was to serve and honor her Lord Jesus with the gifts He had given her. She began to see dance as a way to express worship and praise to God. God gave her a greater joy in her dancing, and her motivation for dancing – worship – began to manifest itself in her performances. When people often could not put their finger on what was “different” about Kathy, she knew it was very simple: The reality of Jesus had changed her life.
Kathy stepped into the spotlight of the international dance world in 1982, winning a silver medal at the II USA International Ballet Competition which rotates between Russia, Finland, Bulgaria, and Jackson, MS. For the third contemporary round in that competition, against the advice of many, Kathy chose to express her faith in a dance to Sandi Patty’s We Shall Behold Him.
Longing to see the art of dance restored to the church for the glory and honor of Jesus Christ, in 1986, Keith and Kathy founded the Ballet Magnificat! Tour Company. Kathy had a vision for something totally unheard of – a touring Christian ballet company that would dance to the glory of God. She envisioned Christian dancers coming together for the purpose of glorifying God in dance. In addition to bringing people into worship, Kathy wanted the group to be an outreach ministry in which dancers would share the love of Jesus with their audiences.
With space donated by Belhaven College, and the help of Kathy’s friend and choreographer Gregory Smith, the fledgling company - the world’s first professional Christian ballet company - was soon dancing and touring across the country.
Since its start in 1986, the company has attracted dancers from professional companies around the world and now also from within Ballet Magnificat’s own professional training program.
Our heart's desire is to be in that place where we can be of most service to further His Kingdom
In 1989, the ministry opened a School of the Arts which offers dance classes to area students ages 3 through adult. The school’s student companies – Magnificat! Youth Ballet and MiniMag! – are frequent guests at local nursing homes, schools, and churches. That same year, the Summer Dance Intensive and Teachers Workshop were started, and now brings hundreds of students annually from around the world to Jackson, MS, for a unique technical and spiritual experience.
Keith, who had been touring with bands for most of their marriage, left the world of music and, in 1991, joined Kathy and Ballet Magnificat! He started as the “all-purpose worker”, doing whatever was necessary to help, from driving the bus to operating light and sound equipment to office work. Over time his responsibilities grew and, in 1993, Keith became the Executive Director of Ballet Magnificat! and walks side-by-side with Kathy as they follow God’s call on their lives.
In 1994, Ballet Magnificat! started the Dance Program at Belhaven University, providing curriculum, faculty, and facilities to this program that has now grown into a full Dance Major, accredited by the National Association of Schools of Dance (NASD).
The Pre-Professional Training Program began in 1996 with three dancers, and today has grown to three levels at the Jackson, MS base. This Trainee Program feeds dancers into the touring company and provides training and preparation for work in other ministries and dance companies. The Events Company is comprised of the most advanced level of the Trainee Program and travels worldwide throughout the year. The Trainee Program is recognized by the U. S. Immigration Service as a vocational school and yearly draws students from across the U.S. and many foreign countries.
In 2004, a second professional touring company was added, Ballet Magnificat! Omega, which toured extensively throughout the USA and abroad from 2004-2019 with thought-provoking and ministering repertoire.
Ballet Magnificat! Brasil was launched in February 2017. Headquartered in Curitiba, Brazil, the program includes a trainee program and performance company. Dancers from all over South and Central America joined with an international staff to proudly serve as Ballet Magnificat’s first satellite campus.
In 2019 we felt the leading to merge Alpha and Omega touring companies into one professional performing company.
As the ministry continues to expand, our heart's desire is to be in that place where we can be of most service to further His Kingdom. We would like to thank those individuals who now, and in the past, have given their energies, talents, and financial gifts to make a difference here at Ballet Magnificat!
We are grateful to be a part of the body of Christ, and we pray that God will use our ministry to be a blessing to you.