01 Jun Artist Highlight – Keith & Kathy Thibodeaux
Though born in Memphis, TN, Kathy Thibodeaux spent most of her life training and living in Jackson, MS. In 1982, Kathy won a silver medal at the II USA International Ballet Competition. For the third contemporary round in that competition, Kathy expressed her faith in a dance to Sandi Patty’s “We Shall Behold Him.” Kathy was one of the first contracted dancers for the Jackson Ballet Company (Ballet Mississippi) and danced with the Company until 1986 when she and her husband Keith formed Ballet Magnificat! Tour Company.
Keith Thibodeaux is the former child entertainer best known as Little Ricky on the “I Love Lucy” television series and Johnny Paul 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. Keith left the world of music in 1991 to join Kathy and Ballet Magnificat! and in 1993 became the Executive Director.
Almost forty years ago, Kathy and Keith met through a mutual friend who was related to a band member of David and the Giants.
“I was dancing with Ballet Mississippi,” said Kathy.
Keith was a musician, so from the outside looking in it didn’t look like a match made in heaven. When talks of marriage began, Keith told Kathy, “You know, let’s just pray about it. God answers prayer and we’ll just see what He says about us getting married.”
According to Kathy, Keith told her to take the Bible, close her eyes, open up the Bible and point to a scripture. “We’ll just trust in God to give us an answer.”
Keith said a short little prayer and Kathy took a Living Bible and did as Keith said. Her finger landed in the Book of Ruth where Boaz takes Ruth as his wife.
“That was a pretty clear answer and so we eloped,” said Kathy. “Everybody thought we would never make it but, thank the Lord, here we are almost forty years later.”
On faith, Keith and Kathy married in October 1976, three months after they met, but how did faith drive them to create Ballet Magnificat!?
“I became a Christian not long after Keith and I were married,” said Kathy. “Ballet Magnificat! is all about faith and the Lord Jesus Christ because we know we wouldn’t be here without Him.”
Kathy was torn about whether or not to continue her dancing career after becoming a Christian because other Christians were telling her to give up dancing, that being Christian and being a dancer didn’t go together.
“But we saw in God’s word where He says to pray in His name with dancing.”
Thankfully, Kathy kept dancing and she and Keith kept praying about what the Lord wanted them to do. Seven years later, they started Ballet Magnificat!. People couldn’t believe she was giving up her career and told her that Ballet Magnificat! would never make it because they’d never find dancers or the support for a Christian Ballet Company.
“We really felt that God wanted us to do it so we knew that He would provide and take care of it,” said Kathy. And God has blessed and provided for them. “We never thought we’d be dancing in Europe or Israel. We have danced in over 30 countries.”
Keith still does music, but not on a regular basis like he used to. Still, there are a lot more people wanting to hear David and the Giants again, “so we are doing some reunion concerts and just released a Live album with a couple of new songs on the CD,” said Keith.
The Ballet Magnificat! Summer workshop at Belhaven College attracts 350 to 400 students from all over the world. This year the workshop came on the heels of the annual International Ballet Competition (IBC) held in Jackson. Ballet Magnificat was one of the IBC sponsors.
To Kathy and Keith, dance is important to a child’s physical and mental development.
“Dance is a great discipline and I think dance really helps children mentally. It also gives them poise and presence and helps them to know their bodies and how they move,” said Keith. “Mississippi has a rich cultural arts community. The [Mississippi Arts & Entertainment Center] will be an eye opening place for so many to see the artists and gifted people from Mississippi that they have been unaware of.”