Jo Ellen Arntz, Smuin Ballet Company Manager

Jo Ellen Arntz, Smuin Ballet Company Manager

 Jo Ellen Arntz
Company Manager Smuin Ballet

Jo Ellen grew up in Omaha, Nebraska and Des Moines, Iowa.  As a child and teenager, she loved dancing and took the traditional dance lessons, tap, ballet & jazz. At age 13 she changed to a professional dance school where she could increase her knowledge of dance  technique. Because she was a good math student, her father suggested she major in Math in college. Jo Ellen kept her options open by choosing Creighton University, in Omaha because they had a good dance program. After her sophomore year, she switched her major from Math to Dance, obtaining a Bachelor of Fine Arts in Dance.


Jo Ellen pursued a dance career by coming to San Francisco to dance first for San Francisco Dance Theatre and then later with the San Francisco Ballet for 10 years. She also taught dance at Marin Ballet, Dancers Workshop in Mill Valley, and Miss Tilly’s in San Francisco.
Her background prepared her to step into the position as Company Manager of Smuin Ballet, where she has been working for over 10 years. Vivacious Jo Ellen describes her job as being a liaison between the administrative and artistic aspects of the ballet company. She works with the dancers as a mentor, plus handling aspects of wardrobe from working with costume designers, costume fittings, repairing costumes before performances to purchasing shoes for the dancers, etc. In addition she is the Office Manager handling the dancers’ contracts and administering health insurance, 401K plans, the payroll, accounts payable, and receivables for the entire company.

Jo Ellen says the most rewarding aspect of her job is working with the dancers, a few of whom are her former students, and watching new works being created. Her biggest challenge is time to get everything accomplished. She finds flexibility and being able to make quick decisions a key factor in the success of this job. Jo Ellen thinks it would be difficult to run this business if computers had not been invented. Also, having videos of previous performances rather than written notes has been a boon to the choreographers and dancers.

When she isn’t at the office or studio, she enjoys reading Stephen King novels, traveling, hiking and music.

Her favorite ballet to perform was “Forgotten Land” choreographed by Jiri Kylian .

Her favorite Michael Smuin ballet is “Romeo and Juliet”.