Instruction and Mission


“It is in the hands of the teacher that the future of any Art rests and therefore she must do all in her power to fit herself for this responsibility" Adeline Genée, RAD’s first president, 1939

Instructor - Arlene Larson

Ms. Arlene Larson, RAD RTS, is a registered teacher with the Royal Academy of Dance (RAD) in London, England. With this certification, you can be assured of quality and safe dance instruction for your child. Ms. Larson is one of only four registered teachers in the state of Michigan and the only registered RAD instructor in all of western Michigan. All certified RAD instructors are required to continue their professional education training. Nationwide RAD instructors are all listed on the RAD USA site.


Ms. Larson began her dance training in Chicago and has studied at the Ellis-Duboulay School of Ballet, Joel Hall Dance Center and Moming in Chicago, Dupreé Dance Academy in Los Angeles and Western Michigan University. She has performed in Chicago and Kalamazoo. She has also taught at the School of the Grand Rapids Ballet and was principal teacher at Ballet Idaho Academy in Boise, Idaho. Ms. Larson is the director of the Ballet Academy and artistic director of Michigan Dance Theatre.


Ms. Larson has successfully entered over 100 students for RAD examinations since 1996, and over 30 have received the highest score of “Distinction.” She has a 100% success rate for Primary through Ballet 8 exams.  See our FAQ to find out more about RAD examinations.


Ms. Larson teaches all children’s ballet classes from Primary through Advanced levels. She brings to Kalamazoo professional quality dance instruction of the caliber one would generally have to go to a major city to obtain.

Instructor - Isabella Cowles

Isabella Cowles has been training under the guidance of Arlene Larson at The Ballet Academy in Kalamazoo, Michigan, for twelve years. She has pursued her passion of dance through programs such as the Blue Lake International Ballet Ensemble European Tour, the USA RAD summer performance and intensive courses, the American Ballet Theatre summer intensive and the Joffrey International Dance Intensive.  Miss Cowles successfully completed the RAD Solo Seal Award and competed in the RAD International Genée Competition in Belgium. Miss Cowles will be teaching the Saturday Pre-School and Pre-Primary classes and the Monday Pre-Primary class.




The purpose and goal of The Ballet Academy is to educate and expand the knowledge of dance in the community that it serves, adhering to the highest standards of instruction as set forth by the Royal Academy of Dance (RAD). The Ballet Academy’s instructors will always maintain their professional certification from the RAD with the sole purpose of advancing within The Ballet Academy the highest standards of training for all students through group and individualized instruction. The Ballet Academy will work actively in the community to give all students, regardless of age, ability, background, gender and ethnicity, the opportunity to experience the enjoyment of dance by developing coordination, fitness, rhythm, artistic self-expression, discipline and confidence.


This is, by far, the best place to learn ballet in Kalamazoo, maybe in all of southwest Michigan! Having a RAD certified instructor makes such a tremendous difference! I started studying privately with Ms. Larson at the Ballet Academy this past summer and now that the school term has begun, I attend a class with mostly children. And I don't mind a bit. I am so grateful for every class that I can take! Here are some reasons for my high opinion of the school and Ms. Larson: 1. Nothing is superfluous! Every little detail that we learn has a purpose! Wearing the uniform has a purpose! And even better, Ms. Larson can explain (with ease and to varying aged students) that purpose! 2. She can clearly explain the most seemingly complex things in a way that anyone can understand. 3. It's safe!! She can spot the tiniest flaw in posture or stance and correct those things for an injury-free experience. Because of her knowledge, I have learned to stand on my feet in a completely different way that has my whole body feeling more aligned. I have changed the way I use my quads to stand in order to "fix" having hyper-extended knees. 4. Consistency! I tried another school before; classes were hit or miss, there was no structure. This school is wonderfully structured! There is something special about having a solid structured environment in which to learn ballet. I don't know why exactly, but it is important. You feel it. 5. This again speaks to Ms. Larson's expertise and experience, but it deserves saying: She is a teacher on an entirely different level than I have experienced before. Though I am new to ballet, I do have experience in other forms of dance. I don't know if it is ballet itself or the way Arlene is able to teach it (most likely it is a combination of the two), but I feel less like I am learning to dance and more like I am learning a new language; a language where instead of speaking with words, we speak with our bodies. We emote through our feet and hands. We speak with the pressure with which our feet meet the floor, how we move through the air. 6. Cost: okay, ballet isn't "cheap" anywhere, however I took classes elsewhere before I found the Ballet Academy and I can attest that I was spending the exact same amount of money for half of the class time at the other place. And not just half the time, teachers were inconsistent and always changing and I was never able to set up any private lessons. So, if the cost is the same no matter where you go, I'd choose the best! These are just the thoughts that came to mind on the fly, here and now. If you want a full understanding of ballet and (most importantly to me) an injury-free way to learn ballet, then Ms. Arlene Larson and the Ballet Academy are for you!! Drop in sometime and check it out! ~Rachel Van Sweden

Ms. Larson’s Success in Teaching is seen in the accomplishments of her students:

Apprentice, Alabama Ballet

RAD Solo Seal Award

Genée International Ballet Competition

Royal Winnepeg Ballet Summer Intensive

Joffrey Ballet Summer Intensive

Joffrey International Summer Dance Intensive

ABT Summer Intensive Program

Houston Ballet Academy

Fort Worth Texas Ballet

Interlochen Arts Academy

Joffrey Ballet School, New York (on scholarship)

Pittsburgh Youth Ballet

American Repertory Ballet, New Brunswick, NJ

SUNY Purchase, New York

Blue Lake Fine Arts Camp (on scholarship)

Idaho Dance Theater, Boise, ID

Interlochen Arts Academy Summer Dance Program (on scholarship)

Blue Lake International Ballet Ensemble

Ms. Larson has also helped train ice skaters including winners of 2002 U.S. Champion Juvenile Ice Dance and 2003 U.S. National Bronze Medalist Novice Dance. She helped train the WMU Syncronized Skating Teams (Varsity & Collegiate) during their successful seasons when they won the U.S. Figure Skating Collegiate Syncronized National 2003 Gold Medal and 2004 Silver Medal.