Lorraine Albert Cranford (1918–2004)

Lorraine Albert Cranford was the founder of Ballet Arkansas—a company that traces its roots to the Little Rock Civic Ballet of the 1960s—as well as a dance teacher in the Little Rock (Pulaski County) area.

Lorraine Albert was born on September 4, 1918, in Steubenville, Ohio, to Henri Albert and Arthurine Van Klempette Albert. Her mother was a ballroom dancer who started her daughter in dance classes. By the time she was three, her family lived in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania.

Albert studied ballet under Karl Heinrich in Pittsburgh and went to New York at age fifteen to continue her dance training. Her training was not limited to classical ballet, and she studied and danced in the same shows as famous performers such as Gene Kelly and George M. Cohen.

She married D. Cater Cranford, a dancer originally from Little Rock, with whom she had performed. They had one daughter. They moved to Dallas, Texas, and lived in a house formerly owned by the outlaw Belle Starr. In 1957, they founded the Cranford House of Ballet, which developed dancers for the Dallas Civic Ballet, later named the Dallas Ballet. The company was dissolved in 1988.

In 1966, D. Cater Cranford moved to Little Rock, where he founded the Little Rock Civic Ballet; Lorraine Cranford joined him in Little Rock later. D. Cater Cranford died in 1977, and Lorraine Cranford founded Ballet Arkansas in 1978. Ballet Arkansas is perhaps best known for its annual production of The Nutcracker, which had begun with the Little Rock Civic Ballet. Ballet Arkansas has also contributed to the formation of most of the other ballet companies in central Arkansas, such as the Arkansas Festival Ballet, established in 2000. In addition to her work establishing ballet schools and companies in Arkansas, Cranford was a teacher herself and even performed as the grandmother in The Nutcracker.

Cranford died on December 3, 2004, in Little Rock and is buried at Smyers Cemetery near Perryville (Perry County).

For additional information:
“Helped Bring Ballet to Central Arkansas.” Arkansas Democrat-Gazette, December 6, 2004, p. 2B

Magdalena Teske
North Little Rock, Arkansas


    I was the last principal dancer for Little Rock Civic Ballet, and both of my parents served on the Board of Directors. At the time of Mr. Cranford’s death, the board elected to offer Lorraine her current position of Ballet Mistress while hiring a new Artistic Director from out of town. The board retained the LRCB name and then changed it to Arkansas Ballet Theatre, of which I still hold the original documents. This made Lorraine angry and she broke away and founded Ballet Arkansas.

    Michelle Esentan